NEW YORK: Amazon, Johnson & Johnson and Kraft are the companies carrying the best reputations among US consumers, a study has found.

Forbes Media and consultancy the Reputation Institute asked 32,946 people to provide their opinions about 150 major brand owners with which they were either "somewhat" or "very" familiar.

Based on the findings, it supplied an index score for each of the featured organisations, deploying a 100-point scale and assessing "trust", "esteem", "admiration" and "good feeling".

Online retailer Amazon headed the charts on 82.7 points, measured against the 76.9 points it registered the previous year.

"Amazon is the most reputable company in the US in 2011 because consumers believe that it stands for more than what it sells," Anthony Johndrow, managing partner at the Reputation Institute, said.

"Its enterprise-wide story engages consumers in more than just delivering innovative products and services, a trustworthy and ethical customer experience or strong financial performance."

Kraft Foods claimed second after generating 81.4 points, down 3.5 points on an annual basis, as Johnson & Johnson - last year's number one - dropped 4.5 points, receiving 81.3 points in all.

The latter firm has suffered from negative perceptions following a variety of recalls linked to its McNeil Consumer Healthcare unit.

"Our experience with the McNeil Consumer recalls has been difficult and disappointing for our business, for our employees and most importantly, for our customers," Bill Weldon, J&J's chief executive, said earlier this year.

"Consumer trust in our company and our products is fundamental to everything we do, and that trust has truly been tested."

Technology specialist 3M saw its figures rise 3.9 points, to 81 points, overcoming food group Kellogg's, off 1.9 points and yielding 80.9 points.

"The people of 3M have always understood the compelling nature of character and integrity as the defining elements of our reputation," George Buckley, 3M's chief executive, said.

"This reputational foundation is the critical element in building the trust of our customers in 3M as we work towards their success, as well as our own. Technology and integrity are the combined glue that holds 3M together."

Elsewhere, the automotive industry's aggregate rose by 5.8 points, hitting 69.4 points, and the banking segment gained two points, reaching 61.5 points.

But financial services firms scored consistently poorly, with government-backed mortgage lender Freddie Mac posting the lowest score of all - 29.5 points, sliding from 33.1 points last year.

AIG's score rose by 6.9 points but the insurance firm still only attained 33.9 points, while Fannie Mae had 34.7 points and Goldman Sachs 37.1 points.

Overall, the top three reputation drivers were products and services on 17.7%, governance with 15.8% and citizenship on 14.3%.

The Reputation Institute analysed seven dimensions shaping popular attitudes, and revealed "enterprise" issues like workplace, governance and leadership drove 61% of purchase consideration and 58% of advocacy.

Such characteristics thus outperformed matters regarding the goods sold and innovation on these metrics.

3M led the pack when the survey panel rated products and services, a status held by Apple's perceived research and development prowess, Google's workplace arrangements and Amazon's governance model.

Kellogg's took the honours relating to citizenship, and Berkshire Hathaway was preeminent for leadership and financial strength.

Having polled "chief reputation officers" at the 150 firms monitored - incorporating chief executive officers, chief marketing officers and chief communications officers - the best performers shared some traits.

Operators logging over 80 points were 2.5 times more likely to have a chief executive who personally determined its strategic positioning, and 1.5 times more likely to manage reputation across various functions.

Data sourced from Reputation Institute; additional content by Warc staff