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TODD SMITH — Top 5 companies with worst reputations


As discussed last week, brands must constantly polish their image and shine their reputations. And brands must be constantly vigilant to moves that can dent their identity.

Just ask Facebook about what privacy concerns and unauthorized use of customer data can do, or Boeing about how a faulty computer system can wreck a reputation.

One scandal, fraud or flaw can taint an image for years. Rebuilding trust can take decades.

For the past 20 years the Harris Poll Reputation Quotient has ranked the world’s most visible companies and organizations by reputation.

The brands range from online retailers such as Amazon.com to shopping centers like Walmart; and from the massive U.S. government down to regional grocery chains like Publix. The annual poll asked respondents to rate each company based on six measures: social responsibility, products and service, emotional appeal, leadership, financial performance, and workplace environment.

In the most recent Harris Poll ranking, companies with bad reputations were found in the federal government, financial services and tobacco industries, and that has been typical in previous years. These organizations – such as the U.S. government, cigarette manufacturers and others – were chided for bad service, not speedily addressing missteps, and failing to provide a supportive work environment.

Grocery store and supermarket chains Wegmans and Publix enjoy good reputations because of their connections to the community and contributions – and those rankings were discussed in last week’s Spin Cycle.

Top 5 Companies with the worst reputations

5. Wells Fargo & Company

A recent technical glitch at Wells Fargo that prevented customers from seeing paychecks and direct deposits in their online and mobile banking accounts was a reminder of the recent troubles at the California-based financial institution. For more than two years, Wells Fargo was involved in a series of scandals that severely damaged its reputation. Wells Fargo was blamed for creating millions of false accounts, and it announced in 2016 it had discharged about 5,300 workers over a several-year period for this practice. The bank also confessed to charging customers for mortgage fees that they were not responsible for and for paying for car insurance they did not need. Wells Fargo also had to provide refunds to customers for pet insurance, home warranties, and other products they did not understand they were charged for.

4. Sears Holdings Corporation

Sears is the poster child for the retail apocalypse. Once an innovator because of its catalogue sales and warehouse infrastructure, the Illinois-based company that filed for bankruptcy in October was slow to see the threat of e-commerce. Sears retail franchise has been undercut by Walmart and Amazon on price. The company has gone through waves of store closings and has sold off brands such as Craftsman. Stores that remained had few items on the shelves, and patrons complained of poor customer service.

3. The Trump Organization

The Trump Organization’s reputation has fallen in esteem since the company’s namesake became president of the United States more than two years ago. The real estate company operates a winery, luxury hotels, and international golf courses. It also operated Trump University, a for-profit enterprise that was open from 2005 to 2010 and taught real estate courses. A barrage of lawsuits forced it to close over claims it defrauded students.

The Trump Organization is now run by Trump’s sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, and has come under scrutiny for possible conflicts of interest between the president’s family operating the business and Trump’s performance as president.

2. Phillip Morris

Cigarette maker Philip Morris hoped it could have a discussion with the World Health Organization earlier this year about products it is developing to move smokers away from cigarettes to what the company says are less-risky options such as vaping. But the WHO would have none of it, saying the organization’s rules prevented it from dealing directly with tobacco makers. Philip Morris produces 813 billion cigarettes a year – not including those sold in the U.S. – but cigarette use is declining worldwide as more people become aware of the health risks of tobacco use.

1. U.S. Government

Perhaps not that surprising, the federal government has the worst reputation of any company or organization on the Harris Poll list. Congress routinely scores low in Gallup Poll ratings – reaching as low as 9% in approval ratings in November 2013. Currently, the approval rating of Congress is 26% at Gallup. President Trump’s approval ratings have hovered in the 40% range, depending on which poll numbers are used.

The politically polarized environment of a hostile Democratic House of Representatives and a Republican Senate spoiling for a fight means gridlock on issues such as immigration and health care, which may only further drive down approval ratings for the government.

Roaring Mic | Tiger Grabs the Green With Masters Victory for the Ages

Tiger has roared again, and this may be the biggest one in sports history! It’s certainly one of the greatest comebacks in the pantheon of seared-in-your-memory athletic moments.

Tiger Woods completed the storybook comeback last Sunday – a climb back up the sheer precipice of injury, personal setbacks and disasters. After the adrenalin-fired fist pumps, chest thrusts and hugs – and a most inspiring bear hug with his son that beckoned the memory of the same embrace with his father in the exact same place – the man in red finally donned the green Masters jacket again!

In a tournament that captured the world, Woods shot a 2-under 70 to win by one shot completing an improbable comeback from injury and personal setbacks. Golf’s biggest name delivered a victory for the ages,

Tiger is a survivor. He somehow survived the sex scandal that ended his marriage, struggles on the course that torpedoed his world ranking below 1,000, the DUI arrest that produced a harrowing mug shot of a desperate man spiraling out of control, and the crippling back pain that reduced him to a bedridden bystander.

Nearly 4,000 days (more than a decade) after his last major championship, Woods rallied from behind to win his fifth career title at Augusta National Golf Club. It marked his 15th major victory and first since the 2008 U.S. Open. And it capped one of the greatest career revivals in the history of sports.

His game seemingly left for broken, his back possibly injured beyond repair, Woods just two years ago seriously doubted whether he would ever play competitively again. At age 43, in a game dominated by younger players, he has quite emphatically returned to the pinnacle of golf.

In the same style red mock turtleneck that stirred nostalgia from a younger, more abrasive, less mature chapter, he waltzed up to the 18th green, laser focused like yesteryear and beat back the demons and the clock to regain his swagger. But there were vast differences. He won this tournament from behind on the last day – the first time ever for him in a major. This Tiger is more approachable, less negative, more willing to share his heart, and yes, more humble. There’s a hint of remorse, a willingness to be better in all phases of his life and a dash of redemption.

As this Sunday built to its unlikely crescendo, it was fun, electrifying, emotional, and refreshingly rehabilitative. And when the sun set on Augusta, even the azaleas were weeping.

» TODD SMITH is president and chief communications officer of Deane, Smith & Partners, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm — based in Nashville, Tenn. — is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at todd@deanesmithpartners.com, and follow him @spinsurgeon.


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