10 American companies with the worst reputations

Whether you’re deciding which fast food joint to grab a burger from, which bank to open a savings account with, or which airline to use for your next family vacation…you typically have options. And when it comes time to make a decision, there’s a good chance you’ll take each brand’s reputation into consideration.

That’s right: just like people, all companies have a reputation. To find out which big brands are struggling with a weak reputation, we teamed up with Reputation Institute.

Read more: Here’s what happened to all of the brands Sears used to own, from a car-insurance company to a hardware store

Reputation Institute evaluates companies across seven “dimensions“: products and services, innovation, workplace, governance, citizenship, leadership, and performance. The categories serve as drivers of reputation, some more than others in certain industries. Reputation scores can fall anywhere between 0 and 100: 0-39 is considered poor, 40-59 is considered weak, 60-69 is considered average, 70-79 is considered strong, and 80 and above is considered excellent.

These 10 companies all performed poorly in Reputation Institute’s 2019 US RepTrak 100 study, where Netflix, Whirlpool, and Hershey ranked as the top three; additionally, they all ranked lowest in their respective industries. The study considered more than 167,000 individual ratings and more than 680 nominated companies.

A study conducted by Axios and Harris Poll also cited many of the same low-scoring companies, including Sears, the Trump Organization, and Philip Morris tobacco company. Business Insider’s retail team has covered Sears’ downfall, along with improvements other brands – such as McDonald’s – are making in an attempt to boost their reputations.

Keep reading for a look at ten of Reputation Institute’s lowest-scoring companies:

Fast food: McDonald’s average score represents the public’s concern with fast food companies in the food and beverage industry.

A McDonald’s restaurant.
Abigail Abesamis

Reputation score: 60.1 (average)

“Although it is ahead of its main competitor Burger King in areas of products and especially innovation, McDonald’s doesn’t get the emotional capital that Burger King does,” Reputation Institute told Business Insider in a report.

“At a time of environmental and social changes, the food and beverage industry is under a lot of pressure to innovate and deliver high quality, ethically sourced and health products,” added Reputation Institute.

Reputation Institute acknowledged this expectation is hard to meet as a fast-food company; while McDonald’s has added fresh beef burgers to its menu, progressive steps are “yet to translate into the perception of the general public.”

Reputation Institute also noted that in 2019, the idea of fast food now includes companies such as Sweetgreen or BonMe, which offer much healthier options.

Automotive: Volkswagen is actually an average-scoring company overall, but ranked lowest in the automotive industry.

People pass in front of a Volkswagen logo ahead of the Shanghai Auto Show.

Reputation score: 63.7 (average)

Reputation Institute highlighted that innovation is Volkswagen’s weakest area – a category that also happens to be “a top 3 key driver for the automotive industry.” Reputation Institute also acknowledged that while the company is making advancements with electric cars, it still is miles behind competitors such as Tesla and Toyota.

Retail: In the retail industry, Sears continues to earn low scores after narrowly avoiding bankruptcy.

A dismantled sign sits leaning outside a Sears department store in Nanuet.

Reputation score: 58.6 (weak)

“The retail industry is going through a transformation between the battle of brick and mortar versus online, but reputationally they have been recovering and holding strong, with financial performance being one of its strongest areas,” Reputation Institute told Business Insider. “Sears, on the other hand, is not following the trend and falls on the lower end of reputation.”

Business Insider’s Hayley Peterson previously covered Sears chair Eddie Lampert winning court approval to buy Sears out of bankruptcy, only to have its “store of the future” close just six months after its opening.

Energy: BP received a weak score due to environmental concerns.

Logo of BP is seen at a petrol station in Kloten.

Reputation score: 58.0 (weak)

“Corporate responsibility remains a challenge for BP and it is yet to regain the trust of the public and be perceived as an ethical and environmentally compliant company,” Reputation Institute told Business Insider.

Business Insider’s Richard Feloni previously reported BP chairman Helge Lund pledged the company will become more transparent in response to pressure from shareholders.

Airline: Spirit Airlines ranked last as they fail to compete with other airlines’ products and services.

A Spirit Airlines plane.
Philip Pilosian/Shutterstock

Reputation score: 54.2 (weak)

Like Volkswagen, Spirit Airlines’ lacks in its industry’s biggest driver: for the airline industry, products and services remain the most pertinent category.

“While the rest of the airline companies in the US find their strengths in their products and innovation and struggle with perceptions of workplace and corporate responsibility, Spirit Airlines goes against the trend,” Reputation Institute reported to Business Insider, “That being said across all seven dimensions their scores are weak, so there is an opportunity for improvement on all fronts.”

Business Insider’s Kim Renfro previously reported what it’s like to fly on the budget airline, which is notorious for its uncomfortable arrangements, booking issues, and additional charges.

Finance: Goldman Sachs trails behind other finance and investment companies.

Reputation score: 52.8 (weak)

Goldman Sachs is seen as being profitable (strongest score in this business area) while not ethical,” Reputation Institute reported to Business Insider.

“Post the financial crisis, the industry has been recovering and stabilizing with an average reputation,” added Reputation Institute. “Goldman Sachs has not been able to shake this off and its reputation is trailing behind the industry average by about 16 pts.”

Media: Best known as a cable provider, media conglomerate Comcast is ranked poorly in its ever-changing industry.

The Comcast NBC logo is shown on a building in Los Angeles, California.

Reputation score: 51.3 (weak)

Reputation Institute reported to Business Insider that, like Goldman Sachs, Comcast is seen as profitable. However, Reputation Institute noted, “Comcast’s challenge is in innovation and workplace – with weak scores in areas such as ‘first to market,’ ‘concern for well-being of employees’ and ‘excellent managers.’ “

“In the age of Netflix, there is no time for falling behind in innovation in a transformative industry,” added Reputation Institute.

Tobacco: Philip Morris — best known for Marlboro cigarettes — received a weak score.

Packs of Marlboro cigarettes are displayed for sale at a convenience store in Somerville.
Thomson Reuters

Reputation score: 45.9 (weak)

“Not surprisingly, the tobacco industry has a reputational challenge and is judged for its perceived negative contribution to society,” Reputation Institute told Business Insider. “On the other hand, it is an industry that is seen as focused on profits; this is even true for Philip Morris – its highest score is in financial performance.”

Technology: In Silicon Valley, Facebook continues to struggle with its reputation.

Reputation score: 45.2 (weak)

Reputation Institute reported to Business Insider that Mark Zuckerberg’s social media giant returned weak to poor score across all seven business areas of reputation.

Mea culpa won’t cut it for Facebook,” Reputation Institute told Business Insider, “The company is turning into the ugly duckling of the industry and has failed to keep its promises over and over – actions need to speak for them. Other technology companies such as Apple are reacting to the privacy challenge with technological solutions.”

Real Estate: Finally, the Trump Organization received the lowest score out of all 10 bottom-ranked companies.

Reputation score: 33.8 (poor)

“At the end of the reputation spectrum in 2019 is the Trump Organization with poor scores across all seven dimensions – especially when it comes to governance, citizenship, and workplace,” Reputation Institute concluded.