A company's policies and the impact it has on society can have a resounding effect on the sales of its brands, according to APCO's latest report on consumer behavior.
The independent PR firm sought to evaluate corporate brand strength and people's relationships to those brands by surveying a sample of nearly 10,000 consumers from 15 markets around the world. It selected four attributes --alignment, authenticity, attachment and advocacy -- to measure the reputation of 500 global brands and how that affects their sales, resulting in its "Champion Brand Index."
The 30 global brands that floated to the top based on those four attributes represented a mix of industries, including retail, automotive and consumer packaged goods. But the report highlights the prevalence of technology companies -- mostly computer hardware and service brands such as Apple, Dell, HP, Google, Yahoo and China's Baidu.
"They are at the center of redefining the way we live our lives and they are seen as a powerful force for personal and societal change across cultures," said Robert Schooling, APCO president in the Americas. "We literally spend the vast majority of our waking hours interacting with technology brands. Increasingly, this intimate relationship with technology is more holistic than the relationships people develop with many other types of brands, leading to a greater potential to develop brand strength."
These technology brands are also likely behind a more active and influential group of consumer stakeholders that's paying closer attention to corporate action. For example, in one survey question, 40% of respondents said they decided not to buy a company's products or service because they don't agree with the company's practices, policies or activities.
The notion that corporate brand beats product can be tied to the impact consumers believe these companies have on their lives. The survey found that 77% of respondents believe that corporations have a bigger impact on their lives today than they did 10 years ago. Nearly half of all respondents say that global companies have a bigger impact on their lives than the government, and 60% think that companies now serve some functions in society that were previously reserved only for government. The firm also asked people if they agreed that it is as important to know how a company operates as it is to know what it sells; 25% "strongly agreed" and 42% "somewhat agreed."
Among the 15 markets, "the belief that companies are playing a bigger and bigger role in society, and thus have bigger obligations, is strongest in the developed economies. But there is also evidence that the trend is growing in developing regions: 56% of the respondents from those economies think companies have a bigger impact on their life than government, compared with 36% in developed economies.