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What makes a brand authentic? The example of "The Body Shop"

by B.A. Katharina Maute (Author) Jennifer Borchers (Author)

Term Paper 2013 32 Pages

Business economics - Marketing, Corporate Communication, CRM, Market Research, Social Media

Excerpt

Inhaltsverzeichnis

List of figures

1. Introduction

2. Authenticity and THE BODY SHOP
2.1 Theoretical perspectives
2.2 The BODY SHOP'S five core values

3. Proofing THE BODY SHOP's authenticity
3.1 Attributes of authenticity
3.1.1 Originality
3.1.2 Quality commitment and credibility
3.1.3 Heritage and style persistence
3.1.4 Scarceness
3.1.5 Sacredness
3.1.6 Purity
3.1.7 Interim finding
3.2 Authenticity made by storytelling
3.2.1 Story of conflict
3.2.2 Story of founding
3.3 Indexical & iconic authenticity
3.3.1 Indexical authentic
3.3.2 Iconic authentic
3.3.3 Interim finding
3.4 Authenticity provides/ creates control, connection & virtue
3.4.1 Control
3.4.2 Connection
3.4.3 Feeling virtuous
3.4.4 Interim finding

4. Summary and Conclusion

List of references

List of figures

Figure 1: THE BODY SHOP'S five core values - source THE BODYSHOP

Figure 2: Examples of product packaging of THE BODY SHOP - source THE BODYSHOP

Figure 3: Examples of THE BODY SHOP'S natural beauty campaign - source THE BODYSHOP

Figure 4: Examples of THE BODY SHOP'S early poster designs - source THE BODYSHOP

Figure 5: Examples of THE BODY SHOP'S actual poster designs - source THE BODYSHOP

Figure 6: Examples of competitor's poster designs 1 - source L'Oreal & Lancome

Figure 7: Examples of competitor’s poster designs 2 - source Logona, Sante, Lavera

Figure 8: Examples of THE BODY SHOP'S glamorous poster design source THE BODY SHOP

1. Introduction

Because consumers want a brand to be authentic (cf. Brown, Kozinets, & Sherry, 2003, p. 21; Schallehn, 2012, p. 10), brands are under pressure to be in accordance with this need. Especially when acting on a diverse and particularly saturated market, it is important for every company to distinguish itselffrom the market place. This distinction can be accomplished by providing confidence or trust (cf. Schallehn, 2012, p. VII). "A relatively new approach, which is aimed at strengthening this brand trust, is the concept of brand-authenticity" (Schallehn, 2012, p. VII).1

But what exactly makes a brand authentic? This question divides authors. There are several approaches which define multiple ways of what can make a brand authentic.

We assume that most of these theories do not contradict and can be used parallel, something we will show with the example of the 1976 founded British cosmetics producer and franchisor THE BODY SHOP1. For this we exemplary examine THE BODY SHOP'S authenticity by comparing the company's communication activities to the core authenticity theories. In doing so we want to figure out if THE BODY SHOP can be seen as authentic in light of the literature. It is not our intention to prove if the company is subjectively or perceived authentic.

For this purpose we firstly clarify how authenticity becomes apparent (see chapter 2). Afterwards we shortly introduce THE BODY SHOP'S five core values (see chapter 2.2.), because they are the basis for all the company's communication activities. Then we introduce several theories (see chapter 3) which show different models of what makes a brand authentic. And in addition we apply the appropriate theories to THE BODY SHOP'S communication activities concerning the company values (see chapter 3).

2. Authenticity and THEBODYSHOP

To verify authenticity we must know how and to what extend authenticity becomes apparent. As already mentioned customers want a brand to be authentic. That means the customer has to perceive the brand as authentic. In this case "perception can be defined as a complex process of acquisition of information by assimilating stimuli" (Schmitt & Plassmann, n.d.), or "by activating the sensory organs" (Prillwitz, n.d.). And in turn, information is transported by communication (cf. Fiehler, 1990, p. 28). In this view, communication is a kind of information exchange (cf. Eisenberg, Munzberg, & Kunkel-Razum, 2007).

