Even Most Admired Companies Take Hits From Public


A new corporate reputation study finds that the American public not only has ill feelings towards BP and companies in the financial and health insurance sectors, but even well-admired companies at the top of the reputation heap draw negative reactions.

The ReputationPlus study—from interactive research and technology company Vision Critical and its public affairs arm Angus Reid Public Opinion—quizzed 10,800 people about 54 companies (800 people per company) originally culled from the Fortune 200. The study probes not only positive traits, but negative ones that cover executive compensation, management’s short-term thinking, secrecy, greed and arrogance. The full rankings are below.

Despite reeling from controversy surrounding recalls of some if its best-selling products, Johnson & Johnson tops the list of most favorably perceived companies, in a top 10 dominated by CPG, computing and technology companies. These organizations all rated favorably on fundamentals like value, quality and trust, and being welcomed into a local community—all signs of well-managed companies and good corporate citizens, says John Gilfeather, head of John Gilfeather & Associates, which assisted Vision Critical with the study.

Managing to avoid the respondents’ most negative label of “idiots”—the public’s shorthand for arrogance, greed and secrecy, continues Gilfeather, ”these companies still attracted comment about executive compensation and putting their profits above what is good for the country.”

For all companies on average, 31% of the respondents feel these organizations “Have top executives who are more concerned about how much money they make than long-term health of company”; 30% feel they “Put profits ahead of what is good for the U.S.”; and 25% say “they are companies whose best days are behind them.”

“It is not news that almost half of Americans think that BP puts profits ahead of what is good for the United States,” says Gilfeather. “But it is news that 1 out of 5 Americans feel this way about widely admired companies like Kraft and Johnson & Johnson.”

In addition, on average, 29% used the word “greedy,” 28% “secretive,” 26% “arrogant” and 23% “idiots” to describe these companies. “In 40 years of studying corporate reputation, I have never seen this level of vitriol aimed at larger corporations.  It is not just an erosion of positives, but also a rise in distinct negatives,” says Gilfeather. “If companies do not start communicating—and communicating better—about why they should be respected, this trend will continue.”

And how should companies be communicating? “It is clear from our results that familiarity breeds favorability,” says Gilfeather. “Familiarity is built by telling credible and compelling stories about the corporation. Many corporations—rightfully—are targeting communications toward important stakeholders. But it is also important to speak to citizens as a whole. Grassroots support, as we see everyday, is critically important to build reputation.”

ReputationPlus Study (Fielded May 2010)

Top 10

11-20

21-30

31-40

41-50

51-54

Johnson & Johnson

1

Target

11

Boeing

21

Visa

31

United Healthcare

41

Citigroup

51

Kraft Foods

2

General Electric

12

Verizon

22

Sprint Nextel

32

Wells Fargo

42

Halliburton

52

Disney

3

Kodak

13

AT&T

23

Charles Schwab

33

Aetna

43

Goldman Sachs

53

Campbell's Soup Company

4

Coca Cola

14

GEICO

24

Novartis

34

Toyota

44

BP

54

Home Depot

5

Kimberly-Clark

15

Allstate

25

Merck

35

Cigna

45

 

 

Google

6

Pepsico (Pepsi)

16

Sanofi-Aventis

26

E*Trade

36

Chevron

46

 

 

Procter & Gamble

7

Ford

17

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)

27

Time Warner

37

HSBC

47

 

 

Apple

8

IBM

18

Pfizer

28

American Express

38

Merrill Lynch

48

 

 

Nestlé

9

McDonald's

19

Travelers

29

MasterCard Worldwide

39

Bank of America

49

 

 

Microsoft

10

Wal-Mart

20

General Motors

30

Comcast

40

Exxon Mobil

50

 

 


NB Geico and Merrill Lynch are subsidiaries of larger corporations.

 




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