The personality behind the most reputable brands

Monday, November 19, 2018

Have you ever wondered how your brand's personality could impact your company’s reputation and trust with customers?

To find out, we analyzed the key traits found in the press release strategies of the top 50 most reputable U.S., U.K., and global brands using IBM’s Watson Personality API to see what their “brand personalities” had in common:

  • Openness was one of the most recognizable traits among the most reputable brands. On average, brands ranked in the 87th percentile for openness, which could indicate a propensity to take risks on new ventures and initiatives.
  • Rolex, Barilla, and Fruit of the Loom, among other top brands, scored in the 99th percentile for openness.
  • Trust was also a key trait for reputable brands. On average, the top companies scored in the 92nd percentile for trust and the 94th for uncompromising standards.
  • Brands in the food industry showed particularly high levels of conscientiousness in their press and branding efforts, and technology companies had the highest levels of emotional range.

Building Transparency and Trust

In many industries, especially food, retail, and apparel, an increasing number of brands are popping up – making brands’ reliability essential to maintaining customer loyalty and reaching new buyers.

In today’s climate, companies’ actions can create shockwaves in an instant – for better or worse. One tweet from a employee or customer can turn into a public relations nightmare, making trust a key personality trait that brands need to possess if they want to thrive in the long term. For customers, trust establishes a sense of openness and transparency that’s just as important as the price of a company’s goods or services.

There are many reputable brands out there that have built loyal followings by showcasing traits like trust, imagination, and friendliness. Using IBM’s Watson Personality Insights tool, we took a look at the press releases of the world’s most reputable companies as determined by the Reputation Institute’s U.S., U.K., and Global RepTrak studies.

Let’s take a look at the personalities of brands with the best reputations and how you can improve your own brand’s voice and identity based on our findings.

Reputation Matters

While the most reputable companies differ between the U.S., U.K., and globally, all of the brands listed above share several qualities. According to the Reputation Institute, the most reputable brands are determined by examining the quality of their overall performance, products or services, innovation, workplace environment, company governance, citizenship, and leadership.

The Campbell Soup Company was the No. 1 most reputable brand in the U.S., and Rolex took the top spot on both the U.K. and global list. Campbell Soup Company has been around for about 150 years, but its renewed focus on corporate social responsibility and more natural product offerings may have boosted it to the top spot in 2018. As one of the most loved brands in America, Campbell Soup Company seems to have discovered how important it is to adjust its product lineup according to its target audience.

Rolex, a company known for its luxury watches, scored highest with U.K. consumers. The company is often a sponsor of successful athletes in sports like golf and equestrian events, which means consumers may associate the brand and its products with desirable qualities like wealth and victory.

Five Key Personality Factors

In the same way that friends and family can have distinct personalities, brands might have traits that set them apart. The five basic personality traits – openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and emotional range – are known as the "Big Five."

On average, the top 50 most reputable brands in the U.S. and U.K. had higher levels of openness than the global top 50. The most reputable brands in the U.S. and U.K. scored around the 91st and 89th percentiles for this trait. Openness may be common among reputable brands because it could indicate a propensity for risk-taking in marketing efforts, whether in an advertising campaign or the innovative delivery of a product or service.

A high level of openness and emotional range combined with conscientiousness may allow for brands to meet consumers on a deeper level through their public relations or marketing efforts, building loyalty and trust through their customer communications. The top brands did, however, score in the lower percentiles for agreeableness, which could indicate independence in branding and marketing.

The “Big Five” Traits

Rolex ranked No. 1 in the U.K. and globally as the most reputable brand. Rolex also scored in the highest percentile for openness (99.8 percent), which could indicate that this brand embraces change and innovation while remaining steadfast in its pursuit of providing a high-end experience.

Although most brands in our analysis scored in a lower percentile for agreeableness, Barnes & Noble exhibited this trait more so than other brands, with The Hershey Company coming in second. In a world of two-day free shipping and lower prices from goliath retailers like Amazon.com Inc., Barnes & Noble has used its brick-and-mortar presence to help boost otherwise slumping online sales. And while sales of its e-book devices have trended down in recent years, Barnes & Noble maintains the device is an important part of its lineup.

Mastercard Inc. scored highest for emotional range. The brand is a great example of a company that knows how to reach its customers on an emotional level. Its well-known “Priceless” campaign focused on tugging heartstrings with the idea that experiences are more important than things – an interesting tactic for a brand focused on finance.

The Making of a Great Reputation

Ranking the personality traits for the most reputable brands in the U.S. and the U.K.

Now, we’ll dive into the specific characteristics that make up the “Big Five.” To show you how these traits may be personified, we showcased which celebrities scored highest for each personality aspect. Explore the interactive chart above to see which brands and celebrities scored in the highest percentile for each trait, as well as how the most reputable brands scored on average.