THE BODY SHOP is a brand (Livesey & Kearins, 2002), and hence the company exchanges information or communicates in several ways with its customers. That means, THE BODY SHOP'S communication has to be designed in a way that it stimulates the customers' perception to that effect that the customers perceive the brand as authentic.

According to this we will initially consult a specific theory which explains authenticity and hereupon use an example from THE BODY SHOP'S diverse communication activities to check if THE BODY SHOP'S communication can be seen as authentic following this particular theory.

2.1 Theoretical perspectives

In the following we firstly give a very short overview over the predominant authenticity theories and we define the meaning of the term "authenticity".

Cultural science offers different assumptions to explain authenticity (Alexander, 2009; Amrein, 2009; Beverland & Farrelly, 2010; Beverland, 2009; Beverland, 2006; Ewing, Allen, & Ewing, 2012; Fog, Budtz, & Yakaboylu, 2005; Funk & Kramer, 2011; Gilmore & Pine, 2007; Grayson & Martinec, 2004; Imbusch, 2007; Knieper & Muller, 2003; Leigh, 2006; Liao & Ma, 2009; Marschik, 2008; Morth, 1997; Schallehn, 2012; Schierl & Grittman, 2002). This eclectic range of attempts to explain authenticity uses different paradigms, perspectives or starting points to describe the term authenticity. But what is consistent across the literature is that authenticity encapsulates what is "genuine, real, and/or true" (Beverland & Farrelly, 2010, p. 838; Beverland, 2006; Ewing et al., 2012, p. 381; Grayson & Martinec, 2004, p. 297; Liao & Ma, 2009, p. 91). Focusing on the latest and predominant theories of Liao and Ma, Beverland, Beverland and Farrelly, Ewing et al. and Grayson and Martinec we imply the common denominator, namely that authenticity covers what is genuine, real and true.

2.2 The BODY SHOP'S five core values

Before we apply the above mentioned theories, we shortly will introduce the basis of the company's communication activities, THE BODY SHOP'S five core values (see figure 1). "We are different because of our values" states the company ("our values - The Body Shop Australia," n.d.) and hence puts its values in focus. THE BODY SHOP'S philosophy leans on an holistic ethical approach ("About us," n.d.), formulated in these five core values. As we figured out they percolate the company's whole appearance and actions and therefore also its communication activities (cf. Hartman & Beck-Dudley, 1999, p. 252 sqq.). Thus, the five values are not only a statement, but supposed to be a lived philosophy on which everything THE BODY SHOP does is built on (cf. Hartman & Beck-Dudley, 1999, p. 252 sqq.). As it is the case with most large corporations, however, one might doubt whether this is actually true and suggest that such nice words amount to mere "green washing". Because all our findings are related to these values (printed on every THE BODY SHOP product) we will therefore now introduce them in detail and briefly discuss how they are being translated into action by the company.

The five core values are, first, the refusal of animal testing ("against animal testing"), secondly, the continuous enlargement of community fair trade ingredients ("support community fair trade"), moreover, the ambition never to play with female uncertainty with regard to 'correct' appearance or looks and to question the current dominant western female beauty ideal ("activate self-esteem"), further, only to deal with suppliers who keep to human rights standards ("defend human rights") and finally, the purpose to act in an environmental friendly way within the whole value chain ("protect the planet") (cf. "Our Values," n.d.).

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 1: THE BODYSHOP's five core values

Against Animal Testing

As one of the first companies within the cosmetics sector, THE BODY SHOP started selling products, which are not tested on animals, meaning they are 'cruelty-free' (cf. "Animal Testing," n.d.). As a result, all products are certified by the Human Cosmetic Standard, which was introduced by the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) and is declared as the highest international standard for animal welfare in the cosmetic industry (cf. "Animal Testing," n.d.). Furthermore, THE BODY SHOP is also performing an internal audit, every two years, to guarantee their policy is corresponding to the latest animal welfare guidelines (cf. "Animal Testing," n.d.). Besides, THE BODY SHOP is committed in fighting officially against animal testing in the cosmetic industry since 1996 (cf. "Animal Testing," n.d.).

