Best Brand Reputations 2012

Heinz makes its Marketing/Leger list debut at No. 1. How did your brand fare?

In the 2012 Marketing/Leger Corporate Reputation Survey, Heinz catapulted straight to Number One. Sure, its century-old heritage helped put it on top, but there are other keys to earning consumer respect. In this report, the 10 most reputable companies share their secrets to building and maintaining a great reputation

[Heinz] [Google] [Kellogg] [Sony] [Kraft] [Tim Hortons] [Campbell] [Canadian Tire] [Subway] [Staples] [Survey methodology]

Before the 2003 introduction of its fast-pouring, upside-down, squeezable plastic containers, Heinz was famous for the crawling pace of its ketchup, which had to be shaken, butter-knifed and pounded out of its glass bottles.

While those now-iconic bottles are still in use, there’s nothing slow about Heinz today. In its first year being included on the Marketing/Leger Corporate Reputation survey, Heinz shot straight to No. 1, knocking Google off the perch it’s held for the past three years.

That’s right: a 136-year-old condiment brand just beat the world’s most powerful internet company.

“It’s one of those companies that we don’t necessarily think about because it’s always there,” says Dave Scholz, vice-president at Leger Marketing in Toronto. “It’s like the picture that hangs on the wall or the person you always see standing at the bus stop; they’re just part of our life.

“It really speaks to the halo effect that reputation can give you because consumers like the product, like the brand and it has consistent quality, so they assume it must be the greatest corporate entity in Canada.”

While Heinz has other products besides ketchup (for instance, baby food and beans), respondents likely associated Heinz “the corporation” with its most recognizable product. “Consumers are buying and interacting with a very broad range of Heinz products, but for sure, [ketchup] would be the first thing that came to mind,” says Peter Luik, president and CEO of Heinz Canada. “And that’s okay because we’re very proud of our ketchup and we’re very proud of the place that it holds in people’s pantries and people’s families.”

Interestingly, four of the Top 10 companies are packaged goods companies that have each been in existence for a century or more: Heinz, Kellogg, Kraft and Campbell. In its first year being included in the survey, Campbell jumped straight to No. 7. “The benefit that a lot of packaged goods companies have is consistency—they’ve been around a long time and consumers have faith in them,” says Scholz. “They are part of our lives and it’s very difficult for them to screw that up.”

Below are profiles of the survey’s Top Ten. Click the three listings at the right to get a better view of the full list.

1. Heinz

2011 Rank: n/a
The company launched a number of new products in 2011: Heinz Simply, a line of baby food packaged in a pouch with a spout and child-safe cap; Weight Watchers’ Smart Ones Satisfying Selections dinners; Dip and Squeeze ketchup packets, which can be squeezed out through one end or the lid can be peeled back for dipping; and—as part of a partnership with Coca-Cola—ketchup in a PlantBottle, which was developed by Coca-Cola and is made from 30% plant-based material.

Protect the Rep
“We attempt to do what we have done in the last 103 years in Canada,” says Luik. (The company was founded in Pennsylvania in 1869 and expanded here in 1909.) “We’re very focused on making high-quality products that consumers want across a broad range of categories… offering excellent quality and good value.”

Good Deeds
Heinz is a big supporter of the United Way and supports charities focused on improving nutrition, health and the environment. But on the social-good front, the company just believes in doing the right thing, says Luik. “It’s a company that believes in having products that can be trusted and believes in being a good citizen. That basic philosophy lives very strongly today.”

Reputation Tips
“Never take shortcuts on quality and stand behind your products,” says Luik. “Be focused on consumers and what their needs are now and in the future. Have a clear vision internally and a strong set of values and treat employees with respect. Always behave in an ethical manner and ensure that everybody in the organization understands that there’s never an excuse not to behave in an ethical manner.”

2. Google

2011 Rank: 1
On the consumer-facing side, Google launched social network Google+, which now has more than 90 million users. It also launched a new tool called Map Maker, which lets users add roads, rivers and points of interest, or make edits to incorrect or outdated information. “It literally lets people put their mark on our mapping suite of products and it’s been very well received,” says Chris O’Neill, managing director of Google Canada. The big news in mobile was the launch of the Android Galaxy Nexus, now the target of a lawsuit from rival Apple, which claims patent infringement.

Protect the Rep
“We anticipate the needs of customers, the needs of users and the needs of partners,” says O’Neill. “It goes back to the Henry Ford expression, ‘If I’d asked my customers what they want, they would have said, a faster horse.’ We really are obsessed with making life easier for people who use our products… We were not the first company to do search, but we’ve done it better than anybody else.”

