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Can a company succeed by focusing on a narrow segment?

At Caliber we regularly publish rankings and insights about the brand and reputation of prominent companies. In our analyses we typically focus on general trends and patterns in explaining why some companies are trusted and liked, while others are not. But as the saying goes, “the devil is in the detail”. And indeed, if we take a closer look at how respondents rate the different companies it quickly becomes apparent that perceptions are often unevenly distributed across segments.

Confirming gender stereotypes?

Companies like Danfoss, Grundfos and VELUX are usual suspects in our regular Top 10 lists in Denmark. But if women could decide, these icons of Danish industry would be placed well outside of the top 10. While men rank Danfoss, Grundfos and VELUX as number 3, 4, and 5 respectively – among women these companies hold the positions of 12, 16 and 19. Instead, women trust and like companies like Georg Jensen (4), Matas (5) and IKEA (6) – ranked only 19, 16 and 23 respectively by men.

… and generation differences

The fact that The Coca-Cola Company resonates with the young should not come as a surprise. But what should be the company’s real concern is how low it is ranked by other generations. While it is ranked 7 in our Top 100 list among those aged 18-24, the “more mature” 25-34 and 35-44 year-olds rate The Coca-Cola Company much more poorly – at rank 60 and 49 respectively. Older generations, of ages 45-64 and 65-75, feel even worse about the beverage manufacturer and rank it at 84 and 94 respectively. This consistent disillusionment with the company as age progresses should be taken as a serious warning by the folks in Atlanta – especially when it comes to aging societies.

A company with brighter reputational prospects in Denmark is Københavns Lufthavne. While ranked around the top 10 by most age groups, the company is number 5 among ages 18-24; those who see the World as their backyard and the airport as their gateway to it.

Other less surprising trends are IKEA and Vestas being preferred by younger generations, SuperBrugsen and Danfoss by older people, and the 65-75 age group ranking ATP as high as no. 2.

And what about regional differences?

Novo Nordisk is one of the most trusted and liked companies in Denmark… at least if you ask those living in Copenhagen! For many local Danish companies the trend seems to be that the highest rankings are achieved in the areas where they are physically located. Besides Novo Nordisk (ranked 3 in Copenhagen and Greater Copenhagen) this is true for Grundfos (ranked 4 in Midtjylland), Danfoss (ranked 4 in Syddanmark) and Coloplast (ranked 8 in Greater Copenhagen) to mention a few.

So can success be explained by a strong yet narrow appeal?

Yes and no. There are companies that do well overall and are especially popular among a certain audience or segment. We can see, for example, that Vestas and Falck are favored by students, while senior managers and engineers trust and like Danfoss more than other sub-groups – and HR professionals rank Carlsberg no. 2 (right after LEGO). At the same time ECCO is the number 1 company among medical and healthcare professionals, while people working in financial services strongly prefer Matas (2), and those working at NGOs trust and like Københavne Lufthavne (3).

But at the end of the day – those companies that are most trusted and liked, besides having strong positions within specific socio-demographic sub-groups, remain strong across the board. LEGO, Rema 1000 and e-Boks, the top 3 companies in most of our rankings over the last 2 years, all maintain a broad appeal and manage their brand and reputation well when it comes to all stakeholders, not just those directly involved with their day-to-day activities. This highlights, once again, that brand and reputation cannot be managed in isolation from the outside world: a wide 360-degree focus is necessary if marketers and communicators are to win trust and affection, achieve the resulting preference and loyalty – and reap the commercial rewards that come with them.

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