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Ranking the reputation of the 100 most visible companies in America

  • Ranking the reputation of the 100 most visible companies in America

    We are a consumer nation. Every day, we are surrounded by ads and commercials, asking for our money. Especially with products that are similar, the difference in a buy may fall to how we feel about the brand.

    A business's reputation could be one of the most important factors to success that a brand can control, according to Harvard Business Review. “Firms with strong positive reputations attract better people,” Robert G. Eccles et al. wrote in 2007. “They are perceived as providing more value, which often allows them to charge a premium. Their customers are more loyal and buy broader ranges of products and services. Because the market believes that such companies will deliver sustained earnings and future growth, they have higher price-earnings multiples and market values and lower costs of capital.”

    Now, in the age of "unicorns," or privately owned tech companies that are valued at over one billion dollars,  sometimes with few physical assets to show for it, reputation is more important than ever. As Eccles et al. write, “Moreover, in an economy where 70% to 80% of market value comes from hard-to-assess intangible assets such as brand equity, intellectual capital, and goodwill, organizations are especially vulnerable to anything that damages their reputations.”

    Stacker has consulted the report created by Axios and the Harris Poll to present a list ranking the 100 most visible companies in America by their reputations. The Axios Harris Poll 100 is a detailed survey of Americans adults, asking which companies have the best reputations according to criteria such as "good culture," "vision," and "ethics."

    Every year, the survey is conducted in two parts. For 2019, first, 6,118 adults were asked to identify the two best and worst publicly visible companies. Second, a separate group of 18,228 adults was shown the list of the 100 companies that were the most popular responses from the first part. In a 20-minute interview, the respondents were questioned on the two companies they knew the best. Each company had at least 300 respondents grading it. The companies were then ranked from 1 to 100 based on their average reputation scores.

    It was found that the businesses that have products we use every day are trusted the most. Grocery stores, for example, frequented by most Americans on a weekly or a semi-weekly basis, were the highest-ranking industry on the list, followed by online retailers and electronics manufacturers.

    Keep reading to learn which grocery store topped the list, and which big tech company crashed to #94. 

    You may also like: 50 company logos, then and now

  • #100. U.S. government

    - Reputation score: 48.6
    - Change in rank: new to poll
    - Reputation status: critical

    Technically not a company, the United States government can best be described as a bureaucracy of bureaucracies. The largest employer in the United States, the U.S. government is best defined as a group of independent departments—staffed by career professionals—managed by a shared executive structure. With public trust in this executive structure—the president, the Judiciary, and Congress—being historically low, the government tends to be distrusted, despite being indispensable and largely invisible to many in everyday life.

  • #99. Phillip Morris

    - Reputation score: 49.4
    - Change in rank: new to poll
    - Reputation status: critical

    It's hard to be loved when your main product is a known carcinogen. Phillip Morris—the American face of the world's largest producer of tobacco and tobacco products, Altria Group—is the manufacturer of cigarette brands like Marlboro, Virginia Slims, Chesterfield, Benson & Hedges, and Parliament. While Altria—a corporate re-brand designed to remove any of the negative associations Phillip Morris has with the holding company—has more assets beyond its tobacco division, the company is the target of increasingly negative perceptions on smoking in the United States. The fact that Phillip Morris must pay for anti-smoking programming as part of the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement doesn't help, either.

  • #98. Trump organization

    - Reputation score: 50.1
    - Change in rank: down 2
    - Reputation status: very poor

    If you were to ask a New Yorker what he/she thought of the Trump Organization, the answer would likely be very different from a non-New Yorker that only learned about it during the 2016 Presidential Election. The real estate holding company of Donald Trump, the Trump Organization has been accused of corporate malfeasance, particularly with the management of its Atlantic City casinos; blatant and repeated acts of racism and sexism by its leaders; and shady dealing. However, as the company is attached to Donald Trump, how one sees the company is largely influenced by how one sees Trump, making discussions about the company highly polarized.

