There are major national variations in how the public perceives the same companies and brands, with respondents in China and India rating them far more favorably than people in North America or Europe, according to a new global study.
Findings from MSL Group’s Reputation Impact Indicator report show that respondents in India provided an average reputation core score of 79 across all companies, while the Swedish respondents provided the lowest average of 51. In China the score was 75.
At an individual company level, the study findings also point to the likelihood of enjoying a markedly different reputation from country to country, even if a company has high brand awareness in each.
For example, GlaxoSmithKline has a reputation core score between 81 and 42 points with the highest being in India and the lowest in Sweden. Similarly, HSBC’s score varies from 78 points in China to 45 in Sweden.
MSL’s Asia president Glenn Osaki said the implication for global brands was clear; they had to adopt locally focused communications and reputation strategies: "Brands are global, corporate reputation is local. There are large variances in the reputation of individual companies at a country level. The differences observed between ‘the old world’ and ‘the new world’ underline the need for a finely-tuned reputation strategy. Brands should avoid a standardized global definition of reputation, but attend to each individual market with insight and care."
The study also found that those companies who made it easy for the public to relate to them through content and conversations enjoyed a reputation which was on average 43 percent higher than those which did not.
More than 25,000 people in 10 countries took part in the research, which also analyzed how members of the public worldwide retrieve the information they use to form an opinion about a company. For example, corporate behavior has a larger impact on the reputation of pharmaceutical companies than it does on businesses in other industries.
Similarly, internet companies also display an industry-specific pattern; providing products and services that are perceived as "value for money" does not have the same impact on corporate reputation as it does for consumer electronics and FMCG, where "value" is one of the core drivers.
Some of the headline findings from the report are:
- A global strategy for brand building and marketing does not mean that a company can take a global approach to reputation.
- What the audience values and the expectations it has of a company is largely decided by the industry and kind of business in which the company operates.
- Companies with a low "relatability" factor, or indeed those who leave a neutral versus an overtly positive impression with the public, will have a weaker reputation.
- The number of exchanges between a company and the customer has exploded and each interaction leaves a progressively smaller impression. Industry competitors from all corners of the world now scramble to create even brief connections with the customer.
- Success is about optimal rather than maximum reputation. Optimal refers to a level for each company in every given situation where expectations and actions meet and reputation can bounce back from smaller hits and disturbances