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Apple tops Google for best reputation with consumers

Apple?s strong leadership and innovation helped propel it to the top of a list measuring the reputations of the 60 most visible companies in the country.

The Harris Poll Reputation Quotient study from Harris Interactive shows Americans have an affinity for technology companies, with Apple, Google and Amazon.com all landing in the top four. Apple replaced Google in the top spot this year with a score of 85.62, the highest for any company in the history of the 13-year-old study.

?Apple just leaped to the top,? said Robert Fronk, executive vice president of global reputation management at Harris Interactive, New York. ?Google did not thing wrong.

?The combination of the iPad and iPhone, mixed with the sad passing of Steve Jobs gave Apple a little bit of a turbo charge,? he said.

?One of the dominant attributes of reputation that is consistent across the leaders is this combination of innovation and taking greater advantage of market opportunities and I would put mobile in the middle of both of those.?

Crossing sectors
The report also shows that being associated with technology alone is not the answer. Instead, the companies with the best reputations ? and who are earning the consumer?s trust and willingness to buy as a result ? are combining innovation and leadership across multiple business areas for a competitive edge.

?Apple, Google and Amazon cross sectors with ease such as retail, technology and service,? Mr. Fronk said. ?They feel comfortable and get a multiplying effect by playing all of those roles for the public.?

Respondents favored companies in industries that are positioned as helping America?s ailing economy, such as technology and retail. The study also showed an affinity among respondents for companies with a strong leadership.

?When we looked at some of our top five brands, they are not the biggest advertisers in the world,? Mr. Fronk said. ?They recognize that building a corporate persona and building a level of emotion appeal to what the company is offering is paramount to getting people to want to engage with your products.?

Google?s score was 82.82, still strong but down slightly from last year.

?Google has turned itself very quickly into one of the reputation elite,? Mr. Fronk said. ?It has built reputation equity more quickly than any company we have seen in the 13 years of our study.

?If I were to give Google one piece of advice, the one area where there is slight room for improvement is emotional appeal and forming a more emotional bond with the public.?

Amazon.com moved up from eighth to fourth place with a score of 81.92. Despite the fact that it does not have a retail presence and very limited human interaction, it scores highest in the emotional appeal dimension

?Amazon uses technology tools in a way that has them appear to be more mindful of their customers,? Mr. Fronk said.

Samsung made its first appearance on the list, coming in 13th place with a score of 78.11.

Other mobile related companies on the list included AT&T, which a score of 65.09 and T-Mobile, with a score 62.82.

Seamless coordination
The study measures six dimensions that comprise reputation and influence consumer behavior, including social responsibility, emotional appeal, financial performance, products and services, vision and leadership, and workplace environment.

A brand?s reputation quotient score can reflect future consumer engagements, with higher scores associated with a higher likelihood to purchase a brand?s products or services, recommend the brand or invest in stock.

Overall, the report found a decline in the number of companies having an excellent reputation among consumers.

The report also considered brands? reputations over time and found that, over a ten period, Apple?s reputation quotient has steadily gained while Hewlett Packard?s has dropped. Apple?s dominance is built on strong investments in its brand through its products and services while HP reputation has eroded because of negative perceptions related to ethics and vision and leadership.

?The big news for marketers is the study re-informs and reinvigorates how important the corporate entity is, and this is especially true in technology,? Mr. Fronk said. ?We are finding more and more that there needs to be seamless coordination between marketing and corporate communications, public relations and public affairs - they are not two separate channels.?

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York