As the first half of 2019 has passed, the weather is warming up but the average Trust & Like Score for the Top 20 companies in the UK is starting to cool down. At the beginning of the year, we noticed an overall increase in public perceptions in the UK – especially for companies working proactively to bring stability and credibility during times of political uncertainty. However, it appears that perhaps the unrelenting uncertainty of Brexit, rising costs and trade conditions are finally starting to take a toll on consumer sentiment as the average score for all 20 companies decreased from 66.8 in Q1 2019 to 64.9 in Q2 2019. Even more surprising is that not one of the top 20 most known FTSE companies saw a significant increase in public perceptions.
There may be trouble on high street but UK retailers still hold a place in the hearts of the British public. Despite store closures and the difficultly keeping up with evolving consumer preferences, Marks & Spencer managed to bypass ITV to reclaim its former 2018 title as the UK’s most trusted and liked company. Though neither company saw a significant change in perceptions, Marks & Spencer’s 3.1-point rise was enough to overtake the British broadcaster. ITV had issues of its own surrounding the cancelation of its most popular daytime programme, The Jeremy Kyle Show. Though the broadcaster suffered a 2.5-point fall in perceptions over the quarter, this drop was not significant enough to take the company out of the top 5.
Next up, British retailer Next holds a steady score earning 2nd place in our reputation ranking. The major retailer recently adopted a new service with Amazon pickup points in store. It will be interesting to see if this move to stay relevant will make or break future perceptions. Finally, despite the failed merger with Asda, Sainsbury’s score remains stable – earning the title as the 3rd most trusted and liked company in the UK.
Q2 2019 was a tough quarter for many companies in the UK top 20 but it appears some have suffered more than others. From the beginning of Q2, BT Group fell under scrutiny following the announcement of restructuring plans. 96% of balloted staff opposed BT’s move and considered the restructuring short-sighted. Such a dramatic change in corporate culture may be what’s responsible for the company’s 9.4-point fall in public perceptions – especially as one of the most influential yet overlooked stakeholder groups are typically employees. Later in the quarter, accusations of accounting fraud scandals most likely decreased integrity perceptions and helped to fan the flames. Will the proposed employee ownership model be enough to help improve corporate culture and perceptions?
Insurance company Direct Line Group may be feeling the effects of uncertainty more than others with the second largest drop of 6.1 points over Q2. This change in perceptions may be due to the departure of executive director Mike Holliday-Williams. With high uncertainty in both the economic and political environment, it may be that a change in leadership heightens anxieties – especially when trying to replace an “exceptional leader”.
British banking behemoth Barclays fell in perceptions by 6.1 points over Q2. This decrease could be due to the €1bn fine for collusive behavior in the foreign exchange market. Integrity in banking has been a major factor affecting public perceptions in the industry, but surprisingly none of the other implicated banks had a similar decrease in reputation. The financial giant made perhaps another major misstep in terms of authenticity with one of its latest initiatives – and its reaction to customer complaints about updating the iconic blue logo in the Barclays app to a temporary rainbow logo for Pride month.
Overall, it looks like economic and political pressures are starting to noticeably affect public sentiment in the UK. The average Trust & Like Score for UK companies is declining, and not one of the top 20 most known FTSE companies saw a significant improvement in their reputation score. British retailers still hold a place in the hearts of the public but a few companies seem to be slipping. We look forward to seeing whether perceptions change next quarter as the October 31st deadline approaches.
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