Reputations of major corporations are taking a hit as the public is becoming more skeptical and seems to be jaded by continued economic uncertainties as well as its causes, according to a recent survey by brand and marketing consultancy Prophet.
This survey reports score declines among all industry sectors except a marginal gain for the oil and gas sector; however, this increase is not enough to remove the oil and gas industry from being viewed as one of the poorest reputation performers.
“Overall, reputation scores fell back to the levels of the first year of our study, 2009,” says Jeff Smith, the Prophet partner who led the study. “This year 16 percent of all companies ranked in the ‘poor’ category of performance versus 13 percent last year. And none scored at ‘leading’ levels while 14 percent did in 2010.”
The top performer is Apple, which pushed out Kraft to capture the No. 1 spot. Apple was No. 13 last year. Google is now also in the top 10 at No. 9 from 28. Despite this, the tech sector is viewed as just average based on reputation as most of these businesses included have lower rankings from earlier surveys.
Kellogg’s and Kraft, which typically switch between the top two spots, are still No. 2 and No. 3, respectively. In fact, the consumer packaged goods sector still dominates the top 25, although only two organizations are ranked higher: Nestle to No. 7 from No. 10 and Procter and Gamble to No. 14 from No. 23. General Mills and Coca Cola, however, are both lower at No. 8 from No. 4 and at No. 20 from No. 8, respectively.
Toyota is improving from its recall troubles as it is now No. 74 from No. 139, and the automotive industry is overall seeing improvement. Advances include Honda to No. 29 from No. 30, BMW to No. 31 from No. 34, Ford to No. 36 from No. 60 and GM to No. 73 from No. 85.
The study finds that reputations are fragile while resilient, Smith says, and what influences them can vary sharply based on micro and macro forces. Personal relevance factors are the most important in driving reputations in this year’s survey.
“Consumers are worrying less about companies’ leadership or financial performance and more about things that ‘make a difference in their life’ or ‘inspire them,’” Smith says. “This challenges businesses to do more to open the dialog and establish a more personal, emotional connection if they expect their reputations to improve.”