How the Apple Falls
The Reputation Institute today released their latest ranking of the reputations of global companies. Rolex, LEGO and Walt Disney were the top three globally – but perhaps more interestingly BMW, Daimler and Apple all fell out of the top 10.
Falling trust in automotive companies as a sector not completely unsurprising, given the sorts of reputational issues they run into (think VW, and Toyota before them), and the continuing concerns about their products impact on the environment.
Apple however, seems to have an individual issue. It has dropped down in the Reptrak Global Reputation ranking every year since 2011. It also saw a big reduction in its Brand Value in the latest Brand Finance Global 500 league table. It was knocked off the top position by Google, and lost $38Billion of brand value – over a quarter of what it had. Losing the equivalent of the annual GDP of a country of 10 million people, like Serbia or Azerbaijan.
Brand Finance attribute this fall to Apple having “over-exploited the goodwill of its customers”. True it has failed to create any new products to match the revenue contribution of the iPhone, and that is increasingly seen as only at parity with the best products from Samsung and Pixel, the Google phone.
But there may be more to Apple’s decline. It was a company known for innovation – and innovation is going out of fashion. The Reputation Institute survey found that it is no longer one of the top three drivers of reputation. They found these to be, firstly products and services – which are becoming more important – followed by Governance and Citizenship. In simple words, people prefer to buy good stuff from companies they trust.
And maybe the Reptrak study still overestimates the importance of innovation as a driver of reputation. The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer found that 51% of people in their survey are concerned that “technological innovation is happening too quickly and leading to changes not good for people like me”. Which reflects a polarisation in society. Some of us do still have a desire for innovation and the latest things. But others don’t. And for them, Apple – and probably Google and other innovators in the digital world - are no longer symbols of trust.