Consumers see authenticity in six dimensions
New research presents a useful model to understand how consumers combine different attributes to judge the authenticity of products and services
One of the most discussed topics in marketing and brand management today is the concept of “authenticity” and with good reason. There is a general consensus that consumers (especially younger ones) consider this an increasingly important brand characteristic. For example, in a recent survey, 90% of consumers said authenticity is important when deciding which brands they like and support. The challenge for marketers, however, is that those same respondents believe that only a minority of brands communicate authentically with consumers. The results of this survey highlight what might be coined the marketer’s authenticity paradox: consumers crave authenticity in marketing, when marketing is itself seen as inherently inauthentic.
Business researchers have noted the increasing importance of authenticity for consumers, but the lack of a standard definition for the term "authenticity" itself has yet to emerge. A new paper from Joseph C. Nunes (USC), Andrea Ordanini (Bocconi), and Gaia Giambastiani (VU Amsterdam) addresses this issue, presenting a comprehensive way for both researchers and marketers to understand authenticity.
The authors start their paper by noting that “despite widespread agreement about authenticity’s importance as a concept, no commonly accepted definition exists.” Confusingly — for marketers at least — researchers have a habit of creating new “subtypes” of authenticity when they study the subject. The authors cite examples such as “indexical authenticity,” “hyperauthenticity,” “constructed authenticity,” “creative authenticity,” and even “passionate authenticity” to make their point. While each subtype may shed some light on the concept, this “fragmentation creates problems because when a single term such as ‘authenticity’ acquires a variety of meanings, the inevitable result is conceptual ambiguity.” This ambiguity naturally creates challenges for marketers “who would benefit from clearer guidance regarding ways to enhance consumers’ assessments of the authenticity of their offerings.”
The researchers thus set themselves the goal of defining “authenticity in marketing such that its definition provides a cohesive, comprehensive understanding of its meaning and specifies the concept’s defining characteristics as well as the extent to which it is generalizable, or at least adaptive, across contexts.”
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