Microsoft has been named as Australia’s most authentic brand in the second landmark Authentic Brand Index (ABI) study released today by Principals and Synovate. Since the first ABI survey in 2006, technology companies such as Microsoft and Google have emerged as Australias most authentic brands. Microsoft was at no. 5 in the 2006 study and its authenticity has
surged by 6.1 points. Microsoft, along with technology brand Google,
which ranks number two in the index, are emerging as more powerful brands
than the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) giants that have dominated
Australian marketing for decades.

In the first ABI study, which was published in 2006, Qantas was Australia’s most authentic brand but its perceived authenticity among consumers has nose-dived by 8.7 points, placing it at number 14 on the index of 104 brands.

Microsoft is followed in the top five 2008 ABI by Google, Australia Post, Bunnings, Bonds and Cadbury. Australia Post has emerged as the most authentic local brand in the study, while Bunnings has outstripped its new Coles Group stablemates as the most authentic retail brand in Australia.

Among the top 20 most authentic brands, Australia Post, Bunnings, Vegemite (no. 8), McDonald’s (no.10), Colgate (no. 11), Coca-Cola (no. 12) and Nestle (no. 19) have made their debut in the ABI this year.

The Authentic Brand Index is a joint venture between brand consultancy Principals and market research company Synovate. The 2008 Authentic Brand Index (ABI) ranks more than 100 brands across a wide variety of industries and tracks their authentic delivery to consumers over time.

In an age of abundant brand choice, consumers are drawn toward brands with a distinctive story, an original edge and a sincere commitment to deliver what they promise.

What is authenticity?

Authenticity is an important business concept today. It speaks to the
need for businesses to truly align their products, services and
channels to market and deliver experiences that customers value and are
consistent with the brand promise. Authentic brands have a clarity of purpose that is sincerely executed.

Authenticity is the new battleground for the hearts and minds of
customers and the extent to which brands are seen to be authentic will
ultimately determine the success of a brand in its market. Synovate director of client services, Dean Harris.

The importance of sincerity simply cant be overstated; brands that
think about the customer first are rewarded. The most sincere brands
make straightforward promises and keep them. They dont over-hype, they
dont over-reach, theyre unapologetically simple in many ways.

Theres an earnest and hard-working quality to brands such as
Bunnings, IGA, Australia Post and McDonalds thats about serving
customers with look- you-in-the-eye sincerity. Principals planning director Wayde Bull.

There is real evidence this year that consumers are holding brands more to account and are increasingly critical in their assessment of their authentic credentials. Overall, consumers were less likely to rate brands as authentic in 2008 than previously, Principals planning director Wayde Bull said. Its unlikely to get easier for brands in future, given the further growth of social media and the abundance of unfiltered third-party information available to the consumer.

More than 4,500 consumers participated in this years study. The fieldwork was undertaken over a two-month period from mid-March through to mid-May and a total of 104 brands (up from 70 in 2006) were tracked for their authentic engagement with consumers.

The industries covered by the study include airlines, banking & finance, telecommunications, retail, grocery, fashion, automotive and personal technology. The study highlights the best and worst performers in each industry.

In 2006 the study discovered seven drivers that consistently differentiated between brands considered to be authentic and inauthentic, independent of category and industry. Those seven drivers are:

  1. personal utility
  2. familiarity
  3. originality
  4. declared beliefs
  5. sincerity
  6. momentum, and
  7. heritage.

This year, the study was able to identify the greatest increases and decreases in authenticity over the last two years – a measure of how quickly perceptions of companies can change in the minds of the consumer.

The top five brands that increased in authenticity were IGA, Samsung, BigPond, Microsoft and BankWest.

At the other end of the scale, the greatest decreases were recorded by ING Direct, Qantas, ANZ, Virgin Blue and LG.

As in 2006, four out of the top 10 authentic brands are in the personal technology category – Microsoft, Google, Nokia and Sony. This category actually improved its level of authenticity over 2006, as did the retail and automotive categories.

Grocery brands, airlines, financial services and telecommunications have all seen falls in levels of authenticity compared to 2006.