Consumers value brand transparency above cost, research finds

Consumers attach more importance to a brand's values and how management behaves than its new products or innovations, according to a report by FleishmanHillard.

The agency's Authenticity Gap Report compares consumers’ expectations of a brand with what they actually experience, based on interviews with 6,254 people globally.

This year's study looked at 570 brands based in the UK, US, Canada, Germany and Japan across a range of sectors including technology, consumer products and services, healthcare, finance and professional services, food and agribusiness, and energy.

The industry sectors were measured against nine 'drivers of authenticity', which were innovation, customer care, better value, doing right, consistent performance, credible comms, care of environment, community impact and employee care.

The importance of each driver varied between industry. Price transparency, one of the components of the better value driver, was a significant factor in customer brand consideration in the technology, consumer products, finance and energy sectors. 

Financial institutions scored relatively low in terms of comms, transparency, customer care and value for money. The report found that while the overall gap between experience and expectation was not extreme, this was perhaps because expectations were already low. The report identified this as an opportunity for brands to gain competitive ground by addressing these issues head on.

The consumer products sector saw a high expectation of honesty across business operations, with 49 per cent of the consumers surveyed selecting this as a key factor. A further 44 per cent of respondents believed such companies should operate with the highest ethical standards.

In terms of best employee care, technology companies are expected to provide well for their employees with a comprehensive benefits package. The report linked this with the raised visibility of tech workers in recent years due to brands such as Google and Facebook.

A key finding across all industries was the way a company's management behaves, and its impact on society, accounts for nearly half of what shapes people's perceptions and beliefs about the company. This means that brand's stories need to be about much more than the latest and greatest products.

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