Does ‘brand authenticity’ matter to you? Is your brand – either the one you buy or work for – an authentic brand? And what the heck is ‘brand authenticity’ anyway?

Answers are revealed in an eminently useful new 15 point scale – the Perceived Brand Authenticity Scale (PBA Scale – below) – to be published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology by an international team of researchers from the Universities of Lausanne and Bern in Switzerland, and Concordia and l’Université du Québec in Canada.

So what precisely is ‘brand authenticity’? The developers of the Perceived Brand Authenticity scale reviewed research to date to cut through loose thinking and ambiguity and crystallise the idea in a clear and simple definition

Definition of Perceived Brand Authenticity

“The extent to which consumers perceive a brand to be faithful toward itself, true to its consumers, motivated by caring and responsibility, and able to support consumers in being true to themselves”

In other words perceived brand authenticity has four key components

  • Continuity (brand being faithful to itself),
  • Credibility (true to its consumers),
  • Integrity (motivated by caring and responsibility)
  • Symbolism (support consumers in being true to themselves)

These four dimensions capture the key idea that authenticity is far more than a simple ‘objective’ attribute; authenticity has psychological, subjective and symbolic value too – authentic brands are true to us personally, stand for what we stand for, and help us be true to ourselves.

So, does your brand have brand authenticity?

To answer this question as simply as possible, ask consumers to rate your brand (and competitor brands) on the 15 question Perceived Brand Authenticity (PBA) scale (anchored 1 = strongly disagree, 7 = strongly agree).

[Whilst the researchers propose weighting responses, as a practical first pass, simply add the scores to compare relative performance out of a possible total of 105].

Perceived Brand Authenticity Scale

On a seven point scale, (7 = Strongly Agree, 1 = Strongly Disagree*), to what extent do you agree or disagree with the following

[Brand X] is

1. A brand with a history
2. A timeless brand
3. A brand that survives time
4. A brand that survives trends

5. A brand that will not betray you
6. A brand that accomplishes its value promise
7. An honest brand

8. A brand that gives back to its consumers
9. A brand with moral principles
10. A brand true to a set of moral values
11. A brand that cares about its consumers

12. A brand that adds meaning to people’s lives
13. A brand that reflects important values people care about
14. A brand that connects people with their real selves
15. A brand that connects people with what is really important

* 7 = Strongly Agree, 6 = Agree, 5 = Somewhat agree, 4 = Neither agree nor disagree, 3 = Somewhat disagree, 2 = Disagree, 1 = Strongly Disagree

Finally, does brand authenticity matter?

In initial research with consumers, the developers of the PBA Scale have used the scale to successfully validate the belief among marketers that brand authenticity is a driver of brand choice. Brand authenticity does matter because brand authenticity drives sales.

From a psychological perspective, this makes sense. In a world where we use brands not only to reduce risk when buying, but also to express ourselves, validate ourselves and manage our image, brand authenticity matters because personal authenticity matters. By buying brands with brand authenticity, we are saying something about our personal authenticity.