Consumers are putting extraordinary pressure on brands and businesses to meet their expectations and make their buyer journeys seamless, but new research from comms giant FleishmanHillard reveals that a large majority of brands and industries around the world are dropping the ball. The firm’s newly released 2021 Authenticity Gap study examines the actions brands need to take to catch up to consumers’ expectations.
The study shows that nearly two thirds of consumers (64 percent) believe that for a company to be more credible than its competitors, it must talk about its behavior and impact on society and the environment, not just the customer benefits it offers. It also found that:
- Three-quarters (75 percent) of industries studied are failing to meet customer expectations on caring for the environment. This is particularly prominent in Germany (75 percent of companies fall short) and the UK (68 percent of companies fall short)
- Ninety-five percent of the industries studied aren’t meeting expectations when it comes to providing customers better value
- Across all industries, consumers expect companies to demonstrate a commitment to improve, but almost half (45 percent) are failing to deliver innovative solutions
- Data security and privacy are top of the list of things consumers care about and expect companies to act on, and less than half (45 percent) are willing to let companies collect their personal information to provide them with greater convenience and personalization
“With beliefs, views and facts increasingly polarized, organizations around the world need genuine insight into how to authentically communicate, based on who they are, and what the world expects of them,” said John Saunders, president and CEO of FleishmanHillard, in a news release. “They need to be able to hear from people who are engaged in their sector, understand how they fare against the competition and know what really matters to their audiences.”
FleishmanHillard launched the Authenticity Gap study in 2012 to analyze the alignment between consumer expectations and experiences, interviewing informed consumers in five countries about their views on more than 200 companies in 20 industries. The data helps companies judge how authentic they are, where they’re falling short and how they’re stacking up against their industry competitors in terms of customer benefits, societal outcomes and management behaviors.
Key findings include:
Consumers are looking to leaders to take an authentic stand on key policies and issues like the environment and public health
- Two-thirds (65 percent) of informed consumers expect CEOs to speak up on issues that have a significant impact on society, even if it may not impact the business
- Three-in-four consumers (73 percent) believe CEOs must have an active voice on supporting and influencing environmental issues and policy change
- Sixty-five percent of consumers say CEOs should play a role influencing health policy
Companies are expected to be a part of the solution, not just discussion, when it comes to societal impact
- Though diversity and inclusion practices are becoming paramount for employees, nearly half of consumers (48 percent) in most markets feel companies can do more to make the workplace better
- More than a third (38 percent) of consumers expect companies to take a public stance on the income gap
- Over half (55 percent) of consumers think companies aren’t committed to doing the right thing, especially in Brazil (75 percent), China (56 percent) and the U.S. (54 percent)
Consumers don’t expect brands to act on everything they care about in all cases
- The top issues informed consumers care about include data security, data privacy, access to affordable, quality healthcare, access to affordable, quality education and violence against women
- The issues informed consumers expect companies to act on also include data security and data privacy, but then diverge to protecting the environment/climate change, minimum wage and income and wage gaps
The 2021 authenticity research was conducted by FleishmanHillard’s TRUE Global Intelligence, the agency’s in-house research practice. The survey included a total of 10,285 informed consumers in Brazil, China, Germany, UK and the U.S., 18 years of age and older. The ‘informed consumer’ is defined as individuals who are interested or involved with one of the 20 industries that were studied in the 2021 Authenticity Gap research. The survey was fielded online between March 2 and April 16, 2021.