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FleishmanHillard Authenticity Gap Study Reveals Brands are Failing on Nearly Half of What Consumers Expect of Them

June 9, 2021

Authenticity Research Across Five Markets and 300 Companies Shows the Need for Brands to Close the Gap Between What They Promise and How They Really Behave

ST. LOUIS, June 9, 2021 — The FleishmanHillard 2021 Authenticity Gap study released today examines the actions brands need to take to catch up to consumers’ expectations.

The study shows that nearly two-thirds of consumers (64%) 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%) of industries studied are failing to meet customer expectations on caring for the environment. This is particularly prominent in Germany (75% of companies fall short) and the UK (68% 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%) 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%) 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, FleishmanHillard. “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%) 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%) 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%) in most markets feel companies can do more to make the workplace better
  • More than a third (38%) of consumers expect companies to take a public stance on the income gap
  • Over half (55%) of consumers think companies aren’t committed to doing the right thing, especially in Brazil (75%), China (56%) and the U.S. (54%)

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

FleishmanHillard has developed new strategies to help brands put authenticity into action. To learn more, download the Authenticity Gap Global Report, The Power of Authenticity.

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.

About FleishmanHillard
FleishmanHillard specializes in public relations, reputation management, public affairs, brand marketing, digital strategy, social engagement and content strategy. FleishmanHillard was named 2019 PRWeek U.S. Outstanding Large Agency; 2019 Holmes Report North America Large Agency of the Year; ICCO Network of the Year – Americas 2017-2020; PRovoke Media Greater China Consultancy of the Year 2020; PRWeek UK Best Places to Work 2020; Human Rights Campaign Best Places to Work for LGBTQ Equality 2018-2020; and NAFE’s “Top Companies for Executive Women” 2010-2020. The firm’s award-winning work is widely heralded, including at the Cannes International Festival of Creativity. FleishmanHillard is part of Omnicom Public Relations Group, and has 80 offices in more than 30 countries, plus affiliates in 50 countries.

About Omnicom Public Relations Group
Omnicom Public Relations Group is a global collective of three of the top global public relations agencies worldwide and specialist agencies in areas including public affairs, marketing to women, global health strategy and corporate social responsibility. It encompasses more than 6,300 public relations professionals in more than 370 offices worldwide who provide their expertise to companies, government agencies, NGOs and nonprofits across a wide range of industries. Omnicom Public Relations Group delivers for clients through a relentless focus on talent, continuous pursuit of innovation and a culture steeped in collaboration. Omnicom Public Relations Group is part of the DAS Group of Companies, a division of Omnicom Group Inc. (NYSE: OMC) that includes more than 200 companies in a wide range of marketing disciplines including advertising, public relations, healthcare, customer relationship management, events, promotional marketing, branding and research. ​