"The Body Shop was the first cosmetics company to develop direct relationships with communities in return for natural ingredients and accessories" ("Dame Anita Roddick," n.d.). THE BODY SHOP established its Community Fair Trade program officially in 1987. Today, the company cultivates business relations up to 25 suppliers within this program and enlarges them continuously. Committing oneself to fair trade standards means dealing preferably with small-scale farmers, traditional artisans and rural cooperatives and offering them "independence-building prices," respectively solid minimum prices independent of the world market price development, as well as "good trading practices." As THE BODY SHOP states, more than 300,000 people are benefiting from this practice.

Activate Self Esteem

Confidence, vitality and inner wellbeing are THE BODY SHOP'S core factors for "true beauty" (cf. "Self Esteem," n.d.). To enhance the staff's sense of wellbeing and feeling good THE BODY SHOP supports a range of trainings, events and health treatments, but also their initiative "Learning is of Value to Everyone" (LOVE). Furthermore, the company offers three paid volunteering days a year to make their staff "feel good by doing good" (cf. "Self Esteem," n.d.). Besides, THE BODY SHOP asserts not to play around with women's insecurities by using an unnatural ideal of beauty created by the mainstream cosmetic and fashion industry and media (cf. "Self Esteem," n.d.). To emphasize this approach officially, THE BODY SHOP started an advertisement campaign with Ruby, a little, anti­Barbie plastic doll in 1997 (cf. "Campaigns," n.d.). Her name is a short version of Rubenesque, with reference to the paintings of Peter Paul Rubens. Ruby's soft, curvy body launched a global discussion about female self-esteem and body image.

Defend Human Rights

Already in 1994, THE BODY SHOP started raising funds and global awareness obtaining domestic violence (cf. "Human Rights," n.d.). The very first official project the company brought into being was the campaign against prosecution of the Ogoni, an ethnical minority in the Niger Delta (cf. "Campaigns," n.d.). "They were seeking justice and reparations against the giant oil multinational Shell that was ravaging their lands through oil exploration and production. Working with other NGOs, they turned their campaign into an international cause celebre" ("Dame Anita Roddick," n.d.). Moreover, the company supports and initiates campaigns regarding issues and taboos of HIV and AIDS, since 1993 ("Campaigns," n.d.). Further, their "Stop The Trafficking of Children and Young People" campaign is not only raising awareness and funds but also offers diverse support for victims or those at risk (cf. "Human Rights," n.d.). Besides, the company deals exclusive with suppliers keeping to the company's "Code of Conduct" which guarantees every employee within the supply chain positive working conditions and a fair treatment in line with to the UN human rights (cf. "Human Rights," n.d.).

Protect the planet

Another aim is to run business in a holistic sustainable and environmental friendly way. The brand's first official campaign regarding the value "protect the planet" took place in 1986, one year after becoming a "public company" ("Our History," n.d.). It was about claiming to stop whaling in cooperation with Greenpeace (cf. "Campaigns," n.d.). In this context THE BODY SHOP advertised Jojoba-oil as an alternative to "cetaceum", a fatty substance extracted from pot whale heads. (cf. "Protect the planet," n.d.). Today, the company engages in environmental causes in many different ways: THE BODY SHOP designs its shops in an energy saving manner and uses electricity 100% made from renewable energy sources (e.g. wind or solar panels) (cf. Burritt & Lehman, 1995; The Body Shop International PLC., 2008, p. 6). By reducing the packaging used for transport, using all in all 80% recycled packaging, 100% FSC certified wood retail products, 100% PCR PET bottles and 100% recycled bags, the company continuously minimizes its amount of waste (cf. The Body Shop International PLC., 2008, p. 6). Moreover, THE BODY SHOP builds up wildlife areas and uses its global network to change the attitudes towards environmental responsibility around the world, for example as a member of the "Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil" (RSPO)("The Planet," n.d.).

3. Proofing THE BODY SHOP'S authenticity

In this and the following chapters we introduce the above mentioned (see chapter 2.1) latest predominant theories, focusing on those by Liao and Ma (2009) and Beverland (2006) (see chapter 3.1), Beverland (2009) (see chapter 3.2), Ewing et al. (2012) and Grayson and Martinec (2004) (see chapter 3.3), and the one of Beverland and Farrelly (2010) (see chapter 3.4), in detail.