  • #97. Sears

    - Reputation score: 52.3
    - Change in rank: down 9
    - Reputation status: very poor

    It has become a common sight in America to see an abandoned Sears store in a mall. The erosion of brick-and-mortar shopping has hit Sears hard. Sears, Roebuck, and Company (as the store is formally known) declared bankruptcy in 2018. The company is currently in a state of restructuring, with only 425 stores slated to remain open under new corporate owner Transform Holdco LLC. Its corporate sister, Kmart, will reduce to 202 locations. This is a far drop from being—at one point—the nation's largest and most beloved big box retailer.

  • #96. Wells Fargo

    - Reputation score: 52.7
    - Change in rank: up 1
    - Reputation status: very poor

    Wells Fargo is in the middle of a major apology and rebranding cycle. The major bank's scandal was discovered late in 2016 when the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau fined the company $185 million after it created several million fraudulent savings and banking accounts on behalf of its customers. This practice would amass service fees, catching the average customer unaware. The creation of the accounts was blamed on management pressure for account managers to cross-sell as many revenue-producing products as possible. Eventually, the company was forced to refund the fees to the customers and pay nearly $3 billion in fines and lawsuit settlements.

  • #95. Dish

    - Reputation score: 56.9
    - Change in rank: down 6
    - Reputation status: poor

    Dish Network is the fourth-largest multichannel video provider in the United States by the number of subscribers, following AT&T, Comcast, and Charter. Despite this, Dish has had a harder time with public trust issues than its competitors. The company's independent dealer network, for example, has been charged with violating the Do Not Call Registry, the FTC's Telemarketing Sales Rule, and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991. Dish has also been accused of issuing hidden fees, of carriage disputes with the various content providers—leading to numerous channel blackouts—and of aggressive litigatory actions against alleged service “pirates.”

  • #94. Facebook

    - Reputation score: 58.1
    - Change in rank: down 43
    - Reputation status: poor

    Facebook is the largest social media service provider, owning and operating Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram. Along with Amazon, Apple, and Google, Facebook is one of the Big Four technology companies. Due to its size and importance, the realization that the company has not been serious about privacy protections measures led many to doubt Facebook. This was compounded by the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where Facebook user Global Science Research secured the user data for 87 million Facebook users and sold it to the political data firm Cambridge Analytica. The ease with which “fake news” can be promulgated on Facebook has led many to call for governmental intervention.

  • #93. Goldman Sachs

    - Reputation score: 60.0
    - Change in rank: down 1
    - Reputation status: poor

    Goldman Sachs emerged from the Great Recession as a villain in the eyes of many. Accused of misleading investors, the banking giant would pay the largest SEC fine at the time from a Wall Street firm for mortgage securities fraud. Despite this, and despite news that the bank set aside $11.4 billion for employee bonuses, the bank still received $10 billion from the Troubled Asset Relief Program and $12.9 billion in counterparty payments from the AIG bailout. Accusations of stock manipulation, claims of using offshore tax shelters, and the heavy placement of company lobbyists in high positions of power in the federal government have all created an impression that will be difficult for the bank to shake.

  • #92. Bank of America

    - Reputation score: 60.9
    - Change in rank: new to poll
    - Reputation status: poor

    Another major banking power, Bank of America has been regularly regarded as one of the worst banks in America by reputation. One of the stories backing up the claim is an allegation that Bank of America knowingly delayed or denied loan modifications made under the 2009 Home Affordable Modification Program. Several employees stated that the bank delayed mortgage modifications to collect more fees and to potentially foreclose on the properties. This “profit first” mentality, coupled with reports of terrible customer service, leaves Bank of America the worst ranking retail bank on this list.

  • #91. Comcast

    - Reputation score: 61.4
    - Change in rank: down 13
    - Reputation status: poor

    The purchase of NBC Universal by Comcast has made the cable provider a virtual vertical monopoly, with full control of the production, distribution, and consumption of its product. This is compounded by allegations that Comcast reserves its highest Internet speeds for its cable TV customers, that it has failed to deliver on a promise to spend $300 million to revamp its poorly-rated customer service, and that it places rivals in more remote parts of its TV guide and bills customers for unordered services.

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