Special Report

This Is the American Company With the Worst Reputation

Does it matter how the public views a company? Does the reaction to its name drive sales of its products or services higher or lower? Brand experts have considered this question for decades. The results are not conclusive. Well-known brands like Facebook are often poorly regarded by the public, yet it has over 2 billion people on its social network. Its stock market value is close to $1 trillion. Chick-fil-A often shows up at the top levels of best-regarded brands, yet it is among the smaller fast-food chains. In addition, it has been embroiled in controversies over its anti-LGBTQ stances.

The Harris Poll is one of the oldest, most widely regarded polling companies in America. It has done a company reputation survey every year for decades. Recently, it began to do the same poll in tandem with media company Axios. The findings for the 2021 Axios Harris Poll 100 have been released. The results of this poll are different from those many people might expect. The best-known company with the best reputation is Patagonia and with the worst reputation is the Trump Organization.

According to the methodology, 42,935 Americans were surveyed. It involves a two-step process. The first is to find companies that it calls “top of mind,” an equivalent of what most people would call best known. It then asks another, smaller set of people about their impression of those companies that made the first list. The impression is measured across seven metrics: citizenship, ethics, culture, trust, vision, growth, and products and services.

On a scale where 100 is the best possible score, Patagonia finished first at 82.7, up an extraordinary 31 places from the same survey last year. By almost any measure, Patagonia is a small clothing retail company. It is surprising that enough Americans know its name for it to make the list at all. The company has an activism presence, with a goal to “save our home planet.” It has become a primary, if not the only significant, face of Patagonia’s image. Nevertheless, Patagonia has an estimated revenue of less than $1 billion a year.

At the bottom of the list of 100 companies, with a score of 56.9, is the Trump Organization. This is the business arm of many of the former president’s commercial operations. Almost the entire portfolio of assets held by The Trump Organization is real estate, ranging from golf courses and hotels to residential and commercial buildings. Again, an odd conclusion to the list. While former President Donald Trump may be abhorred by much of the nation, 74 million people voted for him and he still holds sway over the Republican Party.

Pro or con either Patagonia or the Trump Organization, neither end of the list makes much sense.

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