One of the leading drivers of corporate reputation among consumers is how good or healthy a company’s products and services are for them, and how happy they make them feel, according to a new survey released today by global communications and engagement firm Weber Shandwick.

The degree to which products and services make individuals feel good or healthy was more important to reputation than any specific corporate responsibility initiatives, sometimes by wide margins.

“Our study highlights a heightened demand for more personalised corporate narratives,” says Andy Polansky, Weber Shandwick CEO. “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.”

The Weber Shandwick report, “The Company behind the Brand II: In Goodness We Trust” was conducted with KRC Research among consumers and senior executives in 21 global markets.

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, Weber Shandwick says the personal, individual benefits of a product are a prime consideration to drive purchasing decisions.

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.”

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 wrongdoings, 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%), what its leaders say (61%) or what exists in its advertising (61%).

“Proactive reputation risk management has never been more critical than it is today. Preparedness is a must, with a plan that ensures agility in mitigating and addressing issues and crises,” says Micho Spring, Weber Shandwick’s global corporate practice chair. “The drivers of reputation are tilting, and that those companies that recognize and respond to this new hierarchy will win consumers’ hearts and minds.”                  

According to Weber Shandwick successful communicators and marketers must be aware that the corporate imperative based on this dynamic is two-fold:

  1. At the product level, what products and services need to deliver is shifting from functional utility and basic quality to fulfillment of customer well-being - whether that is in the form of health, safety or simply being "good for you." Marketers should be aware of the rise of personal and purpose communications and the emerging trend that their companies' reputations are now influenced by the wellness and peace of mind that their goods deliver.
  2. At the corporate level, responsiveness is now a reputational mandate. As boards are hyper-focused on reputation risk, no corporate brand can afford to be without a crisis response plan or insights into predicting troubles ahead. On a more micro-level, brands need to respond to and engage with their stakeholders on a continual and agile basis.

“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?’” says Weber Shandwick’s chief reputation strategist Leslie Gaines-Ross. “Companies that care about their corporate reputation are working overtime to answer that very question.”