Corporations face “authenticity gaps” finds new report

FleishmanHillard has signaled that corporations must align brand with reputation, connect with consumers and localise significantly to overcome wide “authenticity gaps” around the world.

Launching its signature “Authenticity Gap” study, which explores the gap between what consumers experience from companies and what they expect of them, the report finds wide variations.

The research identifies the behaviors consumers most associate with authentic companies and where organisations can make changes to improve their reputation in the minds of consumers.

The Authenticity Gap research studied 20 industry categories in the United States, Germany and China.

For every brand studied, there is an “authenticity gap” – considered to be a shortfall between people’s expectations of the industry category and their actual experiences of the company or brand.              

When asked about the behaviours of authentic companies, consumers identified nine drivers that can be grouped in three essential strands: management behaviour, customer benefits and society outcomes.

The research showed that for consumers, attributes related to corporate behaviour (management behavior and impact on society) matter as much as those associated with customer care.

The study also finds that there “is no such thing as a global market”. “Consumer expectations in virtually every one of the 20 categories studied differ from country to country,” it found.

The categories which appear to have the greatest momentum in meeting consumer expectations are: online shopping, major appliances, tablets and e-readers, and pharmaceuticals.

Those with the weakest momentum are vacation and travel, Internet service providers, and wireless carriers. These seven categories appear consistently in the top/bottom 10 across all three countries.

Commenting, Marjorie Benzkofer, global chair of FleishmanHillard’s reputation management practice, said: “Mapped against these nine drivers of authenticity, it is remarkable to see how results vary so dramatically for each industry and country by country.”

“We looked across the industry and saw a lot of different reputation studies out there, but none was giving the C-suite very actionable insights into what they could do to change their reputation in the minds of various stakeholders.

The Authenticity Gap research offers a new framework with insights in 20 different industry categories and goes beyond traditional reputation research to ask not just what consumers are experiencing with companies today, but also what they expect from them.
FleishmanHillard and London-based research partner Lepere Analytics focused on the growing struggle companies face in closing the gap between the brand they project and the reputation and perceptions they actually hold in the minds of their audiences.

“When brand and reputation are not aligned, it creates a gap that damages an organisation’s credibility and authenticity,” said Dave Senay, president and CEO of FleishmanHillard.

“We are continuing a conversation about authenticity that was started by the Arthur Page Society and giving C-suite executives actionable, company-specific insights they can apply to their business and communication strategies to create the kind of engagement that drives business success.”

Watch FleishmanHillard’s Authenticity Gap video:

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