The Perils of Proclaiming an Authentic Organizational Identity

The Perils of Proclaiming an Authentic Organizational Identity

By
Balazs Kovacs, Glenn R. Carroll, David W. Lehman
Sociological Science. January
23, 2017, Vol. 4, Issue 4, Pages 80-106

An emerging body of research consistently demonstrates that individuals in developed consumer markets value authenticity. But how individuals respond to organizations that tout their identities as authentic is not so well understood. We argue that organizational attempts at explicitly proclaiming their own identity as authentic will generally be regarded by individuals with skepticism and devaluation. Across two studies with different research designs, we find consistent empirical evidence that individuals devalue organizations making identity self-claims of authenticity. The first study analyzed authenticity claims made in the texts of menus from 1,393 restaurants in Los Angeles and their corresponding 450,492 online consumer reviews recorded from 2009 to 2016. The second study used a controlled minimalistic experimental setting with fictitious restaurant menus that examined reactions to generic authenticity self-claims. The findings illuminate how individuals respond to organizational identity claims about authenticity, and raise interesting questions about other types of identity claims.