Brand Activism - the Battle Between Authenticity and Consumer Scepticism
Abstract: Title: Brand Activism - the Battle Between Authenticity and Consumer Scepticism An explorative study on how consumers evaluate authenticity of brands that engage in brand activism Date of the Seminar: 2020-06-04 Course BUSN39 Authors: Karolina Kubiak & Sam Ouda Supervisor: Jon Bertilsson Keywords: Brand activism, Brand authenticity, Marketing scepticism, Brand trust, Branding Thesis purpose: The purpose with the research is to advance our understanding of authenticity in brand activism. Therefore, it aims to explore what consumers think of brand activism and why. Moreover, the objective is to understand how consumers evaluate brands that engage in brand activism and whether they find such communications as authentic and trustworthy. Methodology: This research has an interpretivist approach since the aim is to understand consumers’ perceptions, opinions, and attitudes towards brand activism. Furthermore, the purpose of the research is explorative to its essence. A qualitative approach was therefore adopted since it allows the research to define the ‘how’ and not just demonstrate whether it does influence consumers. Theoretical perspective: The concepts brand authenticity, brand credibility, brand trust, theory of pollution and purity, marketing scepticism and congruence were chosen in order to help explain how consumers evaluate brands’ authenticity when engaging in brand activism. Empirical data: To answer the research question, a qualitative approach was adopted. The research is based on two synchronous online focus groups combined with 13 semi-structured interviews with Swedish consumers. Findings/Conclusion: The research found that consumers find it important that there is a consistency and logic between brands’ products and the stand they are taking. Furthermore, they find brand activism to be an adaptation to most current trends, resulting in that it appears inauthentic. While the consumers do appreciate that brands take an active stand, it is important that they do not infringe on their personal values. Moreover, brand activism can be perceived as empty talk and it is important to consider facts and concrete actions in order to increase the authenticity. Consumers are sceptical towards brands’ good intention with brand activism, since they think that their ultimate goal is to increase their profits. Lastly, consumers argue that brands who engage in brand activism should not forget the importance of the product and the quality since a loss of focus will result in a perception of inauthenticity. Practical implications: There should be a clear consistency between the issue and a corporation’s operations. Moreover, it seems that if a brand chooses to engage in a socio-political issue, it should not patronize a certain group since it is considered as disrespectful. Brand managers should keep in mind that consumers might consider brand activism as inauthentic if it only is incorporated in advertisement. Therefore, it is important to remember the actual product and consider actions and goals that can help to support the stand the company is taking.
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