What you can learn from companies with improving and declining reputations

New research discovers poor communication, among other factors, have contributed to declining corporate reputations

What you can learn from companies with improving and declining reputations

The financial crash was nothing short of a historic loss of consumer confidence in Britain’s companies. Now, almost exactly one decade later, new research shows the reputation of companies is sinking for the first time since striking that great industrial iceberg in 2008.

By measuring the emotional connection from consumer to company, Reputation Institute, the research and advisory firm, revealed a 10% drop from last year in consumer willingness to trust, invest in or endorse companies. Moreover, a huge 69% cited poor communication as the top factor dissuading their trust of corporates, specifically believing companies are unwelcoming about discussing their activities or providing information.

Delta Air Lines found itself leading the charge with the biggest reputational damage of the year, according to the findings. This comes following a viral video of staff aggressively dragging a passenger off a plane, which bystanders at the scene and viewers of the footage were left astounded by. “They kill me,” the victimised customer shrieked as blood trickled down his face. The airline has reportedly come to a settlement agreement with the passenger but it’s safe to say the damage was done – and this wasn’t the only customer-centric story about Delta that surfaced last year.

However, found in the table for businesses experiencing impressive reputational improvements was Merlin Entertainments Group, the visitor attractions company. It’s particularly significant because the business suffered publicity hell following the tragic Smiler roller coaster crash in 2015, which left visitors seriously injured, with two requiring leg amputations. But the company has shown that being frank and open with consumers pays when it comes to reputation after Nick Varney, CEO of Alton Towers, apologised profusely for the events. “I would like to express my sincerest regret and apology to everyone who suffered injury and distress today and to their families,” Varney said at the time.

The following companies have seen the largest improvements from 2017 to 2018:


The below companies have seen the largest declines from 2017 to 2018:

  • L’Oréal (+10.9)
  • Merlin Entertainments Group (+9.7)
  • Nintendo (+8.6)
  • Amazon.com (+8.3)
  • ASDA (+8.1)
  • Wickes (+7.8)
  • Severn Trent (+7.3)
  • EE (+6.8)
  • Greggs (+6.7)
  • Sports Direct International (+6.7)
  • Delta Air Lines (-11.4)
  • Uber (-11.2)
  • Ryanair (-10.6)
  • LinkedIn (-10.3)
  • 888 Holding (-10.1)
  • Sanofi (-8.8)
  • RSA Insurance (-8.7)
  • Whirlpool (-8.7)
  • Intel (-8.1)
  • Vodafone (-7.9)

Commenting on the findings, Harry Foster, director of consulting at Reputation Institute, said: “It is fascinating to see companies like Merlin Entertainments Group, Amazon (following a data breach scandal in 2017), and Sports Direct (following the ‘Victorian workhouse’ scandal) be amongst this year’s biggest movers.

“For those including Uber, Ryanair and betting firm 888 who were amongst those to have suffered the greatest reputational declines since 2017, following well-documented leadership and abuse-of-trust issues, it should be something of an inspiration. Where companies are prepared to make genuine change to better themselves, and communicate this effectively through the right channels, they can rebuild their reputations and rebuild consumer trust.”

With many titanic corporations seemingly disconnected from their consumers, better communication and intimacy provided by smaller businesses may keep reputations afloat. 

Angus Shaw
Angus Shaw

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