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Industry Ranking Review 2018

At Caliber, we measure public perceptions of hundreds of companies around the globe on a daily basis, which helps us understand how companies can build trust and improve business results.

This time, we took a step further and looked at how industry sectors are perceived, as an average of the scores given to companies within these sectors in 13 different markets: Brazil, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the US.

The results came as a surprise to us, questioning some of the old stereotypes and revealing new tendencies.

Love me, love me not

As expected, the industry sectors that are most trusted and liked by people worldwide are the ones deemed closest to consumers’ hearts. From toy manufacturers to FMCG companies, they include some of the most loved brands the world over.

While these sectors are becoming increasingly scrutinized for their impact on people’s health, the environment, and society at large – they are still viewed positively, probably thanks to their relevance to people’s everyday lives, and their ability to continuously meet the ever-growing expectations and wishes of their stakeholders. One sector that stands out at the top is Medical Devices – a curious phenomenon that we’ll come back to.

On the other end of the spectrum, we find the usual suspects – the “greedy” banks and insurance companies, the “rip-off” telecoms operators, logistics companies seen by many as “offering nothing but late deliveries and terrible customer service”, and the “environmentally harmful” energy suppliers.

These highly regulated and little-loved sectors have been struggling with negative perceptions in most countries for many years now, but we did find some cases of individual companies belonging to these sectors that manage to distance themselves from the pack and outperform their peers reputationally. There were not enough of them, though, to lift the sectors’ average performance.

It’s crowded in the middle

In the middle of the ranking, the density of results is quite high, and we find ten industry sectors – from Construction to Automotive – within a narrow range of roughly 5 points in the Trust & Like Score.

Here, we see Machinery and Components next to Software & IT Services; and Airlines sharing the rank with General Retail.

As opposed to the top and the bottom of the list, the middle section is much more diverse, including both B2B and B2C sectors; infrastructure, and heavy industry rubbing shoulders with the lifestyle and digital worlds. Why is that the case?

Well, there seems to be an interesting phenomenon at play: previously-loved sectors like automotive and tech are increasingly losing their shine due to scandals relating to data privacy and environmental impact or the overall public sense of amassing too much power and using it negatively.

These sectors are becoming less trusted and liked and, therefore, drop to the middle of the ranking – where they meet other “grey” industry sectors that have traditionally been placed there due to the lack of public interest on one side and the relative obscurity on the other side which spares them scrutiny and downright dislike. So it ends up being crowded in the middle, but not always for the same reasons.

Blame the sector?

The biggest myth-busting conclusions emerge when comparing sectors that are thematically related but are still positioned in different parts of the ranking.

Medical Devices is ranked 3rd, while Pharmaceuticals is much further down at #14. Chemicals are ranked 11th (not far from the Apples and Samsungs of the world at #10), while Energy & Utilities is at #18. Construction is placed in the strong 7th place, while Transportation & Logistics are scraping the bottom of the barrel and ranked as the 3rd worst-performing sector.

This illustrates two things: On the one hand, there are no longer sectors that can consider themselves immune to scandals and scrutiny, and all need to continually focus on winning and maintaining public trust and affection.

On the other hand, and this is very positive news indeed, it does in fact seem possible, even for those industries that historically have had troubles with public trust, to rise up the reputational ranking and secure a license to operate from society.

The excuse of being part of a sector that people “love to hate” is no longer valid. There are no wrong sectors, just wrong actions and companies that misunderstand public and societal expectations. The way to winning public trust is tougher for some than it is for others, but with the right focus and consistency, every organization can do it.

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