While a strong brand holds a company’s promise to customers, a company’s reputation gives it credibility and the license to operate. And for consumers, that reputation plays a strong role in guiding their decisions to buy—or not buy—a company’s products. In the U.S., that role is growing, as Americans are steadily learning more about companies before they do business with them.
According to the 2014 Harris Poll Reputation Quotient™ (RQ™) report, 56 percent of Americans actively investigate corporate behavior before they open their wallets. That figure is climbing, as this year’s figure is up 6 percent from 2012. And these information seekers aren’t just learning for their own benefit. This group actively shares what it learns and seeks to influence others in the process.
Consumer sentiment about the myriad of dimensions that make up corporate reputation isn’t an easy thing to gauge, but it’s certainly something for all companies to be aware of—and influence. But it’s not simply enough to know what people think about a company or brand. After all, if consumers are turned off by a particular company, they’re certainly not going to buy its products. The good news, however, is that Americans view corporate America more positively today than they have in recent history.
Overall, 20 percent of Americans say the reputation of corporate America is better than it was a year ago—an increase of 25 percent from last year’s survey and double the results in 2012. However, more Americans remain skeptical about the reputation of corporate America than those who have more favorable opinions. But the gap between both ends is closing, as the numbers are better than they were back in 2008—the year before the beginning of the Great Recession.
THE RQ SCORE
In order to arrive at the big picture, the annual RQ analysis aggregated consumer survey feedback about the reputations of the most visible companies in the U.S. The RQ rating is at the heart of each company’s analysis—a single score that factors in 20 different attributes spanning six defined dimensions. The maximum RQ score a company can obtain is 100, and any score above 80 is considered excellent.
For the 2014 poll, nine companies achieved scores of more than 80, which is three more than last year and two more than in 2012. What’s more, no company in this year’s poll earned a score below 50, a RQ score deemed as critical. Last year, two companies fell into that category, and three were in the critical realm in 2012. In both 2012 and 2013, however, all of the companies with scores below 50 were in financial services, an industry that is now starting to see glimmers of hope. In fact, the four-largest RQ score increases came from financial services firms.
For this year’s report, which includes the 60 most-reputable companies and their RQ scores, click here.