Authentic Brands Breed Shopper Loyalty

January 12, 2015

Food retailer brands dominate authenticity list in the U.S. – even though food safety is a trigger issue for consumer anger.

Originally published in Facts, Figures & the Future.

Eight of the Top 20 authentic brands in the United States are food retailers. They include Walmart (#1), Target (#5), Costco (#9), Whole Foods Market (#10), Publix Super Markets (#11), Kroger (#13), Safeway (#17) and Trader Joe’s (#18).

Their high standing reflects the straightforward nature of the relationship they tend to have with consumers, says Cohn & Wolfe, in its third annual Authentic Brands research study.

“We go to the store, we choose what we want, we pay the stated price with no hidden fees or small print, we get our goods and leave,” describes Jim Prior, CEO of WPP-owned brand consultancies, The Partners and Lambie-Nairn. He was one of a group of experts to review data of the online global 12,000-consumer survey before its release.

On a global basis, supermarkets ranked the highest of all industries for displaying authentic behaviors consumers feel are important. Indeed, it was the only sector named by a majority of respondents (52%) for its authenticity. Electronics companies were named second most often (44%), followed by retailers and banks (tied at 43%), coffee shops (42%), and energy providers and travel providers (tied at 38%).  

To be seen as authentic, here are the Top 5 general behaviors consumers want to see in companies:

  • Communicates honestly about its products and services (cited by 91% of consumers)
  • Does not let its customers down (91%)
  • Communicates honestly about its environmental impact and sustainability measures (87%)
  • Acts with integrity at all times (87%)
  • Pays all levels and sexes of employees fairly (84%)

Indeed, to “act with integrity at all times” outpaces the percent of consumers who rate “striving to innovate” (72%) and “bringing unique products to market” (71%) as factors in their buying decisions, the study data show. All of the bulleted measures above are more important to global consumers than product utility (61%), brand appeal (60%) and popularity among peers (39%). The takeaway for supermarkets and CPG brands to be transparent and ethical in order to earn consumer confidence seems clear to F3.

By contrast, events such as data security breaches, product recalls and food contaminations have prompted dramatic increases in consumer anger this past year, report Cohn & Wolfe. The communications agency says the share of U.S. respondents citing “extreme anger about a company failing to protect their personal information” jumped to 80% in 2014 from 56% in 2013.  

Food safety and hygiene was also high on the hostility list. The survey says 77% of global consumers would be “extremely angry if a company was found to produce food in an unsanitary way,” 72% would feel this way if a food company were to “use low-quality ingredients when promoting a high-quality product,” and 61% would feel this way if a brand “conceals or fails to report some of the ingredients used in food products.” Also, 63% of global consumers cite “extreme anger when companies foster unsafe work environments and treat employees unfairly.”

The payoff for being authentic is bankable: 63% of global consumers would buy from an authentic brand over and above competitors – and this figure is higher, at 68%, in the U.S., the study shows.