NEW YORK: Google is the company consumers around the world believe has the best reputation, new research has revealed.

Specialist consultancy The Reputation Institute surveyed 48,000 adults in 15 countries, including Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Russia, the UK and US.

Participants rated firms they were "somewhat" or "very" familiar with, based on product quality, innovation, citizenship, governance, leadership, workplace conditions and financial performance.

Google received 79.99 points, retaining the first position it occupied in an equivalent study last year.

Its figures dipped slightly to 78.08 points among US contributors, but grew in emerging markets, even China, where it has clashed with the domestic authorities on a range of issues.

The online giant's main strengths were its treatment of staff, transparent business model and social responsibility credentials, factors comprising 43% of the average score for the top 100 players.

Kasper Ulf Nielsen, executive partner at the Reputation Institute, said: "Google has the best corporate reputation in the world because it understands the power of the corporate story."

"Google is in the top ten on all dimensions, showing that to be the best you have to be relevant across all seven dimensions of reputation."

Apple, posting 79.77 points, climbed to second from sixth year on year, boosted by a string of hit devices like the iPhone and iPad. It also headed the R&D, leadership and financial performance categories.

Entertainment group Disney, on 79.51 points, and automaker BMW, with 79.42 points, maintained third and fourth places in turn, while Lego, logging 79.26 points, claimed fifth, having not made the top ten last year.

Electronics group Sony achieved second spot in 2010 but slipped to sixth after securing 79.05 points for 2011, not least due to the fallout from hacker attacks on its PlayStation Network.

This caused totals to plummet in the UK, Germany, Australia, Japan and the US, where the number of people who would recommend Sony contracted from 79% to 67%.

More broadly, the study demonstrated perceptions of most organisations are much stronger in their home market than overseas.

Differences also extended to the regional level, as Kellogg's took the lead role in North America, Google assumed pre-eminence in Latin America, as did Lego in Europe, and Disney in Asia Pacific.

Equally, Apple, Google, Lego and Sony featured in the top ten across nine of the 15 nations, but almost every other enterprise found consistency hard to come by.

When looking to Brazil, Russia, India and China, collectively known as the BRICs, product quality, generally the primary driver behind high scores, had a lower impact than elsewhere.

Rather, financial results and corporate governance delivered over 30% of totals in these four countries.

Nielsen said: "Many established brands are finding that merely pumping advertising and products into a market does not yield the return of investment they expect and desire."

"Having a local presence and communicating about it are key ways to win trust ... That means focusing on reputation."

In all, the report suggested the premier performers boasted approval ratings three times those of competitors lagging in this area.

Indeed, operators which can generate a five-point improvement in popular appraisal rankings see active recommendations among shoppers rise by an average 7%.

Share values also witness positive knock-benefits if goodwill levels are impressive, as particularly well-regarded businesses enjoy a typical return on assets of 9%, falling to 6% for second-tier rivals.

Data sourced from The Reputation Institute; additional content by Warc staff