Last updated on February 5th, 2015 at 04:39 pm
Rochester, New York-based grocer Wegmans Food Markets, with 85 stores and one-tenth of Amazon’s revenues, edged past the online retailer to reach the top spot for corporate reputation among the 100 most visible companies, according to the 16th annual Harris Poll Reputation Quotient (RQ) study. Ranking third on the list, Samsung outperformed all other technology companies, surging past Apple and Google, at No. 9 and No. 10 respectively, and achieving a near-reversal in position from 2012 when Apple was No. 1, Google was No. 2 and Samsung ranked 13th in corporate reputation.
“Reputation is far from static and is a business asset that is earned every day as people evaluate companies through the lens of what matters most to them. Wegmans has spent years building a sterling reputation in the communities they serve, through its employees, one shopping experience at a time,” says Carol M. Gstalder, reputation and public relations practice leader for Harris Poll. “Samsung has steadily climbed up the ranks in recent years with consumers rating it among the five best on key reputational dimensions of products and services, emotional appeal, financial performance and vision and leadership. Apple’s performance, while still excellent, has fallen five points since 2012.”
Harris Poll expanded the list to 100 companies this year, up from 60, to offer deeper insight by industry. As a result, three of the top 10 companies are debuting on the list, including No. 1 Wegmans, No. 7 L.L. Bean and No. 8 Publix Super Markets.
“Expanding the study allows companies to see how they stack up within their industry as well as compared to best-in-class reputations across industries,” says Gstalder.
The reputations of the 100 most visible companies range from excellent (scores of 80-plus) to poor (scores of 50-64). A total of 12 companies earned excellent scores, including the rest of the top 10 with Costco at No. 4, up from No. 6 in 2014, and No. 5 Johnson & Johnson and No. 6 Kraft, both moving back into the top tier after falling out of it in 2014 and 2013 respectively. Conversely, a total of 16 companies earn a “poor” reputation score, starting with Time Warner at No. 85 and down to Goldman Sachs at No. 100.
JC Penney showed the strongest improvement in the past year as its turnaround strategy gains traction. The Coca-Cola Co., Honda, Hyundai and General Motors experienced the largest declines. Unprecedented automotive recalls explain the reputation hits suffered by General Motors, Honda and Hyundai. Coca-Cola, whose reputation score is in the “very good” range, fell 6.8 points this year, largely due to public perceptions of its products and declining intent to purchase.
In another new feature, Harris Poll had each company rated by 100 Opinion Elites, a sub-segment of the main survey respondents who are more informed, engaged and likely to act based on corporate conduct and other reputation factors.
“Companies are particularly eager to engage these stakeholders because they tend to influence the general public’s opinion,” says Gstalder.
Opinion Elites and the general public rate many of the same companies in the top 10 for reputation. Opinion Elites also place Wegmans at No. 1 and Amazon at No. 2, then move L.L. Bean to No. 3, Johnson & Johnson to No. 4, Samsung to No. 6, Apple to No. 7 and Publix Super Markets to No. 10. Filling out the top 10, Opinion Elites rank The Walt Disney Co. No. 5 (compared to No. 12 by the general public), Berkshire Hathaway No. 8 (compared to No. 11 by the general public) and Coca-Cola is No. 9. Unlike the general public, the Opinion Elite RQ score for Coca-Cola is excellent, with strongest performance on the reputation dimension of vision and leadership.
“The American public strongly believes reputation matters and acts on that belief. This year’s results show that more than half of the public actively seeks out information about companies they hear about or do business with, and 36 percent say they’ve decided against doing business with a company because of something they learned about its conduct,” says Gstalder. “Companies need to evaluate and understand the increasing expectations consumers have when it comes to corporate reputation, specifically what they think, say and do, as well as how best to engage with them.”
A complete ranking of the RQ’s 100 most visible companies can be found in the 16th Annual RQ Summary Report here.