#12 – 2017 Harris Poll reveals reputation winners & losers, WSJ looks at retailers & political stances
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Which brands have stolen your love this Valentines’ day? A new poll reveals all!
Each week, we’ll take a look at the most interesting reputation management stories, answer your questions, and share valuable ORM tactics. In this week’s episode:
- Erin Jones of Social Ink co-hosts this week!
- A new Harris Poll reveals the 2017 reputation winners and losers.
- The stark contrast between Generation X/Y versus Millennials when it comes to businesses sharing their political views.
- All that and more!
If you have a question you would like us to tackle, please leave a comment below or on my Facebook Page.
Transcript (forgive us for any typos):
Andy Beal: Okay, we’re back with another episode of Reputation Rainmakers, and Erin is with me once again. Hi Erin.
Erin Jones: Hello.
Andy Beal: Feeling much better, I hear.
Erin Jones: Much better, yes, thank you.
Andy Beal: Well that’s good, because we’ve got a lot to talk about, so we’ll jump straight into it. There was a poll out this week, a new Harris Poll. They do a yearly poll on corporate reputation. The new one is out for 2017, and they’re basically ranking, one to 100, the biggest brands in the US and giving them a reputation score. You’ve got everywhere from the number one company all the way down to the number 100, which is basically not the place you want to be.
Erin, you had the chance to take a look at it. What jumped out at you from this particular poll?
Erin Jones: I did. One of the first things that jumped out at me was their commentary on the Tesla brand. It’s a widely popular brand, and they made the point that most people will not only never even own a Tesla, but probably never even ride in one, but they have this huge wave of support behind them, which I found really interesting.
Andy Beal: It goes to show they’ve almost got the Tony Stark factor going for them. They’ve got their own kind of version of Iron Man. They’ve got Elon Musk, who’s such a big celebrity, and is always making the news, and such an innovator, that Tesla has a reputation of just being such a cool company even if you could never afford one of their cars.
Erin Jones: Right, and they don’t tend to get lumped in with the Rolex and the Ferrari, and these completely unattainable brands, and I think some of it has to do with the fact that Musk does seem like an approachable guy that you can go out on Friday and have a beer with, or have coffee with, and he would sit down and talk to you. I think people find that really refreshing and they want him to succeed because of that positivity.
Andy Beal: That’s a good point. Do you think there’s also an aspect to his personal reputation in that he doesn’t come across as just wanting to be another spoiled billionaire. He comes up with innovative solutions to the world’s problems, and seems very much sincerely interested in solving them. Do you think people are latching onto the fact that not only is he likable, but he’s also not just another greedy billionaire?
Erin Jones: I definitely think so, and I actually put down a deposit on a Tesla 3 when they came out, so I got swept up in it. We have a lot of long drives and we thought it might be a good way to offset our gigantic pickup truck that’s a diesel hog, but I do. I think there’s something that people want to collectively be a part of, and see great things happen, and like you said, he’s not acting like a spoiled billionaire, he’s not just sponging government money to pay for tests that are never coming to fruition. If he doesn’t get things paid for, he figures out a way to make it happen on his own, like the deposits on the cars.
Andy Beal: Yeah, and you know, the number one company for those interested is Amazon, and I think Amazon has a similar, you’ve got Jeff Bezos and the work that he does beyond just Amazon, but you’ve got a brand there, it’s number one for the second year in a row, and I don’t know, they’ve done a really good job. I’ve been a member of Amazon Prime since basically it started, so I’ve bought into that loyalty, and they’re always adding new features. It’s almost like how can they do all of this for 100 bucks, but maybe they’re looking at this as, “Hey, this is not just are we going to make money off of Amazon Prime, but are we going to build our reputation based on having all of these great services and products that we bundle in with it.”
Erin Jones: Absolutely, and I am a diehard Amazon Prime lover. They’re quick, they’re reliable, and I know if something goes wrong that their customer service is going to be great.
Andy Beal: Right, and if it does go wrong, they’ll easily and quickly extend your Prime membership for another month. Even if it’s a day late, if I don’t get two day shipping, if it arrives on day three, I just send them an email to say, “Hey, you guys didn’t live up to what you promised,” and they apologize quickly, and they give you like an extra month of service. They are quick to understand that they are offering a Prime service, but that’s more than just Prime delivery, that’s actually Prime customer service as well. You get this really good experience with Amazon, so it makes you kind of like, “Well, why would I ever want to go to a store, a physical bricks and mortar store and buy a product again?”
