Corporate Brands: Fidelity, Hobby Lobby Soar While Ford, Starbucks Stumble

Starbucks fell 29 places in the annual reputation ranking

Harris Poll recently released its annual corporate reputation rankings, and companies should be worried: When it comes to their behavior, America is not impressed.

Of the 100 most visible companies, only two, software company Nvidia and 3M, earned an excellent score. That compares to 11 excellent companies last year.

Harris says almost two-thirds of the companies saw their reputation scores, based on such attributes as trust, character, ethics, vision, citizenship, growth and products,  decline.

Things aren’t all dismal, with 43 companies scoring a “very good” score and 29 ranked as “good.” But a close look at the significant gainers and deep decliners reveal how inflation and political sentiment shift perceptions.



Four companies rose more than 20 places:  Fidelity, which ranks third in the survey, Coca-Cola, No. 27; Dell, No. 32; Hobby Lobby, No. 43; landing them all in the “very good” category.

Three companies dropped more than 20 spots, led by Ford, No. 55; Starbucks, No. 77; and Anheuser-Busch, No. 80. (That likely is a direct result of last year’s Bud Light debacle. Harris lumps all of a company’s brands into the total reputation score.)

Patagonia, which ranked first last year, fell to No. 8.

Only 12% of respondents say their overall opinion of companies increased last year, while 44% say it fell. About a quarter say companies aren’t doing enough to deal with inflation, and 20% cite poor ethics in pricing, wages and hiring. And 18% say companies focus too much on cultural issues that are not crucial to consumers.

Political polarization drives those perceptions, with Republicans (54%), Independents (47%) and older people most disenchanted, compared to 32% of Democrats and younger respondents.

A quick look at the bottom decile gives a sense of what Americans hate the most: social media, shady bankers and overtly political companies: Dollar Tree, Wells Fargo, Shein, Silicon Valley Bank, TikTok, Meta, Fox, Spirit Airlines, X (formerly Twitter) and -- wait for it -- The Trump Organization, at No. 100. (Trump’s company came in last in 2023, too.)

Harris notes that Americans are worn out by inflation and cultural controversies. People “are more picky this year and holding companies to account," writes John Gerzema, CEO of The Harris Poll, in the report.

The research company begins the three-step process by asking some 6,300 Americans to name the two companies they have the highest opinions of and then the two they rate as the worst. More than 16,000 people then chose the companies they were most familiar with from that list.

Then, a third group, including more than 4,000, responded to a set of contextual questions.

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