Good Deeds
While Google’s motto is “Don’t be evil,” the search giant isn’t well-known for good deeds in the community. But the company does give back: its Google Grants program is an in-kind advertising donation program awarding free AdWords advertising to charitable organizations in areas such as science and technology, education, the environment and the arts.

Reputation Tips
“Focus on users and all else will follow,” says O’Neill. “We start there, while a lot of companies get it backwards; they figure out what’s good for their goals or their bottom line and then work [from there]. We fundamentally put that on its head. So far it’s been a very good formula for us.”

3. Kellogg

2011 Rank: 3
As part of its “You get what you put in” campaign for Vector, Kellogg launched a Facebook page for the high-protein cereal. It teamed up with trainer Rod Macdonald, who answered fitness questions and inspired people to reach their fitness goals. The page now has more than 120,000 likes. On the product front, Kellogg launched Special K Fruit Crisps, which “realized strong consumption gains along with overall positive sentiment from consumers with a 100-calorie-per-serving offer,” says Andrew Loucks, VP of marketing at Kellogg Canada.

Good Deeds
Kellogg Canada has donated more than $4.5 million in cash and product to various charitable organizations including food banks and breakfast clubs over the past seven years, says Loucks. Environmentally, its Canadian manufacturing facilities and warehouses are categorized as “zero waste to landfill,” meaning waste is reused or recylced rather than being dumped. It also has various employee-driven environmental initiatives including Earth Day activities and recycling/composting programs.

Consumer Cred
In 1906, W.K. Kellogg opened the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company and eight years later Kellogg’s Corn Flakes landed on store shelves in Canada. Since then, the company has fuelled Canadian kids with Corn Pops, Froot Loops, Pop Tarts and Rice Krispies at the breakfast table, as well as adults with healthier fare like Special K and All Bran. “Consumers trust the Kellogg name—a trust we have earned and upheld for over 100 years,” says Loucks. “It says consumers can count on us to provide consistent, high-quality, great tasting and wholesome food.”

Reputation Tips
“Work very hard to listen and meet your consumers’ needs; be socially and environmentally responsible; give back to the communities in which you operate; and foster a safe, diverse and inclusive workplace,” says Loucks. “At Kellogg, we have a well-known mantra: You are what you do, not what you say you do.”

4. Sony

2011 Rank: 2
While the March earthquake and tsumani in Japan hit Sony hard (the company is headquartered in Tokyo and has a big manufacturing base there), it entered the tablet market in September. It also launched the Sony Entertainment Network, which lets people access movies, games and now music from a variety of devices. Sony is also revamping its 40 retail locations in Canada to improve customer experience. “The layout, colours and design of the store is totally putting the customer in the centre, rather than putting the product in the centre,” says Ravi Nookala, senior VP of consumer sales and marketing at Sony of Canada.

Good Deeds
Sony has three main charitable causes: Make a Wish Foundation, United Way and children’s hospitals. It donated “entertainment centres” to 40 children’s hospitals across the country, providing TVs and PlayStations to entertain young patients. “We have more and more hospitals asking about this because it proved to be so successful,” says Nookala.

Consumer Cred
“Sony has always been looked at as a technology innovator,” says Nookala. While the inventor of the Walkman and Discman is more follower than leader on the tablet/MP3 player front, Sony has a reputation for making good-quality, reliable products. Whether it’s TV, gaming systems or tablets, “Sony tries to provide every consumer segment with certain products they can enjoy or that make their life better,” says Nookala.

Reputation Tips
Sony tries to understand the consumer, including their entertainment patterns and behaviour, says Nookala. “It’s changing. Today’s consumer is totally different compared to 10 years back. Where do they go? How do they live on social media?” The second part is focusing on quality, says Nookala. “In the short term, yes, it will be more expensive, but in the long run it will definitely pay off.”

5. Kraft

2011 Rank: 7
Following its 2009 acquisition of British confectionary company Cadbury, Kraft Foods spent 2011 creating a culture that “took the best of Cadbury and the best of Kraft and put it together to create a real powerhouse in the marketplace,” says Dino Bianco, president of Kraft Foods Canada. On the marketing front, Kraft continued its community engagement strategy with programs like Hockeyville and the Kraft Celebration Tour. Bianco also says Kraft is aiming to reach more ethnic and immigrant consumers, recognizing that “the landscape is changing.” For example, last spring it hired acclaimed chef Susur Lee to encourage Chinese consumers to use Kraft products when cooking traditional foods.

Good Deeds
Kraft’s inaugural Kraft Food for Families raised $70,000 for food banks during the 2011 holiday season. Kraft also supports the Boys & Girls Clubs of Canada, in particular its Cool Moves program, which encourages kids to get active and make healthy food choices. Sustainability is also a priority: 10 of Kraft’s Canadian plants are “zero waste to landfill” and the company has dramatically reduced its packaging, says Bianco.

