General Mills has taken over the number one spot in the Reputation Institute US RepTrakPulse study, which measures perceptions of the 150 largest US public companies. The company scored strongest in three key drivers of reputation—products and services; governance; and leadership—and was also number one in citizenship.
“We value our corporate reputation tremendously and work hard every day to foster and honor the trust of our stakeholders,” says Ken Powell, chairman and CEO of General Mills. “For us, building this trust includes delivering nutrition and value to consumers through innovation, strong community engagement, a commitment to protecting the environment, as well as developing strong leaders to grow our business around the world.
“We believe consumers reward companies that operate with integrity and stay focused on doing what is right over the long-term.”
The US top 10 was rounded out by competitors from the grocery aisles (with number two Kraft and number four Kellogg’s also in the top five) and cola wars (Coca-Cola at seven and Pepsi at nine), as well as technology companies (number five Amazon and number eight Apple) as well as perennial top 10 companies such as number three Johnson & Johnson and number six UPS.
Perhaps the most interesting new entrant was legendary consumer product brand portfolio manager Procter & Gamble, which rose from number 21 last year to number 10 this year—a year in which it began publicly using its corporate brand in the US for the first time around the 2010 Winter Olympics.
The Reputation Institute also asked chief reputation officers (the chief executive officer, chief marketing officer or chief communications officer) from these 150 companies about their preparation and strategies to drive growth. It found that:
• Those 24 percent of companies furthest along the five-phase reputation management journey now invest over 40 percent of their annual budgets on corporate reputation-a 200 percent difference versus all other companies
• Of these same leading companies, a sizable proportion (51 percent) report the CEO’s Office as the primary functional leader responsible for setting the reputation strategy
• Reflecting the same trend, nearly all (96 percent) of advanced companies build reputation priorities into annual business planning
• Additionally, 41 percent percent of these progressive companies use reputation as a Key Performance Indicator, which is a higher percentage than customer retention/loyalty, brand health, or Net Promoter scores.
• Consumer products remains the highest ranked industry (72.24), while Tobacco is still the weakest industry (44.6)
• The top three drivers of corporate reputation with the U.S. general public remain products and services (17.5 percent), governance (15.6 percent), and citizenship (14.2 percent). These drivers have stayed consistent for the last 5 years.
• The top individual companies by reputation dimension include Amazon.com, Apple, and General Mills. Amazon.com wins in both Products & Services and Governance (for the 2nd year in a row). Apple places first in Innovation (now three years running), Leadership, Performance, and Workplace, while overall #1 General Mills places first in Citizenship and placed in the top 10 across all 7 dimensions.
• While nine in ten companies (91 percent) saw their scores stay the same or drop, a handful of companies did show significant improvements in their Pulse scores. These companies were largely viewed by the public as turning in strong financial performances while doubling down on successful citizenship efforts. The biggest movers included AIG (+16), General Mills (+6), ExxonMobil (+7) and Abbott Labs (+6).
• The biggest drops in reputation in 2012 include Time Warner (-10 points), Bank of America (-10 points), and AMR (-9 points), Altria (-9 points), and UAL (-9 points).