The Authenticity Gap study interviewed an average of 100 ‘expert stakeholders’ – defined as customers, commentators, employees, partners or other opinion-formers – in each of 20 industry sectors, from banking to travel operators.
In 15 of those sectors innovation was cited as the most critical out of nine drivers of a company’s reputation and in all 20 it was cited as more important than 'doing right'. The other seven drivers were consistent performance; credible communications; better value; customer care; employee care; community impact and care of the environment.
However, innovation was also the key area in which those polled identified an ‘authenticity gap’ where their experiences of a company did not live up to their expectations of its sector.
The shortfall was most pronounced in the smartphone, electronic gaming, pharmaceutical, semiconductor and tablets/e-reader sectors.
The five sectors where innovation was not the key driver of reputation included banking/investing, where consistent performance was deemed more important, and hotels, where customer care and better value were crucial.
In the online shopping, supermarket and travel operator sectors better value was the most important reputation driver.
Expectations for ‘doing right’ were low in all sectors, but were highest in the investment firms sector, where experience exceeded expectations.
Richard Kanareck, managing director of FleishmanHillard London, said: "Businesses and brands can say what they like about themselves, but there is no hiding place if the experience is out of step with the promise.
"A gap between expectation and experience is, at best, an opportunity to enhance reputation and confidence and, at worst, can bring a business to its knees."
The industries included in the research are:
- Electronic gaming
- Enterprise software
- Social networks
- Tablets and e-readers
- Home improvement
- Online shopping
- Travel operators
- Medical devices and diagnostics
- Banking and investing
- Investment firms
- Life, property and health insurance
- Packaged foods