3.1 Attributes of authenticity

Subsequently, we start with the theory of Liao and Ma (2009) which laid out the most important attributes of authenticity in the existing literature. We use this framework to test whether or not THE BODYSHOP can be considered an authentic brand.

Characterizing the authenticity of luxury wine brands, a study of Beverland (2006)[2] found six core characteristics which transmit authenticity. Based on these conclusions, Liao and Ma (2009)[3] redefined these six characteristics "without limiting its investigation to any specific brand, product, or consumption context"(Liao & Ma, 2009, p. 93). The result are the subsequently characteristics, namely originality, quality and credibility, heritage and style persistence, scarceness, sacredness and finally purity. The more of these characteristics are fulfilled, the more the appropriate brand appears authentic. In the following, we discuss these six aspects to examine THE BODY SHOP'S authenticity.

3.1.1 Originality

The first and main characteristic of authenticity is originality (Liao & Ma, 2009; cf. Beverland, 2006).

Being a pioneer

Focusing on the individuality of the product this attribute is often linked to a pioneering and innovative role (cf. Liao & Ma, 2009, p. 100; cf. Beverland, 2006, p. 254 sqq.). We assume that THE BODY SHOP is a so called "green pioneer" and therewith has the character of originality.

What makes a company a so called "green missionary" (Wolf & Lauber, 2011, p. 3) or pioneer is not only communicating, but being convinced of the green guiding idea, inscribing it into the company's values and living the so called "green image" right from the foundation of the company, (cf. Wolf & Lauber, 2011, p. 1). Does our case at hand tick these boxes?

In analyzing THE BODY SHOP'S engagement in environment protection, we concentrate on picking out just some core aspects to check this assumption. Due to its value "protect the planet" the company has the purpose to act or to run business in a holistic sustainable and environmental friendly way within the whole value added chain ("Protect the planet," n.d.). Besides the above mentioned aspects (see chapter 2.2), the company minimizes its amount of waste by reducing packaging for transport. Furthermore, THE BODY SHOP minimizes its water consumption, by using water mainly for "domestic purposes" ("The Planet," n.d.) and by installing low-flush toilets (cf. "Protect the planet," n.d.). In addition the company produces with minimal impact on the aquatic environment (cf. "Protect the planet," n.d.). Moreover, THE BODY SHOP builds up/ built wildlife areas, like for example allotments, beehives, meadows and butterfly-friendly areas, and has global relationships to diverse NGOs and organizations in matters of long-term projects, campaigning or single projects (cf. "The Body Shop Foundation," n.d.), both, detached and connected to its production. One example is THE BODY SHOP'S participation as a member in the "Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil" (RSPO) which develops universal eco-standards for the Palm Oil exploitation. Additionally, "THE BODY SHOP Foundation" (founded in 1990) supports "innovative projects across the world working, amongst other issues, for environmental change" with its own volunteer program and projects completely detached from the production processes (cf. "The Body Shop Foundation," n.d.).

Regarding to its diverse engagement right from the companies foundation, THE BODY SHOP can be seen as such a "green missionary" or a pioneer in matters of environment protection and thus fulfills the main property of authenticity, originality.

Being natural

Furthermore, "being natural and products made of natural materials (...) is perceived as original (Liao & Ma, 2009, p. 100).

illustration not visible in this excerpt

To show that THE BODY SHOP'S products are natural the company uses pictures, a certain way to build authenticity (cf. Schierl & Grittman, 2002, p. 98). The company promises that THE BODY SHOP products are "inspired by nature" ("About us," n.d.). To emphasize this statement the product packaging is predominantly designed in muted colors and with pictures of fruits, vegetables, nuts or in general plants (see figure 2). Thus, THE BODY SHOP transports the message that its products are made of natural materials. Besides, the company mainly pictures models who appear in a pure, natural look, what means less make up, less accessories or less elaborate hairdos to create the impression of "being natural" (see figure 3). Hence THE BODY SHOP'S communication appears authentic also in matters of the attributes second factor.

