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The Harris Poll is out with its annual evaluation of America's most visible companies' reputations, identifying what it calls "movement, trends and insights in a changing corporate reputation landscape." One thing, however, did not move - Amazon's ranking at the top of the class, which is unchanged since last year.

Two other retailers - Wegmans and Publix - moved into the second and third positions, supplanting Apple and Google, which had those rankings last year.

The rest of this year's top 10, in order, were Johnson & Johnson, Apple, UPS, Disney, Google, Tesla, and 3M. In 2016, the rest of the top 10 were, in order, Google, USAA, Disney, Publix, Samsung, Berkshire Hathaway, Johnson & Johnson, and Kellogg.

The bottom 10 this year consists of a rogue's gallery of companies plagued by controversial or negative headlines - Volkswagen, AIG, Charter Communications, Sears, Bank of America, Halliburton, Monsanto, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, and, in the bottom position, Takata (the company that made faulty airbags that resulted in at least 17 deaths and that has agreed to pay regulators, consumers and car manufacturers $1 billion in penalties).

But in a reflection of the polarized times in which we live, Harris also pointed out that companies' reputations often depend on the positions they take and the politics of the people who are being surveyed, "that Americans view the reputations of some companies as aligned with their individual values. Republicans hold the reputations of Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby--companies that have vocally shared their conservative beliefs--significantly more favorably than Democrats do. Democrats perceive Target's reputation more positively."

"Values play a bigger role than ever before in corporate reputation, and the business significance of a company's reputation has never been higher," says Mark J. Penn, managing partner and president of The Stagwell Group, which owns The Harris Poll. "Consumers are keenly interested in how companies engage with the world, and that includes corporate ideals. As the red versus blue duel of politics impacts corporate reputation, we expect to see more alignment along party beliefs."

The company says that the poll "measures companies' reputation strength based on the perceptions of more than 23,000 Americans across six corporate reputation dimensions: Social Responsibility, Emotional Appeal, Products and Services, Vision and Leadership, Financial Performance, and Workplace Environment."

You can see the entire list of 100 companies ranked in the poll here.
KC's View:
I think perhaps the most surprising ranking was that of Starbucks - which came in at 55, lower even than the US Postal Service. I cannot imagine that Howard Schultz is walking around the company's Seattle headquarters today saying to people, "Fifty-five isn't so bad. It is better than Chipotle! And a helluva lot better than Takata!"

That said, it must be pointed out that the differences in rankings can sometimes be marginal, and probably are a snapshot rather than a mural. But I do think that businesses ought to be looking at what the top companies have in common and trying to figure out how to engineer such values into their own cultures. (Frankly, I think anyone who came in below the Post Office ought to be rethinking their strategies.)