Most consumers believe businesses in the U.S. could use a boost when it comes to improving their character and values, a new study finds.
Research from Hill+Knowlton Strategies shows that businesses are struggling to communicate their character -- the interaction between brand, reputation and behavior – to consumers, which is affecting their ability to connect with the public in a way that drives positive reputation and financial value.
Specifically, 90 percent of consumers think companies need to do more to bring their behaviors in better alignment with their publicly stated values, while nearly half think that companies' behaviors are out of alignment with the values they promote. The study discovered that consumers view this misalignment as dishonest, and that perceived dishonesty can lead to a crisis.
"Our research shows that big consumer decisions, like who to buy from or where to work, are strongly influenced by companies' character," said Andy Weitz, U.S. president and CEO of H+K Strategies.
That lack of character is also hurting companies' reputations. Just 10 percent of those surveyed trust companies more today than did a decade ago, with 90 percent turning to friends and family first – not CEOs, the government or the news – for trusted input on businesses.
When asked to grade companies for behaving responsibly, having a positive impact on society, and being trustworthy, two-thirds of consumers gave them aC grade or below. Additionally, while half of those surveyed think companies are trying harder to have a positive impact on society, only one-third are convinced they actually are behaving more responsibly.
Weitz said too many businesses view character as a defensive strategy and only understand or address the collective impact of character when they have reached a crisis state.
"We found that when companies go on the offense by communicating character, they stand out from their competitors," he said. "In fact, three out of four people said they were more likely to spend money with companies who demonstrate they have character."
The study was based on 3,000 online surveys of U.S. adults.
Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.