Apple earned the top spot in a new corporate reputation study by Harris Poll (via TechCrunch). It awarded Apple with a corporate reputation quotient of 85.63, which is enough to displace a second-ranked Google with a score of 82.82. Only eight companies earned an RQ score of 80 or above that denotes “excellent reputation.” Apple’s achievement is even more noteworthy knowing Google ranked as last year’s most reputable corporation. Facebook and Intel did not appear on the list this year at all. As for Apple’s rise:

Apple’s current dominance is built on strong investments in its brand, predominantly through its products and services. This one-dimensional approach to building reputation has ultimately yielded high associations with all six reputational dimensions. Conversely, Hewlett Packard, which once out-ranked Apple, has headed in the reverse direction. Hewlett Packard’s slowly eroding reputation has been injured by negative perceptions on Ethics and Vision & Leadership dimensions, and its brand is beginning to feel the damage.

Beverages giant Coca-Cola (No. 3), online retailer Amazon (No. 4) and multinational confectionery, food and beverage conglomerate Kraft Foods (No. 5) round out the top five. Apple ranked the highest in Financial Performance, Products & Services, Vision & Leadership and Workplace Environment—four  out of the six key dimensions in reputation. Interestingly, rules the Emotional Appeal category, even though it lacks brick-and-mortar stores and has a limited human interaction with its customers…

Apple’s “elite score” is the highest score the research firm saw for any company in the 13 years of the RQ study. It’s interesting that Coca-Cola jumped to the No. 2 spot from the No. 15 place last year. Amazon went from No. 8 in 2011 to the fourth slot in 2012. Harris Poll Reputation Quotient seeks to measure corporate reputation for the 60 most visible brands in the United States. In all, the several brands with an RQ score of 80 or above were cut in half, from 16 in 2011 to just eight in 2012. Robert Fronk, the executive vice president and Global Corporate Reputation Practice Lead for Harris Interactive, said in a written statement:

We are seeing the emergence of a group of companies that garner reputation equity by being positively associated with multiple industries. Companies like Apple, Google, and combine innovation and leadership across multiple business areas, giving them true competitive advantage.

Other findings:

• In the future, Americans would “definitely” buy products & services from (71 percent), Kraft Foods (70 percent), and the Coca-Cola Company (64 percent). • Americans would “definitely” recommend to others products & services from (64 percent) and Kraft Foods (57 percent). • in the future Americans would “definitely” invest in stock from (34 percent), Microsoft (23 percent), and the Coca-Cola Company (23 percent). • Americans would “definitely” recommend to others to invest in stock from (46 percent), the Coca-Cola Company (25 percent), and Microsoft (24 percent).

Why is there no mention of Americans recommending investment in Apple’s stock? Talk about undervaluation.

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