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What Does Brand Authenticity Mean? Causes and Consequences of Consumer Scrutiny toward a Brand Narrative

Brand Meaning Management

ISBN: 978-1-78441-932-5, eISBN: 978-1-78441-931-8

Publication date: 2 May 2015



Brand narratives are created to differentiate brands, and consumers base their assessments of a brand’s authenticity on this narrative. We propose that the default consumer position is to accept a brand’s narrative, and we find that consumers maintain belief in this narrative even when explicitly reminded that it is manufactured by firms with an underlying profit motive. Because belief seems to be the default position adopted by consumers, we investigate what factors act as disruptors to this default position, thereby reducing assessments of authenticity.


This research uses a series of studies to investigate when and why consumers view some brand stories as authentic and others less so. In addition, we examine the impact of changes to authenticity assessments on managerially important brand outcomes.


Only when one or more authenticity disruptors are present do consumers begin to question the authenticity of the brand narrative. Disruption occurs when the focal brand is perceived to be nakedly copying a competitor, or when there is a gross mismatch between the brand narrative and reality. In the presence of one or both of these disruptors, consumers judge brands to be less authentic, report lower identification, lower assessments of brand quality and social responsibility, and are less likely to join the brand’s community.


Creating compelling brand stories is an important aspect of any marketing manager’s job; after all, these narratives help drive sales. Care must be taken when crafting narratives however, since consumers use these as the basis of their authenticity assessments, and brands deemed inauthentic are penalized.



Johnson, A.R., Thomson, M. and Jeffrey, J. (2015), "What Does Brand Authenticity Mean? Causes and Consequences of Consumer Scrutiny toward a Brand Narrative", Brand Meaning Management (Review of Marketing Research, Vol. 12), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 1-27.



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