Measuring one’s reputation is not a straightforward business but there are plenty of organisations willing to give it a go. One of them is the Reputation Institute, whose latest ‘Reptrak’ rankings, published today, put the Danish toymaker Lego at the top of the tree for the second year running. (Another attempt is MT's own Britain's Most Admired Companies, published every December...).
British companies didn't do so well despite the poll being carried out in their home market. Just two - Rolls Royce Aerospace, Aston Martin, Asos and Jaguar Land Rover - made it into a top 20 dominated by companies based in mainland Europe and the Far East, including IKEA, Sony and Rolex.
‘The UK general public has a lower perception of UK companies across all seven dimensions of reputation, compared to international companies operating in the UK,’ said Kasper Ulf Nielsen, executive partner at the Reputation Institute ‘This shows a lack of both emotional and rational connection which is unique to the UK. Across the world, home countries tend to have a stronger reputation, and this lack of reputation capital puts UK Plcs at a disadvantage in their home market.’
Read more: Britain's Most Admired Companies 2015
The research asked consumers to rate companies based on seven measures of reputation, including the quality of their products and services, their management and how innovative they are. It doesn’t name names at the bottom of the table but among the worst performing British companies are five utilities companies, five financial services providers and three transport companies - hardly surprising given how much people like to moan about gas bills, bankers’ bonuses and their daily commute.
After its high profile emissions scandal it’s similarly unsurprising to see that Volkswagen is the biggest faller in the list, but the sheer scale of its decline is pretty breathtaking. The German carmaker came 8th last year (just behind its compatriot BMW, which is up in third this year) but is now languishing down in 267th place. This decline might turn out to be short-lived, but what seems clear (if there was any doubt) is that the scandal has seriously damaged VW in the eye of consumers.
The biggest riser was less of an obvious one in the form of Airbus, which is up to 58th, followed by the 228th placed HSBC, which is bouncing back from the tax evasion scandal it was embroiled in last year. The third-biggest riser was super-cheap supermarket chain Aldi, which has spent the year helping itself to an even bigger slice of the ‘Big Four’s’ former clientele and is now ranked 11th.
All this matters because reputation has a clear impact on business performance. ‘For companies with an average reputation, only 12% would definitely buy the products; this climbs to 28% if the reputation is strong, but increases to 76% if the reputation is excellent’, the Reputation Institute said in a statement. That doesn’t bode well for Volkswagen.
The top 20:
1. Lego Group
3. BMW Group
5. Rolls Royce
6. Aston Martin
9. Robert Bosch
14. Jaguar Land Rover
15. The Estee Lauder Companies
16. Daimler (Mercedes-Benz)
17. Campbell soup company