We also were interested in which of the 25 qualities were most associated with highly reputable brands. On average, all of the top brands scored at least 90 percent for the following five traits. They included:

  • Immoderation
  • Friendliness
  • Uncompromising
  • Trust
  • Orderliness

On average, the most reputable brands scored in the 92nd percentile for trust. A high score in this area indicates a propensity to believe the best about others. When this quality comes through in branding efforts and is backed up by a solid reputation, it can be incredibly attractive for consumers. According to our analysis, Toyota was one of the top brands in this area, so it comes as no surprise that it’s also one of the top 5 most trusted automobile brands in the U.S. Toyota has maintained its leading reputation for reliability through while completely redesigning its popular Camry model and continuing to innovate its hybrid Prius model.

The most reputable brands also had high scores for immoderation. At first glance, immoderation might not seem like a positive trait for a reputable brand, but a high score for immoderation can also indicate a deep passion for pursuing a company’s values, goals, and ideas.

Lavazza Premium Coffee Corp., an Italian coffee company, scored in the highest percentile for immoderation in our analysis. In this case, the high immoderation score could be affected by its press releases that continuously emphasize a passion for excellence and desire to consistently deliver an exceptional coffee-drinking experience to its customers.

Uncompromising was also a major trait of brands with solid reputations, and we can look to Ikea as an example. Aspects of the company’s branding illustrate an uncompromising ethos in its global future living lab, which is an innovation center focused on tackling global issues such as food insecurity. This lab, which doesn’t have much to do with Ikea’s furniture product offerings, shows a commitment to making life better for vulnerable people through forward-thinking and socially driven projects.

Brand Personality Deep Dive

Despite many similarities, there were some differences in the traits of the top U.S. and U.K. brands. For instance, Rolex clinched the top spot in the U.K. and globally and came in the 18th spot in the U.S. Some of the most prominent qualities in Rolex’s branding were imagination, friendliness, and self-discipline.

The difference in ranking could be partially be attributed to the fact that Rolex was founded in London over 110 years ago. British shoppers have a long-standing history with the brand, while those in the U.S. may be less familiar with the luxury watchmaker.

Nike Inc. was another company that ranked quite differently between the U.S. and U.K. It was the second most reputable brand in the U.S., while in the U.K., it did not rank in the top 50.

Uncompromising, sympathy, and gregariousness were some of Nike Inc.’s top traits. In 2018, after the RepTrak study results were released, Nike Inc. made waves by spotlighting former NFL player Colin Kaepernick at the heart of its “Just Do It” campaign. This decision was made despite knowing how divisive the decision might be and the well-publicized backlash that followed. This campaign could be an example of an uncompromising commitment to values as well as a high level of empathy. After the ad aired, it was revealed that Nike Inc. had previously debated parting ways with Kaepernick before making him the face of one of its most prestigious campaigns.

Interestingly, the third-most reputable brand in the U.K., Bosch Ltd., did not make it into the top 50 brands in the U.S. At a time where Americans have heightened awareness and concern about the loss of manufacturing jobs to other countries, Bosch Ltd. has actually increased job opportunities in the U.S. They opened a new dishwasher plant in North Carolina in addition to a new research center in California, bringing the total number of U.S. associates to nearly 34,500. Perhaps the reputation and profile of this technology company will increase in the U.S. as they continue to expand initiatives and employment opportunities.

Industry Breakdown

Now, let’s take a look at how the “Big Five” personality traits filter down through specific industries, specifically with auto, apparel, food, technology, and electronic companies.

The most reputable food and apparel brands ranked highest for openness (94.6 percent and 94.3 percent, respectively). This could illustrate that these industries are influenced by trends and have a willingness to adapt to change. Apparel brands also scored among the highest for agreeableness and extraversion. More and more consumers desire transparency from their clothing manufacturers, and that includes both what the products are made from and where they’re produced. With millennials spending less money on fast fashion, brands can adapt by being both transparent about their practices and innovative with their designs and production.

With so many automotive brands on the market, they may need a little more creativity and openness to reach their ideal consumers. The Toyota Prius marketing strategy is a great example. Toyota established a YouTube channel centered on the popular board game, Life, that may resonate with consumers who have memories of the game. By making fun videos that engage and educate, Toyota could be reaching its audience in ways that build trust and loyalty.

While tech brands scored the lowest for openness (79.3 percent), they also scored highest in emotional range (88.7 percent), which indicates they may be more rigid in their practices regardless of current trends. Trust and honesty certainly matter to consumers, which might not bode well as tech giants have come under fire in recent months regarding privacy and personal data usage.

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