NEW YORK: Kraft, Kellogg's and Johnson & Johnson are the companies boasting the best reputations among US consumers, a study has revealed.

Prophet, the brand and marketing consultancy, surveyed 4,900 adults in the country, asking them to assess 145 corporations, drawn from 18 sectors, and all featuring in the Fortune 500.

Panellists rated these businesses based on their people, products, performance, purpose and personal relevance, yielding an index rating covering the extent to which they trusted, admired and respected the firms under scrutiny.

Exactly 70% of the sample awarded organisations an "average" standing, equating to a score of between 60 and 70 points on a 100-point scale.

Consumer packaged goods manufacturers headed the rankings on 75.9 points, making them "leaders", as these enterprises were found to combine strong engagement with usefulness in contributors' everyday lives.

Kraft led the charts on 81.3 points, having lodged 80.5 points in the same report last year, meaning it overtook Kellogg's, down to second after sliding from 82.1 points to 80.9 points in this period.

Elsewhere in the top ten, General Mills logged 79.8 points and Coca-Cola attained 77.4 points, both slight dips on an annual basis, and Nestlé closed out this group, flat on 77.2 points.

Despite a number of high-profile product recalls, Johnson & Johnson enjoyed a one point increase, to 80.8 points, claiming third, and helping the pharma industry secure 67.9 points, as a consequence.

While it has stimulated almost constant buzz, Apple remains outside the top tier, occupying thirteenth on 76.7 points, although the maker of the iPad and iPhone did record a 1.6-point leap.

It was still behind Amazon, static on 77.3 points, and Sony, providing a moderate lift of 0.8 points to 78.6 points, and took fifth.

Intel generated 77.8 points, a total coming in at 75.9 points concerning Hewlett-Packard and 75.7 points regarding Microsoft, all bettering 2010's figures.

Google haemorrhaged 4.4 points, to 73 points, a trend "perhaps reflecting a backlash against its growing pervasiveness," Prophet said.

The auto category improved to 65.6 points, as Daimler and General Motors posted double-digit upticks, to 59.5 points and 63.5 points respectively, and Ford accrued 3.7 points, to 67.8 points.

Less favourably, Toyota's troubled year resulted in a loss of 24.2 points, delivering a final mark of 51.3 points.

Meanwhile, financial services, heavily impacted by the downturn, continued to be one of the lowest-scoring sectors, even after a rise from 54.6 points to 58.1 points.

Goldman Sachs' rating decreased, leaving it in a minority as Fannie Mae, Citigroup, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley witnessed positive shifts, albeit remaining in the bottom 20% of firms overall.

Unsurprisingly, BP registered the largest contraction, plummeting to last place as its score tumbled from 63.7 points to just 24.5 points.

"The year-to-year comparisons showed that damage to reputation also harmed the brand value, though to a lesser extent," Prophet said.

"BP, for example, fell 62% in our reputation index, with a 39% drop in brand value ... General Motors' 29% reputation gain in 2010 was accompanied by only a 1% drop in brand value."

Shoppers' likelihood to buy from companies they believed to be "leaders" stood at 47%, rising to 50% when discussing a willingness to pay a premium and 77% for recommendation, substantially ahead of "failing" rivals.

The primary status drivers included "making a difference in my life", offering the newest products and services, being fair and ethical, promising peace of mind and demonstrating openness.

By contrast, reliability, quality and value were among the core priorities 12 months ago, indicating attitudes are now changing.

Data sourced from Prophet; additional content by Warc staff