3.1.2 Quality commitment and credibility

The second characteristic is objective quality, credibility, honesty and the fit with customers expectation (cf. Liao & Ma, 2009, p. 101; Beverland, 2006, p. 254).

illustration not visible in this excerpt

The element of quality commitment means the requirement of "uncompromising commitment to quality" (Beverland, 2006, p. 254) done for example by high investments in areas which are crucial towards the product's quality or by intensive selection of the raw materials (cf. Beverland, 2006, p. 254). THE BODY SHOP produces its raw materials mainly in the countries of the appropriate products' origin. The reason is that the products' quality profits of expert knowledge of the appropriate producers that was developed over the long term. For example, Shea nuts are produced in Ghana,

Marula fruits the company sources from Namibia, Aloe plants are grown in Guatemala and Tea Tree leaves come from Kenya ("CommunityFairTrade," n.d.). Besides, all raw materials are produced considering the company's five core values. That means, the Nepalese paper supplier for example uses only "natural and recycled materials like cotton fabric, Banana tree stems, Water Hyacinth and Jute, uses non-toxic dyes, has its own water treatment plant to treat its waste water, employs more women than men and pays women the same wages like male employees ("Paper," n.d.).

Thus, THE BODYSHOP can be seen as authentic in matters of quality commitment. In addition, THE BODY SHOP can be perceived as credible, based on its five core values (see chapter 2.2.), whereby the company sets itself a general high ethical and moral standard. The customer presumably has appropriate high expectations to the company's actions. Therewith, the company is in charge of fulfilling these expectations to appear credible and honest.

For example, the online presentation of the multiple campaigns the company was and is engaged in, starts with the sentence "Activism is in our blood." ("Campaigns," n.d.). It presents several campaigns, which have been part of the company's activities since it was founded ("Campaigns," n.d.; Dennis, Neck, & Goldsby, 1998, p. 650). For these, the company often works together with famous institutions and welfare associations, like Greenpeace, Amnesty International, MTV or ECPAT International. These operations cover manifold topics, ranging from saving the whales to encouraging self-esteem or stopping sex trafficking (cf. "About us," n.d., "Our History," n.d., "Our Values," n.d.).

Moreover, the company established 'The Body Shop Foundation' which participates in worldwide social, environmental and animal welfare projects through their own volunteer program and think tank (cf. "The Body Shop Foundation," n.d.). Remarkable is that 'The Body Shop Foundation' engagement is not focusing on one specific ethical problem, but covering all parts described within THE BODY SHOP'S values.

By implementing the five core values, emphasizing, proving and realizing its promise to care for a better world by diverse engagements, we see THE BODY SHOP'S effort to fulfill its high moral standards, to appear honest and to fit in with the customer's expectations. Thus, the company appears credible and honest and presumably can meet the customer's expectations as quite successful.

3.1.3 Heritage and style persistence

Another character of authenticity is "that something embodies heritable spirits and characteristics and that its features are consistent (long-term value) (...)" (Liao & Ma, 2009, p. 101; cf. Beverland, 2006, p. 253). By doing so, namely by implementing its individual history in communication activity, brands can be perceived as reliable and meaningful (cf. Beverland, 2006, p. 253).

[...]


[1] THE BODY SHOP is a multi-local business with over 2500 stores in 60 markets and more than 20 countries(cf. "Our Company," n.d.). The company provides income to over 15,000 people across the globe (cf. "Our Company," n.d.)."In 2006 THE BODY SHOP was purchased by L’Oreal" ("Our Company," n.d.).

[2] After interviewing luxury wine marketers and consumers (Beverland, 2006), characterized luxury wine brand authenticity in terms of heritage and pedigree, stylistic consistency, quality commitments, relationship of place, and method of production, thus downplaying commercial motives (Beverland, 2006, p. 256 sqq.).

[3] "The study finds that consumers will expend high-acquisition efforts to search for and buy authentic products with one or more of the six authenticity characteristics. It also finds that consumers (...) consume authentic products deliberately, remain loyal to authentic products, and refuse to consume imitation goods" (Liao & Ma, 2009, p. 89).

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Title: What makes a brand authentic? The example of "The Body Shop"