UAE consumers value authentic behaviour from brands

Nearly nine in 10 UAE consumers (86%) say it’s important for businesses to act with integrity at all times, with a similar number looking for companies to bring unique products to the market (85%) and surpassing the number who rate striving to innovate (80%) as factors determining their buying decisions.

The third Authentic Brands report from global communications agency Cohn & Wolfe canvassed the opinions of 12,000 consumers across 12 markets, including for the first time the UAE, to examine the corporate behaviours valued in an authentic brand, as well as explore the inauthentic behaviours and corporate issues that were most likely to incite extreme anger.

A key insight from the Authentic Brands survey has been how being authentic is the ultimate crisis preparedness for brands.  “No brand is immune to crisis, but we have seen again and again that those brands that act with honesty and integrity will recover faster and emerge stronger and that is as true in the UAE as anywhere else in the world,” says Nitin Puri, CEO BPG Cohn & Wolfe.

“It is clear that UAE consumers share the universal demand for more authentic behaviours from brands. However, out of the 12 countries we surveyed, it was UAE consumers who are more likely to recommend a more authentic company than anywhere else in the world,” shares Geoff Beattie, author of the report and Cohn & Wolfe’s global head of corporate communications. “Like other high-growth markets, UAE consumers have a much higher demand for innovation, unique products and exciting brands. And at the same time it also presents the best opportunity for authentic story- telling.”

With a young population that is brand-savvy and very technologically aware it was little surprise that bringing unique ideas and products to the market was important to 86% of those in the UAE compared to a global average of 71%. Research among the 18-30 ‘Millennials’ in the UAE reinforced this with trends among this group reflecting those of the wider respondents. The country’s love of brands also demonstrated that 66% of those in the UAE think that having a relevant and engaging story is important – a substantial increase on a global average of 43%.

Authenticity anchors

The Cohn & Wolfe study revealed a clear and universal demand for more authentic behaviour from brands. Identifying a number of Authenticity Anchors, business behaviours important to consumers, the report found that in characteristics such as communicating honestly about products and services (90%), being open about environmental impact and sustainability measures (87%) and acting with integrity (86%) are more important to UAE consumers than accurately reporting earnings (68%) or product utility (66%).

The report also found that individuals around the world are more likely to stay loyal and buy from brands that display these Authenticity Anchors – 65% of UAE consumers would buy from an authentic brand over and above competitors. Authenticity could also affect customer retention with 68% of UAE consumers saying they would be loyal to a more authentic company. Meanwhile 66% said they would recommend an authentic company over others and 39% would follow a more authentic company on social media – compared to the global average of less than 20%.

The Authentic Brands 2014 report also asked 12,000 people surveyed to name the world’s most authentic companies. While McDonald’s, Samsung and Apple topped the Global Top 20 list of brands chosen, local brands scored very well in each country surveyed.

In the UAE Carrefour, Etisalat and Samsung topped the list of 20 brands named as the country’s most authentic companies taking into account views from 1,000 residents.  The full list of the 20 most authentic companies includes Apple, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Carrefour, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, Dubai Islamic Bank, du, Emirates Airline, Emirates NBD, Etihad Airways, Etisalat, LG; KFC, LuLu, Nokia, McDonald’s, Samsung, Sharaf DG, Sony, Spinneys and Starbucks.

Global anger reaches boiling point

Following a year of high-profile data security breaches, product recalls and food contamination scares from a number of well-known brands, consumers across some of the world’s biggest markets have reported a significant rise in anger about perceived dishonesty from global businesses.

“We have seen a number of household brands recently caught out by supply chain issues, which has created a culture of suspicion among individuals,” says Ioannis Ioannou, assistant professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at London Business School and advisor on the Authentic Brands study.  “Some of this extreme anger can also be explained by the proximity effect. People feel strongest about issues that touch them directly and food safety is a clear-cut example of this.”

Now in its third edition, Authentic Brands includes a Global Anger Meter that examines how angry consumers are if companies fail to maintain the highest standards of quality in areas including food, product reliability, data, environment and animal welfare, staff welfare, pricing policies and how firms communicate to their consumers. In the UAE the report found that food was the top of the Anger Meter but that aside the country displayed lower than average levels of anger.

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