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How Do Consumers Define Authenticity? Cohn & Wolfe’s New “Authentic 100” Reveals the Most Credible Global Brands

Authentic 100, authentic behavior, authentic brands, brand authenticity, Brand engagement, brand honesty, Cohn & Wolfe, consumer perception, corporate misstep, Donna Imperato, global brands, Marketing, Pr, Public relations, rules of communicationFirm’s Study Aims to Define Authenticity in the Eyes of Consumers

Global comms agency Cohn & Wolfe this week unveiled its inaugural Authentic 100, an annual index of global brands ranked by consumer perception of authenticity. Among the top 20 most authentic brands are Disney, Amazon, Apple, Samsung, Lego, Ford, Google and Coca-Cola.

The 2016 study on authenticity defines for the first time what consumers believe are the individual attributes of authentic behavior—and whether a brand displaying these attributes will affect the actions of consumers. The study identifies a large “authenticity gap” between brands and consumers, with 75 percent of nearly 12,000 consumers surveyed across 14 markets indicating that brands and companies have a credibility problem.

Key findings of the study include:

  • High Global Cynicism: Consumer cynicism is highest in Western Europe, with only seven percent of those surveyed in the UK, France, Germany and Spain—and a mere five percent in Sweden—describing brands as “open and honest.” In the least cynical countries—China and Indonesia—that number only climbs to 36 percent and 35 percent, respectively. Americans fall somewhere in the middle, and closer to the global average of 22 percent, with less than a quarter of Americans (23 percent) seeing brands as honest.
  • Privacy Matters: Given the recent public standoff between Apple (#5 on the global Authentic 100) and the FBI over encryption technologies, it is worth noting that privacy concerns are now seen as a core component of what makes a brand authentic in the eyes of consumers. Globally, “protecting customer data and privacy” ranked as the fourth most important attribute of authenticity today.
  • The Authenticity Opportunity: Nearly nine out of 10 consumers are willing to take action to reward a brand for its authenticity, including 52 percent who would recommend the brand to others and 49 percent who would pledge loyalty to the brand. Twenty percent would be prepared to put their money on the table and invest in a brand that proves its authenticity.
  • Authenticity as a Personal Experience: Consumers are looking for daily, real-life reminders that they can count on brands. In defining authenticity, they prioritize “high quality” (66 percent) and “delivering on promises” (70 percent) over more lofty measures like “social responsibility” (57 percent) and “environmental responsibility” (55 percent).

cohn1“The rules of communication have irrevocably changed, and we’re seeing consumers reward brands that understand how to engage with them openly and honestly. In fact, consumers will forgive the occasional corporate misstep if a company is upfront, and addresses the issue head-on,” said Donna Imperato, CEO of Cohn & Wolfe, in a news release. “The brands topping the Authentic 100 understand this, and have demonstrated consistently that they value more than just their bottom lines by fostering a genuine dialogue with their customers.”

See the complete Authentic 100 list here.

For the first time, Cohn & Wolfe has created and applied a proprietary algorithm, reflecting the three driving factors guiding consumers’ perceptions, to diagnose how brands perform on authenticity. Cohn & Wolfe’s analysis has identified three key drivers of authenticity:

  • Reliable: Consumers rate brands as authentic when they “deliver on promises” and are of “high quality”
  • Respectful: These brands “treat customers well” and “protect customer data and privacy”—a key concern for consumers across markets; and
  • Real: Brands that rate high on this driver “communicate honestly” and “act with integrity.”


The 2016 Authentic Brands study and the Authentic 100 are the result of a combination of primary and secondary research, including surveys on more than 1,600 brands, measuring 300 global brands, administered over two months (September to October 2015) to nearly 12,000 consumers in 14 markets: Brazil, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Italy, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States. The full list of 1,600 brands included in the survey was based on an examination of the following reports: BrandZs 100 Most Valuable Brands; Forbes’ 100 Most Valuable Brands and the Reputation Institutes Global RepTrak 100 Most Reputable Companies list. Cohn & Wolfe also consulted Y&R Groups BrandAsset Valuator (BAV) to determine which brands should be included in each countrys surveys, based on regional familiarity. 

Source: Cohn & Wolfe; edited by Richard Carufel

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