Most business owners and marketers are well aware of the major factors that influence the success or failure of online marketing campaigns. Most professionals know that things like presentation, pricing, tone of the message and engagement are important, but something they may not think about is authenticity.

A recent global study from Cohn & Wolfe shows that authenticity is extremely important to consumers. The researchers ranked companies by their authenticity and found that many of the largest, most successful companies in the world scored well when consumers were asked to grade them on their authenticity. Understanding what makes a brand authentic to consumers is vital for online marketers who want to make a connection with their audience.

The ease of online marketing can be a double-edged sword. While this makes it easy for small businesses to make an impact with online marketing, it also means there are a lot of less reputable individuals and brands that use online marketing in deceptive ways. To put this beyond the realm of conjecture, consider this: four out of five people surveyed by Cohn & Wolfe that brands are not "open and honest".

In this environment of high cynicism, brands that can project their authenticity without it seeming forced can benefit with increased brand loyalty and higher sales. When ranking the top 100 authentic brands, you see that the highest ranking companies were also high performing. Being open and honest doesn't have to hurt the bottom line. According to Cohn & Wolfe, Disney, Amazon, Apple, Samsung and Lego all achieve top 10 spots on the Authentic 100

"The rules of communication have irrevocably changed, and we're seeing consumers reward brands that understand how to engage with them openly and honestly. In fact, consumers will forgive the occasional corporate misstep if a company is upfront, and addresses the issue head-on," says Donna Imperato, CEO, Cohn & Wolfe. "The brands topping the Authentic 100 understand this, and have demonstrated consistently that they value more than just their bottom lines by fostering a genuine dialogue with their customers."

The Cohn & Wolfe study relied on survey responses from more than 12,000 consumers in 14 different markets. The results showed broad support for companies that were credible with consumers. Nearly nine out of 10 consumers said they were willing to take action to reward a brand for its authenticity. The majority (52 percent) said they would recommend the brand to others and just under half (49 percent) said they would pledge loyalty to the brand.

The benefits of authenticity go beyond improved brand perception. People are willing to spend more for products that come from authentic brands and even want to support the company in a general sense. In the Cohn & Wolfe survey, one in five (20 percent) of the the respondents said they would be prepared to put their money on the table and invest in a brand that proves its authenticity.

So what makes a brand "authentic"? Authenticity isn't something that can be easily faked. It requires brands to be committed to higher quality of production and more open engagement with their target consumer.

The survey revealed four aspects that many consumers associate with authenticity. While many of these factors may seem like common sense, the way people rank them may be counterintuitive.

In defining authenticity, the survey respondents prioritized "high quality" (66 percent) and "delivering on promises" (70 percent) over more lofty measures like "social responsibility" (57 percent) and "environmental responsibility" (55 percent). Still, each of these are aspects where business owners can align their marketing with the goal of showcasing these attributes of their brand.

To see Cohn & Wolfe's rankings, go to http://authentic100.com/. And to read more information about marketing tips, read this article on why reputation matters for email marketing.