M&S, Tesco and John Lewis are most authentic brands in UK, study finds


Retailers are king, in the eyes of British consumers. In research released today, the top 10 most authentic brands, named unprompted by consumers, are dominated by well-known high-street names, such as M&S, Tesco, John Lewis, Asda and Waitrose.

The research is part of the third Authentic Brands report from global communications agency, Cohn & Wolfe. The report polled opinions of 12,000 consumers across 12 countries to examine the behaviours consumers value in an authentic brand, as well as explore the inauthentic behaviours and corporate issues that were most likely to incite extreme anger in consumers around the world.

Global Anger Meter
Poor food safety and hygiene is the issue most likely to incite anger among global and UK consumers. With the horsemeat crisis which shook the European food industry and the out-of-date beef scare in Asia still fresh in many minds, over three quarters (77%) of global consumers would be extremely angry if a company was found to produce food in an unsanitary way. This concern is even higher in the UK (84%) and a number of other European markets, including Italy (91%), France (88%) and Germany (86%).

Authenticity Anchors
In line with the findings of the Global Anger Meter, the Cohn & Wolfe study revealed a clear and universal demand for more authentic behaviours from brands. Identifying a number of ‘Authenticity Anchors’, business behaviours important to consumers, the report found that nearly nine in 10 global consumers (87%) say it is important for businesses to act with integrity at all times, surpassing the number who rate striving to innovate (72%) and bringing unique products to market (71%) as factors in their buying decisions.

The report found that individuals around the world are more likely to stay loyal and buy from brands that displayed these Authenticity Anchors: 63% of global consumers would buy from an authentic brand over and above competitors – similar to the 61% in the UK but rising to 74% in Sweden, 72% in Germany and 68% in the US.

Authentic sectors
With retailers and supermarkets dominating the list of most authentic brands it is no surprise that on a sector level, these industries are rated as the most authentic with more than two in five (42%) of consumers thinking they are good at displaying authentic behaviours. At the other end of the scale only 16%, 19% and 20% of consumers thought the energy, fast-food and banking sectors, respectively, are good at displaying authentic behaviours.

Furthermore, the report reveals that the UK consumer market is one of the most demanding in the world. ‘Not letting customers down’ is the most important business behaviour for Brits, with 95% of those surveyed agreeing – the highest across all 12 markets in the study. Similarly, the UK was one of the markets that topped the Global Anger Meter when it comes to data privacy and security, which could reflect growing anger about cold calling levels – an Ofcom study last year showed eight in 10 UK households receive an average of two unsolicited phone calls a week.

Andrew Escott, managing director, Cohn and Wolfe Corporate Affairs, said: “As more and more corporate scandals come to light, consumer perceptions of businesses are suffering: Just 3% of individuals in the UK believe big businesses are very transparent and honest. While no brand is immune to a crisis, we’ve seen again and again that those brands that act with honesty and integrity recover faster and are more respected by consumers than those who don’t.

“For instance, this study was actually conducted before the scandal around Tesco‘s profits emerged. What it shows is that Tesco has built a solid foundation of consumer trust that they can still use to protect their business, but they will need to act quickly and transparently.

“In a fiercely competitive industry, retailers and supermarkets have to work hard for our custom. The strides they have made in operating in a more transparent and interactive way with their consumers certainly seems to have paid off given their position as the most authentic sector in the UK.”

Top 10 Most Authentic Brands
In The UK
John Lewis
The Co-Operative