America’s Most Loved and Hated Companies
There are many ways to alienate your customers. You can play both sides and mislead your investors. You can donate millions of dollars to partisan causes. Or, you can simply operate in the cable industry. Regardless, you actions tend to stick to your brand. Over time, it chips away at the bottom line.
That was one finding of a February Harris Poll, which annually ranks the 100 most visible American companies by reputation. The poll, which surveyed 27,278 consumers, found that 36 percent of respondents would not support companies that conduct themselves in a questionable manner. And over half of consumers research companies. Reputation matters – and perception is everything. With the advent of social media, there is no place for companies to stash their dirty laundry. It all comes out eventually.
And that’s what makes the Harris Poll so intriguing. As part of its research, Harris Poll also ranks companies on how the general public views them. As you’d expect, each of these companies are worthy of a business school case study.
Financials top the list of the least popular companies. In the wake of the financial crisis and scandals, you’ll find four banks – Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, CitiGroup, and JPMorgan Chase among the 15 least trusted companies (and you could almost lump AIG in with them). Each has been hobbled by its share of bad press in recent years. Goldman Sachs, which scored the lowest on the survey, paid a $550 million dollar settlement to the SEC for misleading investors by not sharing complete details about a CDO it offered to investors. Bank of America has shed thousands of employees in recent years, along with playing nearly $17 billion dollars to settle a Justice Department suit over its mortgage backed securities. At JPMorgan Chase, one trader – known as the “London Whale” cost the firm over $6 billion dollars in bad transactions (not to mention another $920 million dollars in fines from regulators). And Citi has settled a series of lawsuits in recent years related to its practices before the financial collapse.
And the popularity of cable and internet providers is nearly as low as financials, with Dish Network, Comcast, Charter Communications, Time Warner, and DirecTV all appearing in the bottom 20. Automotive (General Motors and Chrysler) and oil-related (BP, ExxonMobil and Halliburton) companies also made appearances, with past recalls and environmental calamities (respectively) likely to blame. Surprisingly, only one airline (United) scored in the bottom twenty – despite complaints that airlines are seemingly charging for everything. What’s more, America’s favorite punching bag – Walmart – actually ranks 83rd (above Sears Holding, which some would argue is too irrelevant to be hated). By raising entry level pay this week, Walmart is only going to rise in popularity (even if they’ll never please their most ardent critics no matter how hard they try).
Still, these firms have a long way to go. Even the U.S. Postal Service (69th) ranks ahead of them. Talk about a wakeup call!
The top 20 firms are a mixture of established long-brands and upstarts. Wegmans Food Markets, a grocery store chain with heavy presence in New York and the mid-Atlantic, ranks the highest. The brand is renowned for its customer experience, including scrumptious baked good and cheery interiors. The firm is also known for its deep commitment to public service, and employee training. How dominant was Wegmans? It ranked in the top five in all six dimensions of the Harris study (Social responsibility, emotional appeal, products and services, vision and leadership, financial performance, and workplace environment). And Wegmans was ranked the top performer in workplace environment, social responsibility, vision and leadership and financial performance. In other words, doing good means doing well at Wegmans.
Wegmans is followed by Amazon, last year’s number one, which never strays from putting the customer first with its fast delivery, an easy-to-use website, and unbeatable selection. It also earned the highest marks for emotional appeal and products and services. Rounding out the top five for the most popular brands were Samsung (ahead of Apple), Costco, and Johnson & Johnson. Samsung scored in the top five in all categories except workplace environment and social responsibility, while Costco’s strengths came in workplace environment, emotional appeal, and products and services.
This year, the biggest drop was experienced by Coca-Cola, which nosedived from number two in 2014 to 34th, likely driven by the growing number of Americans removing soda from their diets (and taglines like “Killer Coke” taking hold). Honda also plunged 24 spots to number 29. Conversely, several firms jumped into the 2015 top 10, including Johnson & Johnson, Kraft, L.L. Bean, Publix Supermarkets, and Google. Apple slipped from third to ninth, with Disney going from fourth to 11th. The biggest gain was actually made by JC Penney, as they continue picking up the pieces from CEO Ron Johnson’s disasterous “no coupons” run. Ironically, two of the biggest gainers in this year’s poll – Bank of America and BP – are still ranked at the bottom of the poll.
Other notable companies outside the top and bottom 20 include: Procter & Gamble (24th), Nike (25th), General Mills (28th), Starbucks (31st), PepsiCo (36th), IBM (40th), eBay (43rd), General Electric (45th), Southwest Airlines (46th), Best Buy (59th), Target (63rd), AT&T (76th), and Facebook (77th).
Here are the rankings of the top 20 and bottom 20 firms in the Gallup Poll.
|Most Loved||Least Loved|
|1. Wegmans||1. Goldman Sachs|
|2. Amazon||2. AIG|
|3. Samsung||3. Dish Network|
|4. Costco||4. Monsanto|
|5. Johnson & Johnson||5. Halliburton|
|6. Kraft Foods||6. Sears Holding|
|7. L.L. Bean||7. Koch Industries|
|8. Publix Supermarkets||8. Comcast|
|9. Apple||9. Charter Communications|
|10. Google||10. Bank of America|
|11. Berkshire Hathaway||11. BP|
|12. Walt Disney||12. Citgroup|
|13. Sony||13. General Motors|
|14. CVS||14. JPMorgan Chase|
|15. Microsoft||15. United Airlines|
|16. Lowe’s||16. Time Warner|
|17. Kellogg||17. Walmart|
|18. Chick-Fil-A||18. DirecTV|
|19. Boeing||19. ExxonMObil|
|20. Intel||20. Chrysler|
Source: Gallup Poll
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