Special Report

Companies With the Best (and Worst) Reputations

No company has a better reputation among American consumers than Amazon.com. The online retailer pushed Apple out of the the top slot this year, according to a recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive.

In its 14th annual Reputation Quotient (RQ) survey, Harris Interactive rated 60 large American companies based on six key characteristics including product quality, trust, social responsibility and how employees are treated. The companies with the worst reputation quotients include many financial services institutions such as Goldman Sachs and AIG. Based on the Harris survey, these are the companies with the best and worst reputations.

Click here to see the companies with the best reputations

Click here to see the companies with the worst reputations

Many of the companies with the highest scores are in the tech industry. Tech, explained Harris Interactive Executive Vice President For Reputation Management Robert Fronk, has a natural advantage over other industries because of the industry’s focus on innovation and customer satisfaction. However, added Fronk, “in order for these companies to make our list, like Apple, Google, and Amazon.com did, they had to go above and beyond.”

Apple, for example, has created entirely new product categories, introducing the iPhone and iPad. Google has expanded from simply being in the search engine business to creating hardware, software and even reaching to entertainment. “All three of those companies have kept the best of tech, but have also transcended,” Fronk added.

At the other end of the spectrum, there are six financial services companies among the 10 companies with the worst reputations. Unlike tech companies, which consumers expect to take risks, these companies earn their respect from being safe and stable. Unfortunately for companies like AIG, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America, explained Fronk, they took risks and tried to innovate, and when the financial system nearly collapsed, these companies lost a tremendous amount of respect from the public. “As a whole, the industry is now perceived so negatively because they gave up” the stability that the public wanted.

Fronk explained why financial performance was one of the key metrics in this study. Not only are good finances necessary to achieve other reputations components, such as creating a good workplace environment and social responsibility, but good finances are themselves important to a company’s reputation. “People respect companies that outperform their competition.” Many of the best-ranked companies certainly fit that description, particularly top-ranked Amazon.com, which has turned not just the online retail business, but the entire retail industry, on its head.

While financials are important, Fronk explained, it is often the first and only thing companies and analysts look at to measure success. Many of the companies with the worst reputations actually have sound balance sheets. AIG, which received the worst reputation score this year, saw its share price rise by over 45% in the past 12 months. Financials are important in the long term, Fronk pointed out, but in order to be successful in the Harris survey, a company needs to build a strong reputation and not just focus on the bottom line.

In its 2013 RQ study, Harris Interactive asked respondents which companies were the most visible in the past few months. The company then ranked the 60 most visible companies based on responses to six categories: social responsibility, emotional appeal, products and services, vision and leadership, financial performance and workplace environment. Among the data 24/7 Wall St. considered when reviewing these companies were brand rankings from Brand Z and InterBrand, consumer satisfaction scores from the American Consumer Satisfaction Index, as well as MSN Money/JZ Analytics’ 2012 Customer Service Survey. We also considered company financial information, obtained for the most recent period available through Yahoo! Finance unless otherwise noted. We reviewed stock price performance data from Google Finance and employee satisfaction and CEO ratings came from Glassdoor.

These are the companies with the best and worst reputations.

The Companies with the Best Reputations

10. Costco
> Reputation score: 77.95
> 2012 score: 76.72
> 1-yr. stock performance: 20.7%
> 12 month sales: $101.22 billion

Costco Wholesale Corp. (NASDAQ: COST) ranks as the 10th most reputable company after ranking 19th among the 60 most visible firms in the U.S. last year. Much of this is based on strong customer admiration and respect as the company has the fifth-highest score for emotional appeal in Harris Interactive’s survey. The company’s customer satisfaction score, as measured by the ACSI, also reflects this. No other specialty retailer had a higher RQ score than Costco in 2011, the most recent measurement available. Nearly 75% of customers surveyed in MSN Money and JZ Analytics customer satisfaction survey rated Costco’s service as “great” or “excellent,” while only 4% gave it a “poor” grade. According to Glassdoor, employees also appreciate the company and its leadership, with 83% saying they would recommend the company to a friend and 93% approving of CEO Craig Jelinek.

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9. Procter & Gamble
> Reputation score: 77.98
> 2012 score: 78.09
> 1-yr. stock performance: 12.7%
> 12 month sales: $88.32 billion

Procter & Gamble Co. (NYSE: PG), makers of well-known products such as Gillette shaving razors, Tide laundry detergent and Crest toothpaste, improved from 15th place in last year’s ranking to 9th this year. The company has a solid reputation among both customers and employees. Customers are happy with the company’s service: since 2000, P&G’s ACSI’s score has been in the low- to mid-80s range each year. Company workers are also satisfied with their employer: P&G received a 3.9 out of 5 based on reviews posted on Glassdoor.

