We've previously written about the trust crisis in Big Tech, and with all the talk in Washington, D.C., about taming the tech giants, it should come as no surprise that tech has suffered a reputation management hit globally. Nevertheless, it is still striking to see just how severe a hit U.S. tech companies have taken in the latest Global RepTrak 100 rankings—particularly in the case of Amazon.
Three of the Big Tech "Big Five" or "GAFAM" companies—Google, Amazon and Microsoft—declined year over year in the rankings. A fourth, Facebook, did not appear in the rankings at all. The fifth—Apple—managed a decent improvement. Apple's gain was overshadowed, however, by Amazon's plummet of 50 places, from 42nd in 2020 to 92nd this year.
The Global RepTrak 100 is a highly respected annual survey conducted by the Reputation Institute, based on responses from more than 80,000 people across 15 countries. This year, Denmark-based Lego topped the list for best reputation, with Harley-Davidson as the top-ranked U.S.-based brand at No. 5.
Microsoft, the only tech company to make it to the top 10, nevertheless lost five spots from 2020. Two other Silicon Valley stalwarts, Intel and Netflix, fell out of the top 10 in 2021. Google lost two places on the list, dropping from 13 to 15 on the list. Facebook did not make the list in 2020 or 2021.
Apple was the biggest bright spot, improving its reputation by 11 places. It held 46th place this year, up from 57th in 2020.
Amazon Down, Apple Up
Amazon's trust crisis in recent months is compounded by the fact that the company has faced mounting scrutiny from the U.S. Congress and the public. In July last year, Amazon's founder and then-chief executive officer, Jeff Bezos, appeared before a House Judiciary subcommittee and said:
Eighty percent of Americans have a favorable impression of Amazon overall ... Who do Americans trust more than Amazon "to do the right thing?" Only their primary physicians and the military, according to a January 2020 Morning Consult survey.
Of course, much has changed from January 2020 to today. And while consumers may trust Amazon as a retailer, the RepTrack survey shows that they don't have as much faith in its handling of privacy concerns, data protection, and how it treats its workers. RepTrack's listing is based on five drivers: Products and Services, Innovation, Workplace, Governance, Citizenship, Leadership, and Financial Performance.
As for Apple, even though it came behind Google and Microsoft on the list, it was the only member of the Big Five to see its reputation improve. Enhanced privacy policies, the release of its human rights report in September last year, and the continued success of its products may have all contributed to Apple's improved ranking.
Trust Issues for Facebook
The fact that Facebook did not even make it onto the list may foretell a lack of public support as it tries to resist government efforts to break up the company.
Over the past few years, Facebook has been mired in a series of scandals. It all started in March 2018, when it was revealed that Cambridge Analytica had misused the data of millions of Facebook users without their consent and used it to help political campaigns, including Donald Trump's presidential campaign in 2016. In 2020, Facebook was severely criticized for allowing hate speech to be promoted on the site.
It seems that Facebook needs to do a lot more than tweaks to its privacy and advertising policies to regain public trust. It's not clear if that is even possible for a company, which depends on collecting user data to make its money.
While it seems extremely unlikely that next year's Global Reptrak 100 will see significant improvements for social media giants such as Facebook, all eyes will be on Amazon to see if it can recover and Apple to see if it can continue its forward progress.
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