Business Management

Consumer Branding: Is authenticity enough?

Episode 1- Series - 1

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Brand authenticity – A flag all companies try to fly high to varying levels of success. What are the drivers behind perceived brand authenticity and how can it be achieved? How can service and luxury brands capitalize on authenticity to elevate the experience?

In an EHL webinar, Florent Girardin, EHL Assistant Professor of Marketing and Arnaud Frade, Chief Commercial Officer Asia-Pacific of Ipsos, dove deep into the topic of brand authenticity, both from the research and consumer insight perspectives.

What is brand authenticity?

Florent: I was motivated by the question of how important perceived brand authenticity is in purchase decisions. We needed to have a clear and integrated framework to encompass the many definitions of brand authenticity. To do that, we decided to take a consumer perspective because, in the end, this is what matters.

We interviewed many consumers and realized that they were relying on three different perspectives in forming their brand authenticity perception:

1. Objective brand authenticity comes from facts

The first is the Objective perspective and this relates to evidence-based authenticity: facts that can prove that the brand is authentic. It could be the localization of production, the quality of the material etc., things that are really evidence-based.

2. Constructive brand authenticity comes from impressions

The second is more subjective. It's called Constructive brand authenticity, and this comes more from impressions – Does the brand look authentic? Brands that are not objectively authentic may still be constructively authentic if they have the authentic look, use codes of authenticity in their communication through storytelling, or talk about their values, etc.

3. Existential brand authenticity comes from consciousness

The third is Existential brand authenticity, which comes more from the relationship with individual consumers. Here, authenticity is perceived when consumers can reveal their own identity when consuming a brand, and if the brand can help consumers find their true selves.

Is brand loyalty dead?

Arnaud: Brand loyalty has declined over time because there are more options. However, some brands still manage to drive loyalty because they're anchored into these four dimensions of authenticity. But loyalty to bad brands – that's gone. It's a little like hearing about retail being dead. Not all retail is dead. In fact, some retailers are doing very well. But bad retail is definitely gone and it's going to be the same across any other sector, including hospitality.

Brands, regardless of the field, have become irrelevant because they've stretched too far, or they've been proven to not be aligned with their messages. We see that a lot now, and these brands are going to be in big trouble because consumers are no longer interested in tolerating the dissonance between a brand trying to be something and acting in a different way. This lack of congruence is at the core of what is going to destroy brands at an accelerated pace as we exit this first phase of COVID-19 and as we go into the new normal.

How can new brands present themselves as authentic?

Florent: We talked a lot about history and heritage but when you build a new brand, you don't have such history and heritage to build on, so what is important is the Integrity dimension. You need to be passionate; you need to have a brand purpose that is authentic in a way that is not driven by profits, but by a true passion. We see well-established authentic brands are those founded by people passionate about their businesses, like Gabrielle Chanel or Yvon Chouinard. My advice to people who are building new brands is to have a true purpose, believe in what you do and create a brand because you really have something you're passionate about. Otherwise, it will be very difficult to achieve authenticity

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