2019 has been a colorful year in Denmark. It started well with the national team securing the World Cup trophy in handball, and continued with the Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s burst of laughter in parliament – before Greta Thunberg gave everyone a bad conscience for not thinking enough about sustainability and the well-being of future generations. This is probably why the Danish public’s thumbs up in Q1 and Q2 when it comes to its perceptions of Big Business did a 180 in the second half of the year.
Jokes aside, the Denmark Top 100 reputation ranking of the biggest and most known companies in the country in 2019 has shown a general downward trend in public sentiment, following a successful year in 2018. The development has taken many by surprise, as the prominent Danish business newspaper Børsen put it in its recent article on the topic (in Danish). But is the trend really that surprising?
When we look at the ranking we see many of the same companies in the top 10 and top 20 as last year. A few of them have improved their perceptions among the general public in Denmark, while others saw a decline throughout 2019.
While the top of the list looks somewhat similar to 2018, some drastic changes did occur: a very significant decline in the Trust & Like Score for Falck, which managed to get many things wrong in the case involving its Dutch competitor Bios; the continuing downhill for Danske Bank that reached a historical reputational low in the prolonged aftermath of its money-laundring case; and a significant score drop for Nykredit Bank, which got mentioned a bit more than necessary in connection with investigations of fraud cases at Nordea and Danske Bank.
But what really is an eyecatcher in the 2019 results is that the vast majority of score movements is negative. In fact, only 1 out of the 100 companies included in the ranking witnessed a statistically significant rise in its score – and that is Spar Nord Bank. This is a remarkable situation, and one we have never seen before, which has led us to wonder if there had been a big crisis in Corporate Denmark that we somehow missed. The truth, however, is that there was no big crisis. There were no big stories that newspapers could push for months and “familien Danmark” (read: the ordinary Danish household) could converse about on a Friday evening while eating liquorish and watching baking contests. And THAT may be the main reason behind the decreasing public trust and affection towards big companies last year.
Perhaps it’s the lack of breakthrough news from Corporate Denmark that left people unimpressed, or the sameness of messages around innovation and sustainability. Or perhaps people’s expectations from Big Business are getting higher: it’s one thing to deliver commercial results or products and services to people’s satisfaction – but another thing to deliver on their expectations in terms of behavior, ethics and culture. Most large companies in Denmark seem to have failed to meet expectations on the latter in 2019.
A few weeks ago the Danish national handball team got a bit of a “cold shower” when it failed to proceed beyond the qualifying stage of the EHF Championship. Many said they relied far too much on the tactics that brought them victories in the past, and did not prepare enough for the future challenges. Maybe that metaphor can be applied to the Top 100 companies as well, following the unexciting year of 2019.
ABOUT THE STUDY
The results are based on Caliber’s real-time tracker that measures public perceptions of the most prominent companies in Denmark on a daily basis. The scores underpinning the ranking are based on the average responses to 2 separate questions presented on a 1-7 scale: to what extent respondents trust and like each company. The scores are then normalized into a 0-100 scale without any weighting or adjustments. The 2019 full year results are based on more than 67.000 evaluations from approx. 8.100 unique respondents. The results represent the Danish population along key demographic indicators. As the data is collected continuously on a daily basis, rather than at one point in time as is often the case in comparable studies, results can be seen as being representative of all news and activities that occurred throughout the year. All results shown in the Top 100 ranking can be further broken down along age, gender, geography and occupation.
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