What does it mean for brands to be authentic and how can they practice it?

In 2019, we conducted a landmark generational study in conjunction with 747 Insights and Collaborata to gain a better understanding of Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, and Boomers in the USA. Aided by technology, media, politics and more, we saw generational values shifting at a faster pace than we’ve ever seen before.

One thing we discovered is that each generation has a deep appreciation for authenticity. In our newest research, we aimed to learn more about those perceptions, as well as what types of generational differences exist when it comes to brands and authenticity.

We interviewed 404 people across four generations using our AI qualitative moderator. We asked participants to define authenticity as it relates to people and relationships, work, school, and social media, and in terms of brands.

We learned that at its most basic level, authenticity is rooted in staying true to yourself and maintaining honesty and truth at all times. Never pretending, faking, or conforming. Of course, in practice, this is easier said than done for consumers as well as companies.

What does authenticity look like for brands?

Where brands are concerned, for 65% of people, authenticity is about establishing trust. It embodies trustworthiness, durability, quality, and reliability. Brand authenticity also requires consistency. Brands can’t change their stance or waffle, and they can’t claim they’re super awesome for one cause or group of people while mistreating another. They also can’t appear to be simply telling people what they want to hear, without some genuine connection to the product or service they provide. Adidas, Levi’s, and Nike score big points with consumers on being authentic, as do Apple, Ford, and Chevy.

Straight from consumers’ mouths, here is how brands can operate in an authentic way:

  • Establish a strong brand identity: Ensure your products/services reflect what you uniquely deliver, stand for, and won’t waver on.
  • Be transparent. Always: Mistakes happen. Apologize when you make a mistake and own it.
  • Be real on social media: Recognize that people are skeptical of and savvy about marketing practices, especially where social media is concerned. If you can’t be genuine, don’t bother.

This is just the beginning of what we learned, and naturally, several generational differences emerged during the interviews. You can read about them in the full report. Download it here – and enjoy!

Beneath the Trend (BTT) is a series of research studies aimed at learning more about consumer and marketing trends. Leveraging Quester’s artificial-intelligence moderator, we conduct 15-minute qualitative conversations with hundreds of people to quickly deliver rich, qualitative insights about a current trend. We’d love to hear your suggestions for the next BTT!

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Quester® is an award-winning consumer intelligence firm that uses proprietary artificial intelligence technologies to conduct multi-lingual qualitative research on a quantitative scale. We specialize in yielding superior consumer understanding in areas such as innovation, concept development, brand positioning, segmentation, and path to purchase. Our online software-based moderator and analytical software probes deep into participant thought processes, analyzes responses, and allows researchers to make wise business decisions grounded in data, and has netted Quester an EXPLOR Award from the TMRE and an Ogilvy Award from The ARF.


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