How Do Industries Score on Corporate Reputation Factors?

The technology industry continues to have the best reputation of any sector in the US, according to the latest annual Harris Poll Reputation Quotient (RQ). But a breakdown of the different facets of corporate reputation reveals that consumer products companies tend to outperform tech companies in the various individual factors involved.

Looking first at overall perceptions of corporate reputation, the report finds that technology leads once again, as it has for several years. Some 78% of general population respondents feel that the technology industry has a positive reputation, giving it a rating between 5 and 7 on a 7-point scale (where 7 is “very good”).

Trailing tech are retail (63%) and consumer products (61%), with automotive (56%) the only other industry to get a positive rating from a majority of respondents.

By comparison, industries such as financial services (37%) and pharmaceutical (29%) have much lower ratings, with the latter in particular seeing a steep decline from just a few years ago.

In fact, companies in the pharmaceutical industry have declined across all dimensions of corporate reputation from last year. Their scores have decreased most notably for vision and leadership (-4.3 to 73.5) and emotional appeal (-4.1 to 64). These figures are determined by looking at the aggregate score of all the most visible companies within each respective industry.

Looking at industries as aggregates of their most visible companies shines a brighter light on the consumer products industry, which was among the top 2 industries for each of the 6 dimensions outlined. This industry fared particularly well in the dimensions of vision and leadership (79.1) and financial performance (79.8), where it was well ahead of the next-best sector. Top-ranked companies within this sector include Johnson & Johnson (with an “Excellent” RQ score of 82.57 that ranked 4th among the 100 most visible companies), and Kellogg Company.

Retail companies also fared well in the analysis of the individual dimensions of reputation, leading in social responsibility and emotional appeal. The top retail company by reputation score is Amazon, with its 86.27 RQ score not only leading all companies this year but also emerging as the top mark in 18 years of the study.

As far as individual companies go, Wegmans (85.41) came in second behind Amazon, followed by Publix Super Markets (82.78), Johnson & Johnson (82.57) and Apple (82.07). Tesla Motors was a new entrant to the top 10, coming in at #9, having been on the Most Visible Companies list for the first time this year.

Meanwhile, after its precipitous crisis-driven decline from last year, Volkswagen showed some improvement this year, recovering 8.7 of the 20.5 points it had lost.

Another company to undergo a scandal – Wells Fargo – saw its troubles reflected in its RQ score, as it plummeted 20.6 points, easily the largest decline. In fact, that was the largest decline measured in the RQ’s 18-year history, as it fell to a “Critical” score of just 49.11.

The study also tells a tale of political polarization. In particular, Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby have far greater reputations among Republicans than Democrats, with the opposite true of Target. In fact, only 4 companies placed among the top 10 by reputation score for both Democrats and Republicans: Amazon; Publix Super Markets; UPS; and 3M Company.

In other results from the study:

  • Respondents are twice as likely to trust a company with an excellent reputation as one with a poor or very poor reputation (84% vs. 42%);
  • Almost two-thirds have personally engaged in corporate reputation in some way, most commonly by participating in a conversation with others about how a company conducts itself (44%) and by deciding to not to business with a company because of something they learned about how it conducts itself (40%);
  • Products and services has the tightest connection with reputation, while emotional appeal is declining and vision and leadership is increasing;
  • Half of respondents consider the overall reputation of today’s corporate leaders or CEO s to be bad, aligning with recent research indicating that just 37% of general population respondents around the world find CEOs to be credible, an all-time low; and
  • The most damaging scenarios for corporate reputation are intentional wrongdoing or illegal actions by a company, lying or misrepresenting the facts (alternative facts?!) and intentional misuse of financial information for financial gain (last year’s results here).