Global study from Cohn & Wolfe defines authenticity in the eyes of consumers

18 April, 2016

Disney, Amazon, Apple, Samsung and Lego all achieve top 10 spots on the Authentic 100
Consumer cynicism is high globally, with four out of five stating brands are not “open and honest”
Protecting privacy is now seen as a core component of what makes a brand authentic
Majority of consumers base perceptions of authenticity on personal brand experiences, as opposed to corporate behavior at a larger scale

NEW YORK — Cohn & Wolfe, a global communications agency, today unveils its inaugural Authentic 100, an annual index of global brands ranked by consumer perception of authenticity. Among the top 20 brands in the global Authentic 100 are Disney, Amazon, Apple, Samsung, Lego, Ford, Google and Coca-Cola. The full Authentic 100 is available at

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 United States 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).

“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,” says Donna Imperato, CEO, Cohn & Wolfe. “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.”

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: 1) Reliable: Consumers rate brands as authentic when they “deliver on promises” and are of “high quality”; 2) Respectful: These brands “treat customers well” and “protect customer data and privacy” – a key concern for consumers across markets; and 3) Real: Brands that rate high on this driver “communicate honestly” and “act with integrity.”

About the 2016 Authentic Brands Study
This is the fourth study in the Cohn & Wolfe Authentic Brands series, which examines the role of authenticity in business, the attributes associated with an authentic brand and the impact of authenticity on consumer, investor and employee attitudes and behaviors.

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: BrandZ’s 100 Most Valuable Brands; Forbes’ 100 Most Valuable Brands and the Reputation Institute’s Global RepTrak® 100 Most Reputable Companies list. Cohn & Wolfe also consulted Y&R Group’s BrandAsset® Valuator (BAV) to determine which brands should be included in each country’s surveys, based on regional familiarity.

About Cohn & Wolfe
Cohn & Wolfe, a global communications agency, builds brands and corporate reputations through an uncompromising commitment to creativity. The agency’s strategic approach unearths fresh, relevant insights leading to communications solutions that deliver measurable business success. Throughout its 45-year history, Cohn & Wolfe’s brand marketing work and world-class digital media campaigns have attracted top brands around the world, winning awards at the Cannes Health Lions, the Global SABREs and the Global PRWeek Awards.

Headquartered in New York, Cohn & Wolfe has more than 50 offices across Asia, EMEA, Latin America and North America, and has been named a Best Place to Work by The Holmes Report, PRWeek and PRNews. Cohn & Wolfe is part of WPP (Nasdaq: WPPGY), the world's largest communications services group.  

Theresa Tepper, SVP, Global Marketing & Communications
Cohn & Wolfe

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