Jumping seven places from its rank the year prior, Microsoft came in first place in national corporate reputation according to a survey released by Harris Interactive on Feb. 1.
Falling behind Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson ranked second in corporate reputation, and 3M ranked number three.
"Sixty-nine percent of respondents rated the reputation of corporate America as either good or terrible. This context makes the significant RQ score increases among companies like Merck, Royal Dutch Shell, AT&T, Apple, Microsoft, 3M and others that much more impressive. Corporations today need to measure, understand and holistically manage their corporate reputation and leverage it as an asset. Those who do, find that ratings and rankings take care of themselves," said Robert Fronk, senior vice president for the brand and strategy consulting group at Harris Interactive.
Companies were evaluated from along six dimensions, from leadership and vision, social responsibility, emotional appeal, products and services to workplace environment and financial performance.
In a change from previous years surveys, this year the subgroups of the general public were examined to determine if their views of corporate reputation would differ from the population at large.
Among "influentials"—named such because they had close or personal knowledge of the corporation, or because they held a public office—views of corporate reputation barely differed from the main group.
Microsoft remained in first place, but 3M shifted to the second while Johnson & Johnson slipped to fourth. This group tended to be more pessimistic about the state of corporate reputations today, with more than half (53 percent) feeling that it has declined (versus 44 percent of non-influentials).
However, a second subgroup, "general investors"—those with long-term financial services investments with the company, beyond a 401(k)—showed a sharply differing view of corporate reputation. This group placed Google in first place (up from fourth among the full sample), Toyota second (up six places from the full responses), and shifted Microsoft into third place.
"In the case of Microsoft, we find a company that, while always scoring well in our annual study, there were certainly perceptual challenges regarding elements of its reputation," said Fronk.
"By focusing on the root causes of these perceptions and not just imagery or messaging, they were able to achieve higher levels of credibility with the general public. These types of perception shifts are not accidental and the value is nearly immeasurable."
Other companies filling out the top 10 ranks of corporate reputation were, in order from fourth to tenth place, Google, Coca-Cola, General Mills, UPS, Sony, Toyota and Procter & Gamble.
Among notable technology or Web-based companies, Amazon ranked 11th, Apple 22nd, Dell 23rd and IBM 26th.