H+K: Companies fail to explain their positive impact

The majority of Americans believe US companies are not aligning their stated values with their actual behavior, according to a study released this week by Hill+Knowlton Strategies.

NEW YORK: The majority of Americans believe US companies are not aligning their stated values with their actual behavior, according to a study released this week by Hill+Knowlton Strategies.

The report examined how companies around the world communicate their “character,” which is defined as the interaction between brand, reputation, and behavior. Overall, it found they are struggling to do this effectively.

H+K found that companies' character has an impact on how consumers make decisions. The report was based on a survey of 3,000 US adults, with respondents selected by recent purchase history and their knowledge of an industry.

Nine in 10 respondents believe companies need to do more to bring their behaviors in-line with their publicly stated values. Just under half do not believe they are aligned at all.

According to the study, consumers find this mismatch dishonest. However, for those companies that are good at communicating their character, more than seven in 10 (73%) of consumers surveyed said they would purchase their products.

Consumer trust is also an issue, with only one in 10 respondents trusting companies today more than 10 years ago. When asked to grade companies for behaving responsibly, having a positive impact on society, and being trustworthy, two-thirds of the public gave them an “unimpressive” C grade or below.

Half of respondents believe companies are trying to make a positive impact on society, but only one-third believes they are actually behaving responsibly.

Respondents said greater access to information is a key factor. Three-quarters of those surveyed said they have greater access to information about companies than before.

“People want companies to have values. They want to be proud of where they shop and know where they stand. Companies should not be afraid to share these values,” said Michael Lustina, president and COO at H+K's research arm, Research+Data Insights, and the leader of the study.

He said that with more information available about companies online, and consumers taking to social media to discuss them more often, customers are demanding that companies share more information with them. Lustina added that corporations are making a positive impact on society, but they are failing to communicate that effectively.

“Part of this is because companies are operating in silos,” he said. “There should be one enterprise view, and all employees must be committed to it.”

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