8. Sony
> Reputation score: 78.29
> 2012 score: 79.22
> 1-yr. stock performance: -27.2%
> 12 month sales: $84.43 billion

Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE) has lost traction with both consumers and investors. For years, the company has competed in the digital camera and handheld video games markets, both of which have been threatened by the emergence of the smartphone — where competition is fierce and Sony lacks a competitive offering. In the last 12 months, receipts for shares in Sony have declined 27% in price, and a weak outlook has led to speculation about a possible corporate restructuring. Sony’s brand value declined by 8% in 2012, the fourth consecutive year the company’s brand lost value, according to Interbrand. According to BrandZ, Sony’s lost brand value was even greater in 2012 at 10%. Despite all the headwinds the company is facing, the company continues to excel in consumer service, which more than 85% of consumers rating the company “good” or excellent” in 2012.

7. Whole Foods Market
> Reputation score: 78.65
> 2012 score: 80.14
> 1-yr. stock performance: 18.7%
> 12 month sales: $11.70 billion

Although Whole Foods Market Inc.’s (NASDAQ: WFM) reputation score has declined from 80.14 in 2012 to 78.65 this year, the company’s ranking among the most visible companies has actually improved from eighth- to seventh-most reputable. Helping the company’s reputation is a history of satisfying customers. In both 2010 and 2011 Whole Foods was ranked second in customer satisfaction among all supermarkets by the ACSI. According to The Wall Street Journal, the company is hoping to further appeal to a wider range of consumers by lowering prices and stocking more valuable brands than before. The company’s reputation got another boost when it ranked 71st on Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” and was named by Harris Interactive as the leading company for social responsibility among all of the nation’s most visible companies.

6. Coca-Cola
> Reputation score: 80.39
> 2012 score: 81.99
> 1-yr. stock performance: 9.5%
> 12 month sales: $47.60 billion

Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE: KO) remained among the top 10 most reputable companies in this year’s report but moved down three slots compared to last year. The world’s largest beverage company’s emotional appeal is very high among consumers, scoring fourth-best in the category, which measures people’s trust and respect of the brand. It is not surprising, then, that the Coke brand is rated by Interbrand as the most valuable in the world. The company’s financial performance also helps its reputation score. Coca-Cola’s share price is up 25% in the past five years, and the company’s last 12 months net income exceeded $9 billion.
5. Johnson & Johnson
> Reputation score: 80.95
> 2012 score: 80.45
> 1-yr. stock performance: 17.1%
> 12 month sales: $67.22 billion

Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) is one of just six companies to receive a score over 80. The company was ranked in the top five in four of the six reputational dimensions: fourth in social responsibility, third in emotional appeal, third in products and services, and fourth in workplace environment. Johnson & Johnson is the only company in the U.S. to receive a reputation score of at least 80 in every single year between 2006 to 2013. With the company’s reputation taking a hit over the last several years due to a host of product recalls, J&J has taken decisive action and managed to restore its image in the last year. Among the moves the company has taken were replacing its CEO and phasing out the use of certain chemicals in its cosmetics and toiletries.

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4. Google
> Reputation score: 81.32
> 2012 score: 82.82
> 1-yr. stock performance: 29.2%
> 12 month sales: $50.18 billion

Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) has a strong reputation among both its customers and its employees. Nearly 44% of customers rate Google’s customer service as “excellent,” while another 41% rate it as “good.” Just 3% rate its service as “poor.” The company also has a reputation for being a workers’ paradise. Google was ranked as the “Best Place to Work” by Fortune in 2012 for the second year in a row. According to the magazine, the company added “three wellness centers and a seven-acre sports complex, which includes a roller hockey rink; courts for basketball, bocce, and shuffle ball; and horseshoe pits.” Interbrand ranked Google as the fourth-most valuable brand in its recent study, noting the brand’s worth rose 26% in a one-year timeframe.

3. Disney
> Reputation score: 82.12
> 2012 score: 81.28
> 1-yr. stock performance: 32.6%
> 12 month sales: $42.84 billion

For the third consecutive year, Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) has a reputation score above 80, making it one of the nation’s most reputable companies. The company has a stronger emotional appeal with consumers than any other well-known company except Amazon.com, according to Harris Interactive. The research company also ranks Disney as having exceptionally strong financial performance, trailing only Apple among the 60 companies Harris surveyed. In the last 12 months, Disney shares have risen more than 32% — more than all of the other of the most reputable companies except Amazon.com. Disney additionally is among the top-ranked companies by Harris for social responsibility, vision and leadership and workplace environment.

