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Among the companies represented on the 2009 U.S. Reputation Pulse, a yearly ranking and study put out by New York-based reputation consulting firm Reputation Institute, members of the grocery industry made a strong showing. In the retail arena, Costco was No. 10 this year, moving up from No. 24 last year, Kroger ranked No. 19, up from No. 45, and Publix Super Markets came in at No. 33, just slightly down from the No. 20 spot it claimed in the last ranking.
On the CPG front, Johnson & Johnson moved up one spot to take the lead as the most reputable U.S. company in the listing (last year’s No. 1, Google, tumbled to No. 8 this year), while Kraft logged the No. 2 spot, rising from No. 3 last year, and General Mills held steady at No. 4.
Wal-Mart, along with Dow Chemical, saw the largest gains in reputation, improving its Reputation Pulse scores by over 12 points from 2008 to 2009.
“In today’s tough economic climate, corporate reputation is critical to sustaining and growing business,” noted Anthony Johndrow, managing director at Reputation Institute. “This year’s results illustrate a direct correlation between how well a company manages its reputation across seven key dimensions and how likely consumers are to recommend or reject the company. A good reputation is not just a nice to have, it’s a bottom line business imperative.”
The seven dimensions looked at in determining the ranking are Products/Services, Innovation, Governance, Workplace, Citizenship, Leadership and Performance.
According to the U.S. Reputation Pulse findings, a company’s reputation score has a positive and direct link to consumer attitudes and behaviors. For instance, by improving its reputation score five points, a company can increase recommendations within the general public by 6.5 percent. In a competitive situation, boosting recommendations by 2 percent to 5 percent can have a dramatic impact on the bottom line. With 65 percent of consumers saying they would recommend one of the top 10 most reputable U.S. companies to others, organizations like Johnson & Johnson showed they have effectively used recommendations to drive business and reputation in a time when consumer confidence is declining.
The study additionally shows that 54 percent of consumers would give the most reputable U.S. companies the benefit of the doubt in a time of crisis, and that perception of a company’s ethical behavior and transparency in business dealings holds the most weight in influencing their willingness to do so. This is a significant finding, since having the benefit of the doubt can be a competitive advantage when launching a new product, raising the prices on services, or dealing with a negative public situation. On the contrary, companies with low levels of support may see more criticism and negative activity within the general public, putting their reputation and business results at risk.
“In times of a crisis, a strong reputation will provide the support needed to help a company weather the storm. Unfortunately, too many companies wrongly manage reputations on one dimension alone, and whether times are good or bad, this is simply not enough to sustain them,” said Kasper Nielsen, managing partner at Reputation Institute. “However, these companies can overcome this obstacle by broadening their reputation platform and communicating to consumers across the seven dimensions of reputation. In turn, they will create a connection with the U.S. consumers that will garner them resiliency and support in any situation.”
The Reputation Pulse further shows that to establish a solid reputation, it’s essential that companies address all seven dimensions. In fact, the Reputation Pulse found that eight of the top 10 most reputable U.S. companies ranked within the top tier of four or more dimensions of reputation. The most influential dimension on reputation in the U.S. was Product/Services, followed by Governance. However to earn trust, admiration, good feeling and support, companies need to address all seven dimensions of reputation. In the United States, each one alone accounts for over 12 percent of reputation.
The Global Reputation Pulse 2009 was conducted online in late January and February 2009. A Pulse score is a measure of corporate reputation calculated by averaging perceptions of four indicators -- trust, esteem, admiration, and good feeling -- obtained from a representative sample of at least 100 local respondents who were familiar with the company. Scores range from a low of 0 to a high of 100. A report on the 2009 Global Reputation Pulse findings can be found at www.ReputationInstitute.com.