The annual Global RepTrak 100 study by the Reputation Institute found that just 15.4 per cent of UK consumers believe what companies say in their advertising, with the rest neutral, disbelieving or unsure. That is below the 25 per cent level seen globally and puts the UK in the bottom four of the markets measured, above just France, Germany and Japan.
The study also found that almost two-thirds (60 per cent) of consumers globally are uncertain if they can trust the top 100 most reputable companies for product quality, honest business practices and credible leadership. Some 43 per cent are unsure if companies’ products and services are of a high quality.
Kasper Ulf Nielsen, executive partner at the Reputation Institute, says companies that have successfully built trust have focused their marketing on bringing personality to the brand, rather than pushing product alone, by engaging with customers on social media and co-creating campaigns with them. He warns of the risks of companies “not telling their stories”, particularly as critical consumers take to social media to voice their opinions.
Nielsen adds: “The mix of social media and critical consumers is toxic so companies need to get their good stories out there as a buffer to the negative claims. We know that even a single story can disrupt the most well planned strategy so to ensure positive results, companies need to tell their story.”
Pernod Ricard CMO Martin Riley has previously challenged marketers to redefine “brand conversations” with fans and gain a social conscience or risk being toppled by a “Wikileaks” moment of their own making.
While the study says the majority of brands are struggling to get their message across to consumers, brands that do have the best repuration. In 2014, Walt Disney and Google topped the study, ahead of BMW and Rolex in third place and Sony in fifth.
Samsung also made it into the top 10 for the first time, tying in ninth spot with Microsoft. Across specific areas of reputation, Apple came top for innovation, while Rolex was the leader in products and services and Google performed best in terms of workplace, leadership and performance.
In Europe, Sony came out on top, followed by Samsung, BMW and Volkswagon. However, there is no company that comes in the top 10 across all the markets where the survey was conducted, highlighting the challenge in exporting reputation internationally.
“Even the best companies have not yet managed to build a stellar reputation across all 15 markets. Exporting reputation is challenging but there is a major opportunity to drive growth if [a brand] can get this right,” says the report.
The report measures corporate reputation among the public, surveying 55,000 consumers across 15 markets in January and February. It asks questions including if they would buy a product, say something positive, recommend a product and trust a brand to do the right thing.