Tech Companies Dominate the 10 Most Authentic Brands According to Consumers

And how 3 of those brands think about trust

Tech brands are rounding out the top ten most authentic brands this year. Photo Illustration: Dianna McDougall; Sources: Adidas, Apple, HP, Amazon
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Consumers, we’re told, can smell bullshit a mile away, especially when it’s coming from a brand. That forces brands to strive for authenticity in everything they do, especially when it comes to their marketing.

It’s not an easy feat to accomplish and some brands are definitely better at it than others. Cohn & Wolfe asked 14,000-plus consumers in 14 markets (including the U.S., U.K., Brazil and China) to vote over a three-month period this summer to help name the 100 most authentic brands. (The full list will come out on Oct. 16, but Cohn & Wolfe gave Advertising Week attendees a sneak peek at the top 10.) So far, tech brands are dominating the ranks.

For the study, Cohn & Wolfe asked respondents to vote on brands using 23 different attributes in order to accomplish two things. “First to understand how they define authenticity today and, based on that, which brands they find to be the most authentic,” Brooke Hovey, chief client officer and Cohn & Wolfe, said.

Here are the top 10.

To kick off this years list, Cohn & Wolfe invited three of the top marketers to speak on an Advertising Week panel to discuss authenticity and brand trust. Kathleen Hall, corporate vp, brand, advertising and research at Microsoft, Michael Boychuk, ecd at Amazon and Franz Paasche, svp, corporate affairs and communications at PayPal spoke on the subject of authenticity and trust and what it means for their own brands.

“You need to be principle based and values based,” Microsoft’s Hall explained. “When you become inauthentic you try to make a statement but it’s not true to who you are and what you are about, so you’re obviously trying to capitalize on the situation. You can’t really borrow from social capital. You have to deposit into it.”

Amazon’s Boychuk referenced a spot the brand pushed out last year featuring a priest and an imam coming together even though they practice different faiths.

“One of the things I love about working at Amazon is I think it’s an incredibly bold, brave company that is willing to do a lot of things that a lot of times people think we are crazy for doing but we do it anyway. That has to flow into marketing and advertising, that courage and ability to just say we are going to say this because this is what we believe and this is what our customers care about,” Boychuk said.

One common theme on Cohn and Wolfe’s list this year is many of the top 10 brands are tech companies. Hovey asked the panelists what allows tech companies, at this moment in time, to garner so much trust with consumers.

Hall had a pretty straightforward analogy to explain why she thinks tech companies are scoring high in authenticity. “You might have a Coke once a day if you are bad or once a week if you’re good, but our stuff you are on it and use it every day multiple times,” she said.

We’re so glued to our phones and our apps, that it makes sense that we would trust tech companies like Amazon, Google, Apple and Microsoft. Amazon’s Boychuk views it more as a reliance on tech brands to make our lives easier.

“They aren’t in the shower in the morning saying I wish there was a more innovative way for me to make my coffee, but they might be making dinner and have their hands messy making chicken and say I want to find out how many ounces in a cup and my hands are messy. How am I going to do that? It’s up to us to find those touch points where we can help further innovation,” he said.

Check back on Oct. 16 to see all 100 brands.

@ktjrichards Katie Richards is a staff writer for Adweek.