MIAMI — Consumers value authentic communications from brands, even higher than brand appeal and popularity was among the insights unveiled during a session moderated by Cohn & Wolfe’s Geoff Beattie at the third Global Public Relations Summit in Miami today.
C&W’s Authentic Brands 2014 study found that “authenticity anchors” like communicating honestly about product/services, environmental impact and sustainability trumped markers like innovation, brand appeal and popularity in a global survey that involved 12 markets.
“People are fed up with the ‘old way’ of marketing that most [organizations] are entrenched in,” said Oliver Roll, VP of global communications at VMware. “Marketing should be about conversations and enabling those to happen. People get their information from different sources today and marketers are struggling to keep up.”
Cynicism is also widespread. One-in-five respondents believe that corporate executives lie when addressing a crisis — with the US and Europe being most cynical.
“The question is, who does your audience trust?” said Deisha Barnett, senior director of corporate communications at Walmart. “A customer wouldn’t necessarily trust the Walmart CEO or spokesperson, but they would trust a Walmart store manager.”
Globally, McDonald’s was named the most authentic brand, with Samsung, Apple, Carrefour and KFC rounding out the top five. In the US, Walmart topped the list as the most authentic brand with Starbucks, Amazon, Apple, Target and Google ranking in the top five.
Barnett attributed Walmart’s ranking in the US to being a “purpose-driven company” that espouses those values in its communications and advertising.
The study also found that three-quarters of global respondents would be “extremely angry” if a company was found to produce food in an unsanitary way. In the US and UK, companies failing to protect their personal information provoked the most anger in consumers.
“Companies don’t have a choice — be transparent or fail,” Roll noted. “People are ready to forgive, but they are looking for responsiveness.”
When it comes to sectors, supermarkets were considered the most authentic and alcohol ranked at the bottom.