In the last few years there has been a drive to define a brand’s purpose, the broader and generally grander reason for being for the brand: it isn’t there just for stockholder value, apparently, but to generate a real, positive impact in the world. More recently, this grandiose vision has been somewhat muted into asking what is your brand’s essence; the core beliefs that define what the brand stands for.

The debate over the specific terminology of purpose or vision or essence may long continue – perhaps depending upon how lofty your perception of the role of brands – but what is true is that people have come to expect more from brands than ever before.

The rise of social media cannot be underestimated here. Not only does it help hold brands to account in real time and give oxygen to what might have otherwise been forgotten incidents – just think of United Airlines flight fiasco – it also allows individuals to have a more nuanced, personal conversation with the brand.

In line with this is the number of new brands that have reached global, market leading status in the span of one, founding, CEO’s tenure is bigger than ever before. Uber, Facebook, Airbnb, Amazon, Google are all brands whose image is closely linked to that of their founder. With Tesla as perhaps the most iconic brand of the moment in terms of a brand that mirrors the successes, and not, of its leader’s behaviours.

And finally, there is simply more choice now than ever before, meaning consumers have the luxury of looking beyond the rational function of the brand to seek something more to differentiate between a brand.

The importance of reputation

All of this is to say that the reputation of a brand has never been more important, or delicate.

In such a climate, Kadence sought to understand this is more detail. What drives the reputation of a brand – how much of it is built around the harder metrics of pure financial performance and market leadership, and how much is the softer elements of employee care and environmental consideration.

Kadence undertook a survey of 500 consumers in Singapore to look at how reputation is built; what are the different elements that drive reputation; and what is the most reputable brand in Singapore. The survey looked at 70 different brands, across 7 different sectors: airlines, automotive, consumer electronics, finance, food & drink, media and telecommunications.

The reputation leaders in Singapore

In Singapore, the national carrier, Singapore Airlines came out as being the dominant brand. The pride Singaporeans have for the national carrier continuing to show. This was followed by Apple, Nestle, Singtel and POSB as the top 5 reputable brands in Singapore.

Overall 4 Singaporean brands make it into the top 10: Singapore Airlines; Singtel; POSB; and DBS. With the other 6 positions going to a mix of international brands.

 
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Interestingly, all seven sectors are represented in the top 10: airlines; consumer electronics; food & beverage; telecommunications; banking; media and automotive. This suggests that the broader industry reputations that some categories have are outweighed by the individual perception of the brands themselves.

The different pillars of reputation

To create the reputation index we measured each brand 10 different elements that influence a brand’s reputation; which fall into 4 different pillars: brand performance; fairness; responsibility and trust.

At the harder, more profit driven side brands can be known for their dominance in the market: brand performance; whilst on the other end is the broader, softer perception of reputation: the trust the brand enjoys.

 
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By adding in the different pillars to the top 10 we can see the strengths of different brands. Singapore Airlines reputation comes from a more emotional, softer connection with consumers – where the brand has the highest Responsibility & Trust scores of any of the top 10 brands. In contract, Apple – which enjoys the highest score for Brand Performance – fairs much lower for other aspects on the Reputation Index, especially Fairness. 

Brand performance

 
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Apple’s global dominance as the world’s most valuable brand and the first brand to reach US$1 trillion in market capitalisation is reflected in its strength in the Performance pillar of the Reputation Index. 

The Performance pillar assess the brand on it’s financial return to investors; it’s brand uniqueness and category leadership; and how well known the brand is overall.

Following Apple in the top 5 are Disney, Singapore Airlines, Netflix and Singtel.

Fairness

 
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Xiaomi, the rising Chinese electronics giant, tops the top 10 rankings for the Fairness pillar of the Reputation Index. The brand’s focus on high performance, but value for money, products – in the face of expensive competitors like Apple – underpin the brand’s position. The fact that two other electronics brands – Oppo and Huawei – who are also starting to earn sizeable market share for smart phones shows the importance of fairness in the mind of consumers.

Scoot, Air Asia, Nestle and Oppo round out the top five, where the focus of Fairness is on fair pricing for products and services. Of the top 10 for Fairness, six are value for money consumer electronics or low cost carriers, who’s brand positioning is defined as their value for money, alternative price point against market leading competitors such as Apple, Samsung, and Singapore Airlines; who all enter the top 10 on Performance.

Responsibility

 
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Singapore Airlines, the national carrier, leads the top 10 for the Responsibility pillar. Responsibility incorporates two different focusses, one internal and the other external. Internally Responsibility reflects how well a brand treats its employees; externally the emphasis is on responsible behaviour towards the environment.

Singapore Airlines employee fairness strength here powers it to the top of the top 10. Discovery’s focus on responsible environmental behaviour helps it enjoy second place. With Nestle, Singtel, and Emirates rounding out the top 5.

Trust

 
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Singapore Airlines also enjoys top spot for the Trust pillar of Reputation. This is again followed by Discovery. With DBS, Apple and POSB rounding out the top 5. Trust focuses on the brands overall ethical credentials and the positive influence it has on society.

Singapore Airlines’ ethical strength is what allows the brand to top the Trust ranking; whilst for Discovery it’s broader positive influence on society is what gives it second place.

 

The importance of Trust on Reputation

Each of the different pillars – Success, Fairness, Responsibility and Trust – has a different level of influence on Reputation.

 
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Trust, followed by Responsibility, has the biggest impact upon Reputation; which helps explain the dominance of Singapore Airlines as the more reputable brand in the Index. Whereas, Fairness has the lowest. Despite topping the Fairness pillar, Xiaomi’s overall reputation falls out of the top 10 due to the limited impact of Fairness on Reputation.

A brand’s overall financial success and performance remains important for the brand’s overall growth and future. However, in terms of the reputation a brand enjoys, our Index highlights the importance of maintaining a focus on softer elements as well; especially the impact of a brand on its employees; the environment and society in general.