May 24, 2023 - Technology

Axios Harris 100: Americans still trust tech firms that deal in goods

Change in 2023 Axios Harris 100 reputation scores among select tech companies
Data: Axios Harris poll; Chart: Alice Feng/Axios

Large tech companies crowd both ends of the rankings in this year's Axios Harris Poll 100 brand reputation survey, with those that provide tangible products and useful services clustered near the top and those that trade in social-media messages banished to the bottom.

What's happening: Worries over the rise of AI, on top of long-building distrust of social media providers, have pushed the public toward these extremes.

  • 75% of surveyed American adults said they are concerned about deep fakes and other generative AI content.
  • The highest-scoring tech companies are Samsung, Amazon and Apple, all in the retail and hardware game.
  • TikTok, Meta, and Twitter are locked in a race with Fox, the Trump Organization and failed crypto exchange FTX for the worst reputation among the top 100 brands.

Winners: The tech companies with the highest Reputational Quotient, or RQ®, scores, were Samsung (81), Amazon (80.7) and Apple (80.6), which retained their 2022 position. Sony (79.8), Microsoft (79.7), and LG (78.8) also landed in the top 20.

  • Millennials ranked Google highest, though the company ranked only 35th overall.
  • JP Morgan Chase beat out Apple and Paypal to receive the highest data privacy protection score.
  • Made in the U.S.A. brands soared in 2023, with third-ranked John Deere leaning into “high-tech field management technologies, such as a robotic-based fertilizer system and a new electric excavator,” per Harris, to harvest a better reputation.

Losers: No social media platform ranked higher than 94th.

  • Tiktok, with an RQ of 61, ranked 94th, followed by Facebook (Meta) in 97th and Twitter in 98th. All received lower RQ scores in 2023 compared to 2022.
  • Meta was the company least trusted by women (only 21% gave the company a top trust rating), and the second-least trusted by Gen Z (16%), ahead of only the Trump Organization.

Yes, but: Meta is now the best performing stock of the year — more than doubling in value since January — suggesting that investors are more cheered by cost-cutting measures than worried about the company's reputation.

Between the lines: Elon Musk’s chaotic takeover of Twitter hurt the social platform, and showed Tesla stakeholders weaknesses in Musk's manic leadership style.

  • Tesla's reputation dropped 50 places from 12th in 2022 to 62nd place this year. No other company dropped more than 22 places.

Meanwhile, a generational split is leaving TikTok exposed, despite its large user base — paving the way for more bans on the service.

  • The generational split over Tiktok's reputation is the biggest of any of the companies on the Axios Harris 100 list.
  • Boomers, who occupy roughly half the seats in Congress, gave TikTok a RQ score of just 41, compared to 68.7 for Gen Z / Millennials.
  • Even the Gen Z and Millennial respondents who make up TikTok's user core rank the company only 87th.

Layoffs are priced in as a cost of American business life and left firms with lo lasting reputation damage.

  • No big tech company engaged in mass layoffs in recent months took a reputation hit traceable to the job cuts, and most maintained their RQ scores.

Ryan's thought bubble: People can see and somehow sense more tangible benefits from the Apples and Amazons and Samsungs.

  • They employ more people because they make and sell things.
  • You can see and hold those things so you process them differently from digital media.
  • In most cases, you paid them money for what they offer, instead of paying in data (though sometimes it's both).
  • They're less often drawn into the political controversies that divide social media users, whereas the big social platforms stoke those arguments to inflate engagement and boost profits.

Ina's thought bubble: Social media companies are likely always going to have a tougher task than hardware makers and retailers for all the reason Ryan lists.

  • However, that doesn't mean the actions taken by companies in either group can't have a big impact on how they perform relative to their history and their peers.
  • It wasn't that long ago (think pre-Cambridge Analytica) that Facebook and Twitter were held in much higher esteem.
  • I'll be interested to see how companies such as OpenAI fare in future surveys.

Go deeper: Full results and poll methodology

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