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Determining the factors affecting brand authenticity of startups in social media

Shayan Fouladi (Faculty of Entrepreneurship, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran)
Amir Ekhlassi (ESB Business School, Reutlingen University, Reutlingen, Germany)
Kamal Sakhdari (Faculty of Entrepreneurship, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran)

Qualitative Market Research

ISSN: 1352-2752

Article publication date: 21 May 2021

Issue publication date: 3 August 2021




This paper aims to determine the affecting factors of the brand authenticity of startups in social media.


Using a qualitative method based on a grounded theory approach, this research specifies and classifies the affecting factors of brand authenticity of startups in social media through in-depth semi-structured interviews.


Multiple factors affecting the brand authenticity of startups in social media are determined and categorized as indexical, iconic and existential cues through this research. Connection to heritage and having credible support are determined as indexical cues. Founder intellectuality, brand intellectuality, commitment toward customers and proactive clear and interesting communications are identified as iconic cues. Having self-confidence and self-satisfaction, having intimacy with the brand and a joyful feeling for interactions with the community around the brand are determined as existential cues in this research. This research furthers previous arguments on a multiplicity of brand authenticity by shedding light on the relationship between the different aspects of authenticity and the form that different affecting factors can be organized together. Consumers eventually evaluate a strengthened perception of brand authenticity through existential cues that reflect the cues of other aspects (iconic and indexical) which passed through the goal-based assessment and self-authentication filter.

Research limitations/implications

The research sampling population can be more diversified in terms of sociodemographic attributes. Due to the qualitative methodology of this research, assessment of the findings through quantitative methods can be considered in future research.

Practical implications

Using the findings of this research, startup managers can properly build a perception of authenticity in their consumers’ minds by using alternate factors while lacking major indexical cues such as heritage. This research helps startup businesses to design their brand communications better to convey their authenticity to their audiences.


This research determines the factors affecting the authenticity of startup brands in social media. It also defines the process of authenticity perception through different aspects of brand authenticity.



Fouladi, S., Ekhlassi, A. and Sakhdari, K. (2021), "Determining the factors affecting brand authenticity of startups in social media", Qualitative Market Research, Vol. 24 No. 3, pp. 396-419.



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