If you're searching for the most reputable company in America, it's Google, according to a Harris poll. The Web search giant took the top spot away from Microsoft, which plunged to tenth place. The bottom-dwellers? Royal Dutch/Shell, Chevron Texaco, ExxonMobil, Citgo and Halliburton.
The top 10 companies on this year's list in order of ranking include:
2) Johnson & Johnson;
3) Intel Corporation;
4) General Mills;
5) Kraft Foods;
6) Berkshire-Hathaway Inc.;
7) 3M Company;
8) The Coca-Cola Company;
9) Honda Motor Co.;
It's perhaps not surprising that Google came out on top. Its search service and most of its other consumer services are free and are presented in a modest, no-hype format. Even its fabulously successful search advertising is relatively low-key and unassuming.
But what really sent a shiver through the advertising business when Harris released its latest reputation study is Google's almost unheard-of advertising policy -- namely, none. While Google occasionally runs ads for itself on its search ad network it does not purchase traditional advertising in other media.
"Google is the perfect example showing reputation does not correlate with ad spending," said Robert Fronk, senior VP-senior consultant, reputation strategy, at Harris Interactive. "The positive perception of how you treat your employees, your corporate-social-responsibility efforts, and your products and services and the amount of media that can generate probably trumps any ad spend they would ever want to make."
But no one should think that Americans are feeling good about big business; 71% said that as far as they're concerned, the reputation of corporate America is either "not good" or "terrible."
Airlines took a beating in the survey. Positive perceptions of the airline industry fell five percentage points from the last survey, and insurance and financial services were down four percentage points. Technology ranked first in terms of an overall positive rating among consumers, followed by travel and tourism, retail, consumer products, telecom and -- perhaps surprisingly, given high gas prices -- automotive.
Honda's ninth-place ranking put it far in front of the pack. Toyota was No. 15 on the list, while Detroit's Big Three -- Chrysler (No. 51), GM (No. 52) and Ford (No. 54) -- were bringing up the rear.