May 23, 2023 - Economy

Axios Harris Poll 100: Year of the tarnished titans

Data: Axios Harris Poll; Chart: Axios Visuals

FTX and Tesla, once seen as shining examples of innovation and opportunity, took two of the biggest reputational hits in this year's Axios Harris Poll 100 brand reputation survey.

Why it matters: Amid a crypto collapse and Musk madness, Americans have grown wary and weary of big ideas and powerful moguls who they feel have overpromised and underdelivered.

What we're watching: Elon Musk’s chaotic takeover of Twitter not only pushed the social media company's own ranking down but shook investors' faith in Tesla by making the public more aware of Musk's manic leadership style.

  • Twitter ranked 97th among the 100 brands survey respondents identified as most visible in the country today. Its Reputational Quotient, or RQ®, score — a measure across seven dimensions touching on character, trust and trajectory — was 59.3 out of a possible 100.
  • Tesla saw one of the biggest reputation drops of the past year, from 11th in 2022 to 62nd place this year, with a 74.3 RQ (79.5 in 2022).
  • Crypto giant FTX made the list for the first time this year — ranking 99th of 100 for reputation, with an RQ of 58.6. The firm filed for bankruptcy last year following a liquidity crisis that was caused by what the government calls an illegal crypto-trading scheme. Its founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, was once considered one of the most successful young entrepreneurs in the world. Now he faces criminal charges.
  • FTX's fall took crypto with it. Bitcoin, though not a company, also joined the list for the first time this year as respondents named it as one of the most visible brands — and ranked it 93rd of 100 for reputation.
  • Social media companies overall have fallen from grace since 2018's Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal, according to the poll. TikTok and Facebook parent Meta saw reputational losses. They now rank 94th and 96th, respectively.

The big picture: Outdoor clothing retailer Patagonia took the No. 1 overall ranking across seven dimensions, earning an RQ of 83.5. Costco, Chick-fil-A and UPS were cited as the three most trusted names.

  • The Trump Organization finished in last place overall for the second year in a row, with an RQ of 52.9, even lower than the year before.
  • Vaccine makers and other brands associated with COVID faded in focus this year. More on Americans' minds: fast foods, carmakers, and brands addressing inflation, threats from China or Russia, and technology.

Between the lines: Some big companies that pulled back on commitments lost Americans' trust.

  • That included No. 92-ranked BP, which said in February — shortly before the poll took place — that it would dial back its commitment to reduce oil and gas production in the coming years. Its RQ fell to 63.5, from 68.

The other side: Strong commitment to a particular issue or viewpoint burnished some companies' credentials.

  • Top-ranked Patagonia has long put its commitment to conservation at the forefront of its business objectives. The company took its commitment to another level last year by transferring its ownership to two nonprofits structured to put all of the company's profits into conservation.

What to watch: Partisan politics shaped this year's rankings. So did companies' ability to navigate scandal. So did (No. 77) Disney drama, a heartland surge and a rise in value shopping.

  • We'll be diving into these and other key takeaways and trends from the poll across Axios' newsletters and the "Axios Today" podcast all week.

Go deeper: Full results and poll methodology

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