There is a significant “authenticity gap” between UK consumers’ expectations of leading brands and their experiences with them, according to new research conducted by global communications consultancy FleishmanHillard and partner Lepere Analytics, who polled expert UK stakeholders on their expectations and experiences of 160 businesses.

This gap, observed most acutely in the area of innovation, undermines customer confidence and business performance, the survey findings suggest.

The Authenticity Gap research identified nine fundamental drivers of reputation that are consistent across industries and geographies: doing right, consistent performance, credible communications, better value, customer care, innovation, employee care, community impact, and care of the environment.

Of these nine drivers, innovation was cited by UK stakeholders as the most critical driver of a company’s reputation in 75 percent of the industries analyzed—60 percent higher than in the US, Germany and China—yet experience fell short of expectation in 65 percent of cases.

The largest gap between innovation expectation and experience in the UK exists in the smartphones and the tablets and e-readers sectors, suggesting increasingly bold claims about transformative technology are ringing hollow with consumers and undermining authentic engagement. The authenticity gap for smartphones was significantly more pronounced in the UK (-24.5 percent) than in the US (-11.1 percent), Germany (-16.1 percent) or China (-3.5 percent).

In only five industry sectors did the UK consumer experience of innovation actually outperform expectations: energy, hotels, insurance, social networks, and travel operators.

“Businesses and brands can say what they like about themselves, but there is no hiding place if the experience is out of step with the promise,” says Richard Kanareck, managing director of FleishmanHillard London. “In a world where customers are able to share their actual experiences with greater speed, visibility and impact than ever before, measuring and managing reputation—what those customers are saying about you, in relation to what you’re saying about yourself—becomes a business imperative. A gap between expectation and experience is, at best, an opportunity to enhance reputation and confidence and, at worst, can bring a business to its knees.”