2. Apple
> Reputation score: 82.54
> 2012 score: 85.62
> 1-yr. stock performance: -5.4%
> 12 month sales: $164.69 billion

After ranking as the nation’s most reputable company in 2012, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) fell to the No. 2 spot in 2013. The company’s financial performance also slowed. The company’s most recent quarter disappointed investors as earnings remained flat and Apple’s profit margins shrank. Its shares are down about 5% from this time last year. Despite the recent disappointment to investors, most consumers are happy with the company. Apple is ACSI’s top rated company for consumer satisfaction among both cell phone and computer manufacturers. Additionally, more than 40% of customers rate the company’s service as “excellent.” This helps boost the company’s appeal to consumers. Apple’s brand value rose 129% in 2012, according to Interbrand, which ranked the device and computer maker as having the world’s second most valuable brand. Apple was also ranked as the world’s top brand by BrandZ.

1. Amazon.com
> Reputation score: 82.62
> 2012 score: 81.92
> 1-yr. stock performance: 45.2%
> 12-month sales: $61.09 billion

Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) is considered the most reputable company in the world, according to Harris Interactive. It was the fourth-most reputable company in 2012 and eighth-most reputable in 2011. Amazon.com received the highest scores for its emotional appeal and its products and services. It also scored in the top five in vision and leadership, financial performance and workplace environment. More than 53% of participants in a survey by MSN Money and JZ Analytics rated Amazon.com’s customer service as “excellent”–the highest percent for any company– while a mere 1.8% rated it as “poor.”  Customer happiness seems to be reflected in the online retailer’s financial performance. Its sales in the trailing 12 months were greater than $61 billion, and sales for the most recent quarter were 22% higher compared to the same time a year earlier.

The Companies with the Worst Reputations

10. Comcast
> Reputation score: 60.99
> 2012 score: 59.10
> 1-yr. stock performance: 47.7%
> 12-month sales: $61.68 billion

In each of the last three years, Harris Interactive has ranked Comcast Corp. (NASDAQ: CMCSA) as one of its least reputable companies. A major issue for the company has been customer service. According to MSN, at least 20% rated Comcast’s customer service as “poor” — just one of three companies with so many dissatisfied customers. ACSI reported last year that both Comcast’s fixed line telephone and subscription television businesses were ranked among the lowest in their respective sectors for consumer satisfaction. But poor customer sentiment has not hurt the company’s bottom line. Shares are up over 47% over the last year, and the company was recently able to purchase the remainder of NBCUniversal for $16.7 billion.

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9. Wells Fargo
> Reputation score: 60.47
> 2012 score: 59.50
> 1-yr. stock performance: 16.1%
> 12-month sales: $78.87 billion

Wells Fargo & Co.’s (NYSE: WFC) reputation score rose only slightly compared to last year. Still, according to Harris Interactive, it became the first of the “big four” banks whose consumers indicated they have started to admire and trust again. In the last year, the company’s stock rose just 16%, versus 29.4% for JPMorgan, 33% for Citigroup, and more than 50% for Bank of America. The company has also been unable to separate itself from perceptions of other similarly-large banks among consumers. Alongside JPMorgan, Bank of America, and Citigroup, Wells Fargo was named one of the worst companies for customer service in 2012 by MSN and JZ Analytics.

8. J.P. Morgan
> Reputation score: 58.20
> 2012 score: 54.84
> 1-yr. stock performance: 29.4%
> 12-month sales: $93.65 billion

While the financial crisis didn’t hit the bank as hard as it did most of its peers, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) has had its share of controversies over the past year. The company lost approximately $5.8 billion when a trader commonly referred to as the London Whale took excessively large trading positions in complex financial instruments that ended up souring. In addition, there have been reports that the firm pushed its own mutual funds to clients over competitor funds even though they had cheaper and more-profitable options. J.P. Morgan’s brand value in 2012 declined 8% compared to 2011, according to Interbrand.

7. BP
> Reputation score: 56.55
> 2012 score: 53.50
> 1-yr. stock performance: -8.4%
> 12-month sales: $370.87 billion

In 2010, the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill damaged BP PLC’s (NYSE: BP) reputation so deeply that three years later — even after its CEO resigned in disgrace — it remains both highly visible and poorly rated. One reason for the company’s continued visibility, explained Harris Interactive’s Robert Fronk, is its own continuing ad campaign to highlight the remediation efforts it has made in the gulf region. “What they’re doing,” Fronk explained, “is saying ‘we’re owning up to it, and we want you to know that we didn’t just make a one-time payoff and we hope you forget about it, we’re trying to show you over a five-year window that we continue to take accountability for what happened.” Since 2011, BP has had one of the largest improvements in reputation of any company Harris has measured.

