What consumers mean when they say products are "authentic"

June 13, 2021

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What consumers mean when they say products are "authentic"

A team of multinational researchers published a paper in the Journal of Marketing that explains the six types of judgements consumers make when determining a product’s authenticity and how marketers can use this insight to deliver more “authentic” offerings.

Consumers crave authenticity. Yet marketing itself is typically considered inherently inauthentic. Hence, firms must learn to understand, manage, and excel at rendering authenticity. The critical question is: how? Marketers who wish to deliver authentic consumption experiences might benefit from knowing what consumers mean when they talk about “authenticity,” which is a rather nebulous concept.

What the researchers say: “When consumers talk about authentic consumption experiences, they are really referencing six types of judgements they make involving: accuracy, connectedness, integrity, legitimacy, originality, and proficiency,” said the lead author.

Accuracy refers to the seller being transparent and reliable in what is conveyed to consumers. Connectedness describes consumers’ feelings of engagement and at times a sense of transformation. Integrity means the source is seen as intrinsically motivated, while acting autonomously and consistently. Legitimacy refers to conformity in terms of adhering to norms, standards, rules, or traditions. Originality refers to a product or service standing out from the mainstream. Finally, proficiency refers to the display of skills, craftsmanship, and/or expertise in the offering.

Knowing that judgments of accuracy, connectedness, integrity, legitimacy, originality, and proficiency are what comprise assessments of authenticity, managers can more efficiently and effectively decide on actionable strategies in terms of positioning their brands.

“From this research, practitioners can also tell which of these six judgments to emphasize and when in their customer marketing and communications,” the lead author explained. “For example, companies selling hedonic products should see relatively large returns perception-wise from emphasizing proficiency because it matters more for hedonic products than for utilitarian products.”

So, what? I like this research because it takes some commonly used sales terms and illustrates what they actually mean to clients and customers. Even professional service firms such as ours can learn from this.

Dr Bob Murray

Bob Murray, MBA, PhD (Clinical Psychology), is an internationally recognised expert in strategy, leadership, influencing, human motivation and behavioural change.

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