Friendly corporate brands poisoned by politics

Companies that once seemed immune to partisan backlash are seeing their reputations plummet in response to political drama, according to new rankings from the annual Axios/Harris Poll 100.

Why it matters: The findings suggest that companies that are slow to respond to political crises, or do it inconsistently, suffer the most from consumer reception and confidence.

Details: New rankings from the poll – an annual survey to gauge the reputation of the 100 most visible brands in the country – show that companies are increasingly trapped between their employees, consumers and politics.

  • Disney’s ranking dropped significantly – from the 37th last year to the 65th this year – probably because of the decision to speak out on Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law after initially opting not to act.
  • Disney’s about face shows the reputation hit that comes when the public sees you as calculating rather than being clear about what you believe in and stand for,” said John Gerzema, CEO of The Harris Poll.
  • McDonald’s 13 places down from last year. The fast food chain has been slow to react to the war in Ukraine, given its exposure to the crisis relative to its competitors. The company said last week it would withdraw from Russia, nearly three months after the war started.
  • Delta’s ranking has improved significantly since 2021, along with its trust and culture scores. Last year’s inquiry was closed less than two months after the company was criticized for its slow response and hinges on Georgia’s voting rights law.

Yes but: There are some notable exceptions. Netflix faced backlash from its employees for not responding to Dave Chapelle’s anti-LGTBQ comments late last year, but the score was unaffected.

The big picture: Brands with longstanding political leanings, such as Hobby Lobby and Chick-fil-A, saw their reputation plummet in the rankings.

  • Last year, respondents to the same poll rated companies with clear biased identifications as companies with a higher level of trust and accountability.

Between the lines: Some brands with strong political positions continue to rank highly with consumers because the quality of their products and services outweighs their political values.

  • For example, Patagonia routinely ranks in the top 10 of many surveyed categories — such as trust, culture, ethics, vision and growth — with both Democrats and Republicans, despite the company’s outspoken leftist stance on issues like climate change.

What to watch: The poll found that nearly a third of Americans say companies should prioritize the opinions of their customers (31%) and employees (28%) when weighing political issues.

  • Less than a quarter (16%) say they should prioritize shareholder opinion.

Go deeper:

Full results and methodology

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