6. Citigroup
> Reputation score: 55.90
> 2012 score: 55.95
> 1-yr. stock performance: 33.6%
> 12-month sales: $59.32 billion

Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C) is still working to improve its image following its near destruction at the height of of the financial crisis, even as it continues to struggle. Brand Z noted that Citi’s brand value has declined 38% in the last year. Interbrand, on the other hand, said in its study that Citi’s brand value has declined just 12% year-over-year. Only 17.3% of respondents to the MSN survey rated Citigroup’s customer service as “excellent,” while 17% rated the customer service as “poor.” Citigroup has undergone some changes recently. The company’s board ousted CEO Vikram Pandit in October and replaced him with company veteran Michael Corbat. The company recently announced it was cutting 11,000 positions from the company.

5. Bank of America
> Reputation score: 55.85
> 2012 score: 49.85
> 1-yr. stock performance: 50.8%
> 12 month sales: $75.16 billion

Like most financial services companies, Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC) is still reeling from the damage to its reputation caused by the bank’s role in the financial crisis. Yet the company has improved its reputation in the last year. In 2012, the financial services giant ranked third from the bottom, beating out only Goldman Sachs and AIG and receiving a “critical” reputational ranking. Fronk of Harris Interactive notes that Bank of America has improved in all six categories. He noted that since the company took a hard fall in reputation during the financial crisis, and that the company’s reputation has had a tailwind on its way back up.

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4. American Airlines
> Reputation score: 53.85
> 2012 score: N/A
> 1-yr. stock performance: 116.7%
> 12 month sales: $24.86 billion

American Airlines was considered the most visible company of the past several months, according to Fronk, although it was not known for its sterling reputation. Along with much of the airline industry, American Airlines slashed its employees’ pay and eliminated many jobs. Only 37% of employees completing surveys on Glassdoor approve of CEO Thomas Horton’s performance. American Airline’s parent company, AMR, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy back in 2011. On Thursday, American Airlines and US Airways jointly announced an $11 billion merger, which the world’s largest airline and bring AMR out of bankruptcy.

3. Halliburton
> Reputation score: 52.51
> 2012 score: N/A
> 1-yr. stock performance: 13.3%
> 12 month sales: $28.50 billion

Although it has not been as much in the news as it was during the Bush administration, Halliburton Co. (NYSE: HAL) ranks as one of the nation’s most visible — and least reputable — companies for 2013. Halliburton is the world’s second largest oilfield services company, behind Schlumberger Ltd., and it has benefitted from increased spending by oil explorers and producers. However, Halliburton is a “leading provider of hydraulic fracturing services,” which remains extremely controversial. In a bold move to show fracking was safe, an employee drank the fluid used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, at a conference in 2011.

2. Goldman Sachs
> Reputation score: 49.39
> 2012 score: 47.57
> 1-yr. stock performance: 35.4%
> 12-month sales: $34.16 billion

Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS) is one of just two companies to receive a reputation score below 50, which Harris refers to as “critical.” The company has been in the hot seat in the last several years as many argued that it played a large role in the financial crisis. In the last year, Goldman Sachs found itself mired in controversy once again when a former employee named Greg Smith wrote his resignation in The New York Times, arguing that company employees put their own interests before the interest of their clients. In Interbrand’s most recent brand rankings, Goldman’s value declined by 16% compared to the previous year. Fronk noted that the company is the least trusted in America, with 76% of Americans believing that Goldman would not act in their best interest.

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1. AIG
> Reputation score: 48.57
> 2012 score: 46.18
> 1-yr. stock performance: 45.8%
> 12-month sales: $70.61 billion

Insurance giant American International Group Inc. (NYSE: AIG) is the least reputable company in the country for the fifth year in a row, scoring in the “critical” range in each of those five years. The company’s reputation was significantly damaged in the midst of the financial crisis when it was required to accept bailout money from the U.S. government. Recently, AIG has initiated a public relations campaign that explains it has returned all the money the federal government lent it during the financial crisis, and that the government has actually netted a profit. At the same time, the company weighed suing the federal government, arguing that high interest rates and other restrictions on the company were not in the shareholders’ interest and also unconstitutional. AIG ultimately decided not to sue.

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