Skip to main content
Persuasion

Reputation hit: Air Miles, Heinz, Samsung suffer

Industry survey shows loyalty-program controversy, social-media mishaps and device recalls wreaked havoc on trust in brands

Air Miles took the biggest hit to its reputation out of more than 200 brands in Canada in the past year, as planned changes to the loyalty program's expiry policy in 2016 resulted in angry customers and complaints to its retail partners.

That's according to the 20th edition of the Corporate Reputation Study from polling and research firm Leger in partnership with National Public Relations, released on Friday. Leger asked roughly 2,100 Canadians their opinion of 234 companies from 28 business sectors. Leger gives reputation scores by assessing whether people were aware of each brand, and if they were, whether their opinion of each was positive or negative.

The 10 companies Canadians admire most

Good opinion

Bad opinion

Don’t know enough

Don’t know at all

SCORE

89%

4

85

Google

6

1

85%

4

Shoppers

Drug Mart

81

10

1

86%

7

Canadian

Tire

79

6

1

87%

9

Tim

Hortons

78

4

0

82%

6

76

Dollarama

10

2

80%

4

76

Staples

13

2

80%

4

76

Sony

14

2

81%

7

74

Kellogg

11

1

80%

6

74

Campbell

12

2

79%

5

Home

Depot

74

14

2

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: LEGER

The 10 companies Canadians admire most

Good opinion

Bad opinion

Don’t know enough

Don’t know at all

SCORE

89%

4

85

Google

6

1

85%

4

Shoppers

Drug Mart

81

10

1

86%

7

Canadian

Tire

79

6

1

87%

9

Tim

Hortons

78

4

0

82%

6

76

Dollarama

10

2

80%

4

76

Staples

13

2

80%

4

76

Sony

14

2

81%

7

74

Kellogg

11

1

80%

6

74

Campbell

12

2

79%

5

Home

Depot

74

14

2

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: LEGER

The 10 companies Canadians admire most

Good opinion

Bad opinion

Don’t know enough

Don’t know at all

SCORE

SCORE

89%

80%

4

4

85

76

Google

Staples

6

13

2

1

85%

80%

4

4

Shoppers

Drug Mart

81

76

Sony

14

10

1

2

86%

81%

7

7

Canadian

Tire

79

74

Kellogg

11

6

1

1

80%

87%

9

6

Tim

Hortons

78

74

Campbell

4

12

0

2

82%

79%

6

5

Home

Depot

76

74

Dollarama

10

14

2

2

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: LEGER

Air Miles saw the biggest drop in Leger's reputation score in 2017 compared with 2016.

Story continues below advertisement

That finding comes at a time when the loyalty landscape as a whole is facing upheaval: On Thursday, Air Canada announced it would launch its own rewards program in 2020, cutting ties with Aeroplan. Loyalty offerings are competing for ever-more-valuable customer data in a marketing war not likely to ease any time soon.

Air Miles was not the only brand to struggle: Kraft Heinz Co. saw the next-biggest drop in reputation, though its decline was half as steep as Air Miles's. Last year, Heinz took some flak on social media after a viral Facebook post praised its competitor, French's, for buying tomatoes from Canadian farmers – and pointed out that in 2014, Heinz stopped producing ketchup in Leamington, Ont. While French's is more associated with mustard, its ketchup got a boost from its decision to buy its tomato paste from the Leamington plant. This week, French's announced all of its ketchup sold in Canada will now be produced and bottled here.

The story shows the power of social-media presence, which has given consumers more ways to express their opinions of companies. In fact, Leger executive vice-president Christian Bourque believes this is having an impact on corporate reputation in general.

"Most companies today have lower scores than they had three years ago," Mr. Bourque said. "There may be an overall loss of trust, or growing cynicism with our capacity over social media to see the bad news about corporate citizens. … As soon as something happens, it's everywhere all at once."

That was certainly the case for Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., which saw the third-biggest drop in reputation amid a plethora of stories last year about its new Note 7 smartphones catching on fire.

However, reputation can bounce back if companies work to rebuild trust with customers, he said. For example, Volkswagen AG still has an extremely low reputation score, but it is much higher than it was last year, suggesting that the company is beginning to make amends for its emissions-testing scandal.

It often takes three to five years for brands to regain some of their lost reputation after a crisis, Mr. Bourque said.

Story continues below advertisement

The study also asked people what is most important to them in judging corporate reputation. More than half said the quality of products and services was the main driver of reputation, while a further 35 per cent said honesty and transparency were key.

The brands Canadians admire most, according to the study, are Google Inc., Shoppers Drug Mart Corp., Canadian Tire Corp. Ltd., Tim Hortons Inc. and Dollarama Inc..

Top companies by sector

NameCategoryRank2017 score2016 scoreScore change from 2016
GoogleWeb and social media18589-4
Shoppers Drug MartDrug stores281783
Canadian TireDepartment stores and mass merchandising379772
Tim HortonsRestaurants478726
DollaramaDiscount stores576751
SonyTechnology and electronics776715
KelloggFood industry87476-2
Home DepotHome improvement1074704
InteracBanking1670673
CBC/Radio-CanadaMedias1866642
FedExShipping1966633
CAA Insurance and finance2166633
HondaAutomobile2266624
SobeysGroceries and convenience3063612
Cirque du SoleilEntertainment346366-3
Chapters IndigoBookstores, music and crafts3563621
Johnson & JohnsonLarge companies396164-3
WestJetTransport4061592
BayerPharmaceutical4855532
SheratonHospitality4955532
Petro-CanadaEnergy51544311
Molson CoorsBreweries56524111
RE/MAXReal estate6948471
TelusTelcos11430282
CascadesWood and lumber11928280
DeloitteAccounting and management firms12923221
Pratt & WhitneyIndustrial13123221
LoyaltyOneLoyalty227110

Source: Leger

"What it all comes down to is the customer experience. That's the biggest variable – both for companies in the top-10, and those that have seen the biggest decline," said Kim West, partner and chief client officer at National. "… Reputation cannot be managed exclusively by the communications and marketing folks. It is a shared responsibility across all functions of a business, to ensure the integrity of the customer experience."

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Latest Videos

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies