Apple, J&J among most admired firms in US

23 July 2010

NEW YORK: Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble and Apple are among the companies boasting the strongest reputations with US consumers, a study has found.

Vision Critical and Angus Reid Public Opinion joined forces to interview 800 people in order to gain an insight into their perceptions of 54 major corporations.

The average organisation was regarded as "trustworthy" by a third of the panel, but was also described as "greedy, secretive and arrogant" by more than a quarter of participants.

More specifically, 31% of respondents believed senior executives are more concerned about money than the long-term health of the business for which they worked.

A further 30% suggested America's industry leaders "put profits ahead of what is good for the US," and the typical firm was depicted as having its "best days ... behind it" by 25% of the sample.

John Gilfeather, a consultant who helped Vision Critical compile its figures, said: "I have never seen this level of vitriol aimed at larger corporations."

"If companies do not start communicating - and communicating better - about why they should be respected, this trend will continue."

Johnson & Johnson led the rankings, despite the fact it was involved in a withdrawal of children's liquid OTC products and other offerings made at a specific plant in Puerto Rico earlier this year.

"Our businesses have been very good over the years at innovating and assuring consumers get the kind of products that they expect, and at a quality they expect," said Dominico Caruso, its cfo, on a call with investors this week.

"These various recalls are precautionary ... We did take a conservative approach and recall the products that might be impacted to ensure consumer safety as a primary concern, as a priority for the company."

Other FMCG specialists that delivered impressive results in the Vision Critical/Angus Reid research included Kraft, Campbell's Soup and Nestlé.

Procter & Gamble, the world's biggest advertiser, also featured in this group, despite recent criticism on sites like Facebook relating to its new Pampers Dry Max range, which some mothers argued caused rashes.

P&G has robustly defended Dry Max against these claims, and Marc Pritchard, its global brand building officer, outlined how its wider agenda is changing at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.

"I believe now is the time to shift because consumers are asking us for it. Cynicism and distrust of companies, governments and brands are at their highest," he said.

"People want to know more about what brands stand for and what they are doing for the world, not just for themselves.

"Complete transparency is the expectation ... Consumers can and will find out what we care about, what we value, and what we do."

Google and Microsoft also made the top ten in the Vision Critical/Angus Reid list, as did Apple, which has faced some popular disapproval relating to a lack of stock and signal problems with the iPhone4.

Peter Oppenheimer, Apple's cfo, said it was "working hard on catching up with customer demand", alongside sending out leather cases for the iPhone4.

Elsewhere in the study, automakers like General Motors and Toyota received less than glowing reports from shoppers, largely due to their financial travails and vehicle recalls respectively.

Financial and health insurance firms also struggled to find favour, but the harshest appraisal was saved for BP, with almost half of Americans holding "very negative opinions" of the oil giant.

Data sourced from Vision Critical/Seeking Alpha; additional content by Warc staff