US companies underperforming on reputation index?

There’s a lot to be suspicious about anytime you come across a survey-based measure of reputation, especially when you’re working across all kind of international borders and trying to normalize for dramatically different sets of local and regional assumptions about how businesses ought to work. But even given this, the results from a new Reputation Institute study of corporate reputations raise some questions.

Mainly, how come American companies didn’t do better? Kraft, checking in at #15, is the highest-rated US company and there are only five American firms in the top 50. Denmark, on the other hand, has three of the top 10, five in the top 17, and a total of eight in the top 35.

Does this mean that Danes are more prone to respect corporations generally? Does it mean that Americans have had enough of corporate shenanigans (an understandable sentiment even before you factor in the corrosive impact of our various and sundry Nacchios, Ebberses, Koslowskis, Rigases, Skillings and Lays)? Or is the study actually tapping a reality – maybe American companies just aren’t as good?

Hard to say, but food for thought. If I’m a senior leader at a major US business, I’d probably like to know more about what’s really going here, because it suggests that there’s a lot of room for improvement where my relationships with consumers and communities are concerned.

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