Erin Jones: Agreed, and one thing that you’ve said in the past, that I really like about Amazon is that if I go to Best Buy, for example, and go to complain about the first person I run into that works there, they usually throw their hands up and say, “Well, I can’t help you, but I’ll get you a manager.” Amazon seems to have empowered their customer service staff to say, “I’m really sorry that you had a bad experience. Here’s an extension of your Prime membership.”
No back and forth, no, “Oh, I have to get a manager and we have to do this dance and blah blah blah,” they just handle it.
Andy Beal: They also automate a lot of it, so they just take the common sense approach, like I ordered something recently, decided it wasn’t for me, started a return online, gave them the reason for it, and they just accepted it and gave me the prepaid shipping label to send it back. I didn’t even have to speak to someone and jump through hoops to do that, because they want to keep my business, and I’m assuming they see how much I buy, because I’m like you, everything goes through Amazon. It’s a really smart way of, kind of the Zappos way as well, of treating the customer as if they’re not trying to gouge you, they really want to do business with you and stay with you, and that they’re a value to you, and if you treat them that way, they’ll keep coming back.
Erin Jones: They do, and even as a third party seller, I’ve sold things on Amazon before, and if you get three customer complaints, like if a customer goes to Amazon about you, they ban you for life. They are not messing around. They want reputable product and service, regardless of where it’s coming, and another thing I think they’ve done well, kind of along the Tesla lines, is the automated returns. Even the robots in their warehouses, people are kind of charmed by the technology that they’re utilizing to make things faster, to make things more reliable, and it’s fun to watch from the other side.
Andy Beal: We’re even getting a teaser of drone delivery, which is something that everybody wants to be part of that experiment.
Erin Jones: Yes, I go back and forth on the whole Skynet side of it, having this vision of looking up in the sky and just seeing drones buzzing everywhere. I’m really curious to see how something like that could play out and not be a giant mess.
Andy Beal: Well, I tell you what, if we ever see an increase in drone delivery, the guys that do all of the tree cutting and trimming services are going to be really busy plucking stranded drones out of tree tops, so that’s a business maybe to consider as well, either invest in or start a business that retrieves drones that are blown into a tree or something like that.
Erin Jones: Tree climbing sky thefts are going to skyrocket.
Andy Beal: On the other end of the spectrum with this poll, we’ve talked about Sears before, and the trouble they’re having, in closing stores, and the fact that they don’t really have a strong brand, and no surprise they’re at number 94 on the list.
Erin Jones: Yes, and I have a little bit of … I’ve been mulling over in my head on some of the seeing brands like Sears and Wells Fargo down at the bottom. Are they just down there because we expect them to be down there, we kind of roll our eyes and don’t really care? On the other hand we’ve got companies like Volkswagen and Samsung that plummeted so fast. Did they go down so quickly because we feel like they let us down, or because the scandal was greater? I’m kind of wondering.
I don’t look at them in the same way as some of the other companies on the bottom. I’m kind of likening it to when you have a straight A student that gets a C, and you’re so let down, but a bully punches a kid in the face, and you just kind of roll your eyes because it’s normal to see them down there.
Andy Beal: Everybody piles on, so when you’re facing a reputation crisis, there’s just a bad taste in the mouths of consumers, and you can kind of see that, because Wells Fargo, they had all of their fake account scandal recently, so their rating dropped in this past 12 month cycle, but Volkswagen has actually climbed back a little bit, because their scandal was more 2016, for their ratings. They’re one of the largest rebounding scores, even though they’re still in the bottom 10. Their score is actually rebounding, because maybe people are like, “Okay, well, they paid their price. They had to do the recall. They got fined. We hated them for a while, but they kept their nose clean,” so maybe there’s this point where we start kind of just allowing them to get back into our good graces, but it goes back to what I said before. There needs to be a consistency now, to make sure that they don’t continue to have any kind of misleading information, or fake out any of the tests.
