ROCHESTER, NY: Technology giants that were once repositories of consumer trust suffered significant blows to their brands last year, according to annual survey that measures corporate reputation.
Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, and Cisco Systems all lost significant ground in Harris Interactive's annual ranking of the reputations of 60 American companies.
"It's been moving that way for a while," said Joy Sever, SVP of the market research and consulting firm. "This is the first year that there's only one (technology company) in the top ten."
Johnson & Johnson topped the list for the fourth straight year and was followed, for the most part, by a slew of older companies. Not surprisingly, scandal-ridden firms rounded out the bottom of the list.
"This year, trust matters more than anything else," said Sever. "The companies in the top ten have a more traditional appeal."
Dell, which is the only technology company in the top ten, bucked its sector's slide because, Sever said, the computer maker "didn't rely just on innovation to earn its reputation."
Three companies that weren't ranked in the 2001 survey finished among the ten best: UPS, General Mills and, coming in at second place, Harley-Davidson.
The Harley-Davidson brand has benefited from what director of corporate communications Joe Hice calls a "fired-up group of enthusiasts" that make up its customer base and a "fired-up group of employees that love where they work." Hice also cited the company's 17 consecutive years of record growth.
"Our PR strategy tends to mirror our business image - the freedom and excitement and adventure of the open road," Hice explained. "We tend to go to the media with very positive messages."
Others that were new to the 60-strong list didn't fare as well, especially when their newfound visibility was the result of a high-profile scandal.
These included Enron, Global Crossing, WorldCom, and Andersen Worldwide.
"People have paid attention to what has been covered in the media, and this has affected perception of these companies," Sever said. "The survey shows the importance of community responsibility."
The study, which was released last week, offered a somewhat bleak portrait of the consumer perception of corporate America. Almost 80% of respondents saw a decline in its reputation.
But Sever sees a silver lining: "What's most interesting, perhaps, is that of those who characterize corporate America's reputation today in a negative way, 72% do believe there is hope for it to improve."
REPUTATION QUOTIENT SURVEY
2002 Company 2001
1 Johnson & Johnson 1
2 Harley Davidson N/A
3 Coca-Cola 3
4 UPS 15
5 General Mills N/A
6 Maytag 9
7 Eastman Kodak N/A
8 Home Depot 19
9 Dell 13
10 3M 5
11 Sony 6
12 FedEx 8