Reputation shaped more by 'how good' products are for consumers than by ethical perceptions

Corporate reputation is being shaped among consumers by "how good" or "how healthy" a company's products are for them, more so than by how ethical or honest they are perceived to be.

That is according to a new report by PR firm Weber Shandwick and research consultancy KRC, which surveyed 2,100 consumers and 1,050 senior executives across 21 countries.

In the UK, 33 per cent of consumers focus on how good products are for them, while in Germany this figure jumps to 43 per cent and in Italy it increases to 60 per cent.

Globally, 47 per cent of consumers are concerned by how good or healthy a company's products are, while 40 per cent are talking about how honest and ethical companies are.

Weber Shandwick CEO Andy Polansky said the study highlights a heightened demand for more personalised corporate narratives.

"Such narratives today are most relevant when they relate directly to individual consumers' well-being, in addition to a company's commitment to tackling broad societal issues. Communications, marketing and R&D need to be more integrated than ever to achieve this new reputation paradigm," he said.

Meanwhile, almost 90 per cent of consumers said they were a "powerful force" in influencing companies, while 91 per cent of senior executives agreed.

Almost 60 per cent of consumers are exerting this influence through reader reviews and information sharing, while just under 50 per cent are using this influence to either buy from or boycott companies.

In comparison, roughly 70 per cent of executives believe companies are affected by consumers sharing information and writing product reviews.

Only 12 per cent of consumers think they cannot personally influence a company, while none of the executives feel that way, the study shows.

Weber Shandwick's global corporate practice chairman, Micho Spring, said: "Weber Shandwick's newest study on corporate reputation shows that the drivers of reputation are tilting, and that those companies that recognise and respond to this new hierarchy will win consumers' hearts and minds."

Social media is also driving the influence consumers feel they have, with 23 per cent saying they have an "increasing connection" with the companies they buy from via these platforms.

This figure rises to 31 per cent among millennials, the survey reveals.

According to the report, the world is in the midst of a "consumer revolution", meaning corporate reputation is at stake.

"Increasingly, consumers are asking themselves 'what's in this for me?' Companies that care about their corporate reputation are working overtime to answer that very question," said Weber Shandwick chief reputation strategist Leslie Gaines-Ross.

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