'Good for me' outweighs 'good for all' as a driver of company reputation, study suggests

One of the leading drivers of corporate reputation among consumers is how good or healthy a company's products/services are for them, and how happy they make them feel, according to a new survey released today.

The degree to which products and services make individuals feel good or healthy surpasses their interest in specific corporate responsibility initiatives, sometimes by wide margins. "Our study highlights a heightened demand for more personalized corporate narratives," according to Andy Polansky, CEO of Weber Shandwick who conducted the study. "Such narratives today are most relevant when they relate directly to individual consumers' well-being in addition to a company's commitment to tackling broad societal issues. Communications, marketing and R&D need to be more integrated than ever to achieve this new reputation paradigm."

With 47% of consumers frequently discussing how healthy or good specific company products or services are, and 46% increasingly buying from companies that make them feel good, the report concludes that the personal, individual benefits of a product are a prime consideration to drive purchasing decisions.

Additionally, millennial consumers (those born between 1981 and 1997) respond in larger numbers to both "good for me" and "good for all" issues, but like the total sample, they tip the scale in favor of "good for me," the report suggests.

Even executives recognize that providing and communicating "good for me" is an emerging hallmark of a strong company reputation. Senior executives at companies with highly esteemed reputations are much more likely than those at less reputable organizations to say their companies promote how healthy or good their products and/or services are (70% vs. 55%, respectively).

While there is a difference between companies on the basis of reputation when it comes to goodness, there is no significant difference between companies that market to consumers directly (B2Cs) and those that sell to other companies (B2Bs) – 64% vs. 61%, respectively.

Consumers are closely watching companies' actions. They form opinions about companies through not just what customers say about them (88 %), but also how companies react in times of crisis (85%). The finding that company responsiveness is so important is a critical shift in reputation-building that should be addressed by all companies, large or small.

With more than one-third of global consumers (36%) saying that they have discussions with others or share information about corporate scandals or wrong doings, how a company responds to an issue or crisis today clearly impacts its integrity, credibility and trustworthiness. In fact, responsiveness to issues and crises is more important in driving perceptions of a company than what the media says (76%), what employees say (76%) and what the company says about itself – whether that is on its website (68 percent), what its leaders say (61%) or what exists in its advertising (61%).

The challenge of globalizing reputation

The majority of executives in the study (69%) said that communicating their own company's reputation across different countries, languages and cultures remained a challenge. Executives who find it least challenging to communicate their own company's reputation across the globe are most likely to work for companies that focus equally on parent and product reputation. This shows that, especially for global companies, parent and product brand reputations are interdependent.

The reputation of the parent company is often the make-or-break factor in purchase decisions. Nearly four in 10 consumers (38%) say that the reputation of a parent company has altered their preference for which products and/or services they buy.

On the executive front, nearly nine in 10 global executives (86%) report that a strong corporate, or parent, brand is just as important as – or even more important than – strong product brands. A full 83% believe that product brands need to be transparent about their lineage, and 73% believe that consumers care about parent companies. These beliefs are common to B2C executives and B2B executives alike. Executives recognize that consumers today are not just purchasing products or services for their functionality, but are also shopping by the reputation of the company.

"The research has identified the importance for companies to integrate overall well-being and 'good-for-me' into their marketing and communications. Increasingly, consumers are asking themselves 'what's in this for me?'" said Weber Shandwick's chief reputation strategist Leslie Gaines-Ross. "Companies that care about their corporate reputation are working overtime to answer that very question."