Erin Jones: Right, and I kind of feel like they’re going to climb faster than someone like Wells Fargo would, because we want them to be good. In my opinion, since I can remember, they’ve had a feel good vibe around their brand, the slug bugs, and it just seems to be more of a cheerful brand, so I’m wondering if they’re climbing faster because of how we feel they should be.
Andy Beal: Right. Yeah, because I think we were all just disappointed, and also maybe there’s a factor now, as well, that we’re seeing other car companies come under scrutiny, so now maybe there’s a factor of oh wow, maybe this is not as big of a deal as we thought. This is not just isolated to the VW, so maybe we don’t have to hate them quite as much because they’re not the only culprits here.
Erin Jones: Sure. That’s kind of scary too. “Well, we’ll just let them be in the positive because everybody’s doing it.” What does that do for the overall feeling of car manufacturers are going to start being looked at like car salesman.
Andy Beal: Yeah, so speaking of the scandal they had, the poll also points out some interesting statistics from consumers rating these brands. 85% say that the biggest risk is going to be an intentional wrongdoing or illegal actions by the leaders, but 83% say it’s also lying about a product or service, so you’ve got these two main things that VW has had, and that is from what appears to be an intentional wrongdoing that starts at the very top, but then you’ve got this coverup. They deliberately lied. That’s what’s hurt them, but it’s interesting that you’ve got two things here.
It’s almost like the biggest thing you can do is to intentionally do something wrong, but maybe there’s a way to get out of it, if you just immediately come clean, and take your punishment and maybe we’ll forgive you, but what tends to happen is a lot of companies that move onto the second worst thing they could do, and that is they start lying about it and trying to cover it up.
Erin Jones: Definitely. Even one of the little bit lower, the 64% of the poor leadership conduct. This isn’t coming from the bottom. Something this big is obviously coming from high up, so they’re really going to have to hold onto their corporate culture, and kind of depend on their employees and the people around them to hopefully bring it back up while they make right.
Andy Beal: Mm-hmm (affirmative). We talked about the importance of having some kind of a community outreach, and how do you treat your employees, and that makes it onto the list as well, so unfair working conditions and workplace discrimination come in at 67 and 65%, so your consumers, your potential customers, they are looking at not just the products and services that you build, and provide, and sell, but also how do you treat your employees? That is a factor that goes into your reputation as well.
Erin Jones: Definitely, and I think that it’s becoming more important to people as it’s more visible.
Andy Beal: Yeah, transparency, like Glassdoor and other reports that come out that kind of talk about discrimination, plus you’ve got social media, so you’ve got employees that are sharing the working conditions that they’re having to work under.
Erin Jones: Right, and I think that it’s definitely mattering more. When you know it’s going on and you don’t see it, it’s easier to push it out of your mind, but if it’s in your face more, it starts to matter more.
Andy Beal: Yeah. One of the other interesting points in this poll is that Harris Poll points out that also, depending on your political persuasion, your personal views of a reputation could be higher or lower. Examples they give: Chick-Fil-A rates higher in the reputation score among Republicans, whilst Target rates higher among Democrats, so it’s kind of interesting to see that, as social media becomes more political, and as we interact and learn more about the politics of companies, we don’t all view the reputations through the same looking glass. We all have our own filters on it now, depending on our political leaning.
Erin Jones: Right, and I would be really curious to see if there was a way they could find how willing people are to push those views aside, based on their need level of the product. Like, “Well, I really love those chicken nuggets, so even if I’m not really happy with Chick-Fil-A, I’m probably still going to go there,” or, “I prefer Target to Wal-Mart, even if I don’t care for their political leanings, so I’m just going to ignore that part in my brain and keep going there.”
Andy Beal: I think there are. There are some brands where I certainly, something the brand may do doesn’t necessarily sit well with me, but it’s so far removed from what I expect from their product or service that, as long as it’s not affecting that product or service, it doesn’t bother me too much.
Now, if we find out that they’re involved in something highly illegal, sure, that’s going to be different, but finding out that one company’s obscure executive donated to one political campaign versus another is not going to be enough to either persuade me or dissuade me from doing business with them.
Erin Jones: I feel the same way, and especially if they’re not overly vocal about it. I know not everyone is going to agree with me, and I know some people have a hard time balancing that with what they’re looking at, but I’m usually pretty okay with it, as long as I don’t feel like they’re doing something inherently wrong, whether it be on the business end, or majorly morally or ethically.
