Hacking hits Sony’s reputation

Hacker attacks on the PlayStation Network have hit Sony’s reputation in key developed markets, according to a new ranking of the world’s 100 most reputable companies.

Sony slipped from second to sixth in the Reputation Institute’s “RepTrak” ranking, which was again topped by Google.

But its overall score – measured by what consumers across 15 markets thought about Sony’s products and performance, as well other elements such as leadership and governance – was slightly higher in 2011 compared with 2010.

That was due in part to strong support from consumers in developing countries, where the hacker attack did not have as much impact.

Overall, Sony’s reputation fell most sharply in the UK, Germany, Australia, Japan and the US, according to the consultancy.

The institute polled consumers before and after the hacker attacks were made public. On one specific measure, the proportion of US consumers who would recommend Sony to others dropped from 79 per cent before the April cyber attacks to 67 per cent in May.

But Kasper Ulf Nielsen, executive partner at the Reputation Institute, said Sony’s resilience in the crisis was also due to its strong reputation before the hacker attacks were made public. He compared Sony to BP, which did not make it into the top 100, but – in a separate UK RepTrak survey released earlier this year – showed the largest drop in reputation following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon rig disaster.

Crises such as those that have affected companies like BP, Sony and Toyota (following a worldwide product recall) have encouraged boards to concentrate more attention on reputation and crisis management. Aon, the insurance broker, recently teamed up with WPP, the marketing services group, and Zurich Financial Services to offer an insurance policy that would help pay for advertising, lobbying and public relations after a crisis.

The RepTrak ranking shows that even the reputation of the best-known companies varies across markets. None of the companies in the global top 10 – led this year by Google, Apple and Walt Disney – made it into the top 10 of all 15 national markets surveyed. Nokia dropped out of the top 10 this year – from seventh to 15th – but, despite its painful attempt to recover market share, it was the company with the highest reputation in Brazil, Russia, India and China, for the second year running. The mobile phone company’s good name in those markets “is theirs to lose”, said Mr Nielsen.

The Reputation Institute’s ranking shows that the energy and utilities sectors have slipped most in the past year, while banks and financial services companies – hit hard after the credit crunch – have recovered slightly.

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