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The global reputations of brands tumble, according to research

Many leading brands are failing to hold on to their reputations, despite being more aware of the value of this intangible asset. This is according to the latest Global RepTrak study, from the research and advisory firm Reputation Institute. Three companies which are succeeding in maintaining their brand’s reputational value are Rolex, LEGO and Google, but over half (58%) of companies in the RepTrak 100 saw a significant drop in rankings.

“Reputation is driving the world economy,” claims James Bickford, managing director UK and Middle East at Reputation Institute, “there is a new era emerging in which the intangibles of reputation underscore political, social and economic change. We are at a strategic inflection point and market forces are resulting in declines in reputation and loss of trust.”

Top 10 companies in RI’s 2018 Global

  Media Ranking 18 vs 17 score 18 vs 17 ranking
Rolex 79.28 1 -1.10 0
LEGO Group 77.88 2 -1.58 0
Google 77.69 3 -0.53 -2
Canon 77.44 4 -0.84 0
The Walt Disney Company 77.37 5 -1.82 2
Sony 77.33 6 -0.41 -1
adidas 76.57 7 -0.70 -3
Robert Bosch 76.42 8 -1.71 2
BMW Group 76.07 9 -0.86 -3
Microsoft 75.77 10 -1.35 -1

Companies are down by an average of 1.4 points globally, representing a major decline. Discussing how many firms are failing to protect their brand value, and comparing them with firms who are succeeding in holding on to their reputations, Bickford says: “Reputation trends and influencers have changed dramatically over the last few years, but it seems some companies aren’t keeping up. Having a CEO with a conscience, and a relatable voice, is now one of the top ten most important measures of reputation. We are entering a new era of CEO activism. Authentic communication can break through the corporate narrative – being true to who you are and unleashing a genuine voice of leadership can positively enhance a companies’ narrative.”

Key Findings

  • Of the companies at the top of the rankings, BMW and Microsoft broke into the Top 10, while Intel and Rolls-Royce fell out the top echelon.
  • Fast risers in the Top 100 rankings are Samsung (+44 points), LG (+22), Nestle (+21), and Netflix (+16). Amongst companies experiencing significant declines, fast fallers include Apple (-38), Daimler (-32), J&J (-28), AbinBev (-27) and Estee Lauder (-26).
  • Over two-thirds (71%) of US companies saw a drop-in ranking from 2017, followed by 50% in Germany and 42% in Japan.

Discussing one CEO who leads the way, Bickford points to Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, as an example of a “humble, confident, and socially relevant CEO with conviction”. Bickford adds: “Nadella has stated that companies should be taking stances on controversial and social issues such as privacy, security, and immigration. As an immigrant himself, Nadella has shared his story and stance in response to Trumps DACA repeal announcement. Nadella has said, ‘Ultimately, we also should recognise that we’re not the elected officials…. But when there isn’t that structure in place, it is up to us as companies and leaders to take a principled stance.’ On the merits of societal influence and leadership appeal, Microsoft outperforms the Top 10 and Top 100 companies.”

Bickford concludes that a strong reputation has to start at the top: “Good leadership is linked with societal contribution alongside ethical and transparent governing. Among the respondents who were familiar with the top 100 companies’ CEOs, the companies’ reputation has a 5.0-point reputation lift. To maintain and build reputation and global influence, companies now need CEOs who think beyond profit and align their leadership with societal contributions and highly ethical behaviour. Reputation is a differentiator that can impact a company’s bottom line – but to realise success there is a need to proactively navigate social issues to build reputational equity and mitigate against risk.”


The Global RepTrak 100 includes comparative ratings, trends by demographic cuts, and unique insights into which companies are best regarded by stakeholders. The global study shows what drives trust and supportive behaviours, such as willingness to purchase a company’s products, recommend the brand, invest in, or even work for the company.

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