Andy Beal: That leads us into a second story, this time from the Wall Street Journal, which had an interesting article about retailers balancing this new transparency when it comes to political views. I’m going to read just one of the paragraphs here, because it was just an interesting observation. This is at [inaudible 00:16:50], an assistant professor in advertising and public relations at University of Central Florida has found that older people are more likely to boycott a company when its views don’t align with their own. By contrast, millennials are more likely to shop at a company that has views similar to theirs.
We’re just getting down to the point now where companies have to ask themselves, “What’s the generation of our target audience, because if we come out with a political view and our target audience is Gen X, Gen Y, whatever it is, are we going to risk them boycotting us, whereas we’re not exactly going to gain any new customers or gain any loyalty because we don’t target the millennials?”
Then vise versa, if your customer base is generally in that millennial generation, it might be in your best interest to be more vocal in terms of your political or social views, because you may attract them as a loyal customer.
Erin Jones: Yeah, and I don’t like to lump myself in as a millennial, just because of all the negative connotations, but I do feel that personally, I am more of a support what I agree with than boycott what I don’t, kind of voting with dollars, but I think it’s really interesting, and I think it’s interesting now that there are websites coming out with lists of who you should avoid, and who you shouldn’t, and how are people getting on these lists? I feel like there’s a whole new market emerging of this almost anti-marketing.
Andy Beal: I wonder, what I would like to see is how effective are they? It seems like there’s so many knee jerk reactions where companies start pulling particular products from their shelves because there’s a protest online, without actually seeing is this affecting the actual sales or not? Likewise, we see where companies pull a product because it just wasn’t selling well, and now you’ve got people assuming that they were pulling it because it was a Trump product or something like that, so they start complaining and having boycotts and things like that. It’s just really interesting to see how this is playing out in terms of whether they’re being pulled or not, boycotted or not.
There’s a lot of knee jerk reaction going on, and we’re not necessarily seeing, at least I’ve not seen a study that these campaigns, whether it’s to shop at a particular site or boycott a particular site, whether they’re actually working or whether it’s just another facet of social media, and that is we’ve all seen how easy it is to change an avatar to support a particular cause, but do those people then actually go ahead and make a donation to that cause? Probably not, so we see a lot of superficial action in social media. I wonder if we’re seeing that, and maybe that will play out over the coming months.
Erin Jones: Yeah, I find it fascinating, and I think personally, from what I’ve seen, when people do put money, and maybe it’s my millennial idealism, I tend to see more of the donating for than spending money elsewhere, as in against. I don’t know, I feel like it’s adding a lot of noise, though, and my head is whipping in all these directions when I’m online, going, “Oh, stay away from them, do this, do this.” Who has time to keep it all straight?
Andy Beal: You bring up an interesting point, and we’ll kind of leave it here, because maybe for a future podcast, we’ll talk about the reputations of different generations, because I do think it’s starting to become unfair, where we take a generation, whether that’s a millennial or a Generation Y, Generation X, whatever, Baby Boomers, and we take the actions of people that are within that age group, then we assign that action or that stance to that entire generation.
I think you’re right, as you touched on, sometimes millennials get a bad rap. You hear, “Millennials,” and you think of whiny protestors, but that’s not representative of all millennials, that’s a separate subset that’s, yeah, within that generation, but that shouldn’t be the reputation of the entire generation.
Erin Jones: Sure, and I’ve kind of noticed it definitely increased around the election. I feel like there’s a persona assigned to each group, and this time I really feel like it’s been age-related. I’m really interested in it from a research perspective, but I’m getting really irritated because I’m just getting so tired of the buzzwords, the millennials, the snowflakes, the Baby Boomers, let it go. I don’t know.
Andy Beal: Yeah, it’s definitely something we should look into and discuss in a future episode, but that’s all we have time for for this week. We hope you’ve enjoyed the podcast. As always, please head over to our Facebook page, you can go to Andy Beal ORM. Leave a comment there, or ask any questions you’d like us to answer on a future podcast episode, or just go to the podcast page and leave a comment there. As always, thank you Erin for joining me this week.
Erin Jones: Thank you so much for having me.
Andy Beal: Thank you guys for listening. We hope you’ll join us again next week. Thanks a lot. Bye bye.