The Harris Poll released its 17th annual Reputation Quotient® (RQ®) Summary Report, revealing corporate reputation ratings for the 100 most visible companies in the U.S., as perceived by the general public. Amazon reclaimed the top spot, marking the eighth consecutive year the online retailer has ranked in the top ten, while Volkswagen Group dropped to the bottom.
The top ten companies for corporate reputation in 2016 are (in order): Amazon, Apple, Google, USAA, The Walt Disney Company, Publix Super Markets, Samsung, Berkshire Hathaway, Johnson & Johnson, and Kellogg Company. USAA and Kellogg Company are newcomers to the RQ top ten, while Berkshire Hathaway returns to the top ten for the first time since 2008 and The Walt Disney Company returns after slipping to #12 in 2015. The Harris Poll 2016 Reputation Quotient Summary Report can be found at www.theharrispoll.com/reputation-quotient.
“Best-in-class companies demonstrate that corporate reputation matters – to your customers, employees, potential hires, business partners and investors,” said Sarah Simmons, senior reputation consultant at Nielsen, which owns The Harris Poll. “Not only does it matter, but corporate reputation is critically important to measure and understand in the context of your company’s business goals. A positive reputation can provide competitive advantages and help your company achieve its objectives while a poor one can obstruct your ability to execute against your business plan.”
The RQ, an important baseline for managing reputation and identifying new market risks and opportunities, measures companies’ reputation strength based on the perceptions of more than 23,000 Americans across 20 attributes classified into six corporate reputation dimensions: Social Responsibility, Emotional Appeal, Products and Services, Vision and Leadership, Financial Performance, and Workplace Environment. The reputations of the 100 most visible U.S. companies range from “excellent” (scores of 80+) to “very poor “(scores of 50 to 54). In this year’s study, the top nine companies earned “excellent” scores and 35 companies received “very good” scores.
Most Prominent Declines
In light of its recent emissions scandal, Volkswagen Group declined steeply, dropping 20.5 points overall from a “very good” (75.21) score in 2015 to a “very poor” (54.75) rating in 2016. The only company to receive a “very poor” RQ rating this year, Volkswagen Group also fell more than 25 points on Emotional Appeal (includes attributes of trust, admiration and respect) and 20 points on Social Responsibility (includes attributes of environmental and community responsibility).
CVS (-5.0) and Starbucks (-4.6) also experienced declines, dropping from “very good” to “good” ratings. JCPenney, which showed the largest RQ increase in 2015, fell four points to a “poor” RQ score.
Opinion Elites = Information Seekers and Proactive Influencers
Each company in the RQ study was also rated by Opinion Elites, a sub-segment of the general public who are more informed, more engaged and more involved in current issues. Because of this interest, Opinion Elites tend to exert influence over the general public. UPS, Costco, Meijer, The Coca-Cola Company, and BMW have a better reputation among Opinion Elites than the general public and all appear on the Opinion Elites’ top ten. USAA, The Walt Disney Company, Publix Super Markets, Samsung and Johnson & Johnson — companies on the general public’s top ten list — do not appear on the Opinion Elites’ top ten.
“Eighty percent of the companies in the RQ study have a better reputation with Opinion Elites than among the general public,” said Simmons. “Companies that have a lower RQ rating with Opinion Elites than with the general public have had significant and high-profile reputational issues in recent times, reinforcing the lesson that having a plan and managing communications with this highly influential audience is essential.”
The Harris Poll 2016 Reputation Quotient Top Ten
4. Kellogg Company
5. The Walt Disney Company
6. Publix Super Markets, Inc.
8. Berkshire Hathaway
8. The Coca-Cola Company
9. Johnson & Johnson
9. Berkshire Hathaway
10. Kellogg Company
Companies that have a lower RQ score with Opinion Elites than the general public include: Hobby Lobby, Halliburton, Bank of America and Walmart.
Consumers are Doing their Homework
According to the RQ study, nearly three-fourths (72%) of Opinion Elites say they investigate corporate behavior before buying, while more than half (53%) of the general public indicated they proactively seek information about the companies they do business with. Fifty-seven percent of Opinion Elites say they’ve decided not to do business with a company because of something they learned about how it conducts itself while more than one-third (37%) of the general public indicated the same.
“Corporate America take note: the majority of U.S. consumers are seeking information about your practices, and in some cases, rejecting companies they interact with because of what they learn,” said Simmons. “Putting muscle behind messages that support your reputational equity with the public has never been more important.”
Most Damaging, Least Damaging Scenarios to Corporate Reputation
According to Harris Poll’s report, the biggest risks to corporate reputation are lying or misrepresenting facts about a product or service, or intentional wrongdoing or illegal actions by corporate leaders; both scenarios were cited by 80 percent of Americans surveyed. Other risks to reputation damage include security or data breaches (74%), product recalls due to contamination that may cause illness (66%) and unfair workplace conditions and culture (64%).
Twenty-five percent of Americans say that employee strikes or work stoppages are “not at all damaging” or “not very damaging” to corporate reputation. Other scenarios that are less damaging include employee conduct (20%), a product recall due to technical or equipment failure (15%), negative financial news about the company (12%) and safety-related product recalls (11%).
The 2016 Harris Poll Reputation Quotient was conducted online in English, among more than 23,000 U.S. respondents from November 13 – December 24, 2015, with preliminary nominating waves of research conducted among 4,078 respondents from September 8 -10 and October 6 – 8, 2015. The Annual RQ study begins with a Nomination Phase, which is used to identify the companies with the most “visible” reputations. All respondents are asked, unaided, to name companies that stand out as having the best and worst reputations. Online nominations are summed to create a total number of nominations for each company. The final list of the 100 most visible companies in the U.S. is measured in the RQ Ratings Phase. In the ratings phase, respondents are randomly assigned to rate two of the companies with which they are “very” or “somewhat” familiar. After the first company rating is completed, the respondent is given the option to rate the second company. Companies are rated on their reputation on 20 different attributes that comprise the Reputation Quotient instrument. The attributes are grouped into six different reputation dimensions: Emotional Appeal, Financial Performance, Products and Services, Social Responsibility, Vision and Leadership, and Workplace Environment.
Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll and sample partner surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in an online panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.
The Harris Poll 2016 Reputation Quotient
The Reputations of the 100 Visible Companies in the U.S. Among the General Public
Guide to RQ Scores: 80 & above: Excellent | 75-79: Very Good | 70-74: Good | 65-69: Fair
55-64: Poor | 50-54: Very Poor | Below 50: Critical
2016 RQ Rank
The Walt Disney Company
Publix Super Markets
Johnson & Johnson
The Vanguard Group*
The Clorox Company*
Procter & Gamble Co.
Honda Motor Company
The Coca-Cola Company
The Kraft Heinz Company**
The Kroger Company
The Home Depot
Whole Foods Market
CVS (CVS Health)
Ford Motor Company
The Allstate Corporation
State Farm Insurance
Discover Financial Services*
Toyota Motor Corporation
United States Postal Service
21st Century Fox
Wells Fargo & Company
Royal Dutch Shell
Delta Air Lines
JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Capital One Financial Corp.*
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
Time Warner Cable**
Sears Holdings Corporation
Bank of America