Consumer Cred
As Douglas Coupland wrote in Souvenir of Canada, Canadians “have a more intimate and intense relationship with Kraft food products than the citizens of any other country. This is not a shameless product plug—for some reason, Canadians and Kraft products have bonded the way Australians have bonded with Vegemite, or the English with Heinz baked beans.” Bianco believes it starts with the company’s century of history: “Kraft has always stood for trust, for great-tasting products and for doing the right thing throughout its history.”

Reputation Tips
According to Bianco, maintaining consistency and transparency is paramount. And in today’s digital era, “you need to be true and speak with the same voice because the connection points are so varied for consumers.”

6. Tim Hortons

2011 Rank: 6
Tim Hortons is known for its steady stream of new products, but 2011’s big launch was no piece of cake: the coffee chain boldly entered Starbucks territory with the introduction of espresso-based drinks including lattes, cappuccinos and mochas. It also added fruit smoothies, beef lasagna, casserole and an egg-white breakfast sandwich to the menu. Last year also marked the 25th anniversary of Tim Hortons’ famously popular Roll Up The Rim To Win promotion. The company also bolstered its brand by introducing the new “It’s time for Tim’s” tagline.

Consumer Cred
Though it has its detractors (namely those who like their beverages foamy and expensive), Tim Hortons is a master marketer that has become a part of Canadian culture. Its customers are intensely loyal and have a strong emotional connection to the company.

Good Deeds
The Tim Hortons Children’s Foundation, started in 1974, sends underprivileged kids to camp. Its Camp Day fundraiser raised $9.9 million last June. In September, Tim Hortons donated the proceeds from the sale of its Smile Cookies ($3.6 million) to local charities, hospitals and community programs from coast to coast. “The whole idea of giving back to communities… it’s interesting because at one time we were reluctant to tell the story in a bold way because it seems like you’re patting yourself on the back,” says Bill Moir, chief brand and marketing officer at Tim Hortons and president of the Children’s Foundation. “We did some research and customers said ‘You’ve got to tell us.’ But you’ve got to do it the right way, so the communication of these programs is important as well.”

Reputation Tips
“We’re pretty customer-oriented and we try to deal with the customer and communities at large in a very honest, transparent way,” says Moir. “You’ve just got to remind yourself that those things are important.”

7. Campbell

2011 Rank: n/a
Creations, a made-in-Canada line of six reduced-sodium soups, was launched last year. Campbell also brought a no-salt added chicken broth to the table, as well as a Cream of Mushroom soup that’s rich in vitamin D. But the biggest news was the launch of Nourish, a nutritionally dense meal-in-a-can created in partnership with Food Banks Canada to help fight hunger.

Protect the Rep
“We do measure brand equity, which is about awareness and how people feel about our brand, but that’s more of an output of our actions, which are guided by our vision, ‘extraordinary authentic nourishment for all,’” says Mark Childs, VP of marketing. “So it’s part of who we are, more than a project or an assignment. It’s part of how we work and how we live.”

Consumer Cred
Like other companies in the Top 10, Campbell has a rich history (it was founded in New Jersey in 1869) and strong emotional connection to consumers (who doesn’t remember eating Campbell’s chicken soup as a kid?). “After 81 years in Canada, there’s an affinity with our brand that I think we all grew up with,” says Childs. But Campbell is also staying relevant to today’s consumers, with its reduced-sodium soups, gluten-free options and halal products for Muslim Canadians.

Reputation Tips
First, be authentic and transparent, which includes “opening yourself up for criticism, but having the confidence that what you’re doing is the right thing,” says Childs. Second is “being connected and relevant to Canadians and recognizing that this isn’t a static landscape.”

8. Canadian Tire

2011 Rank: 5
Canadian Tire changed its tagline to “Bring it on,” part of a new positioning with greater focus on online, guerrilla and PR campaigns. It also became a major player in sporting goods with the acquisition of Forzani, the parent company of Sport Chek, Sports Experts and Atmosphere. Overall, the chain focused on building its brand and ensuring its consumer experience was consistent, says Rob Shields, senior VP marketing and customer. “We’re working really hard at making sure everyone in the organization knows what it means to be on brand. So whether you’re in the distribution centre, at the store or working in corporate life, you’re a representative of the brand all the time. It pays out to the customer in terms of how they think about us, but over time… it builds a reputation around the brand.”

Good Deeds
Canadian Tire’s Jumpstart program lets underprivileged kids and teens participate in organized sports and recreation. In addition, independent dealers at its 485 stores across the country are heavily involved in their communities—and head office jumps in when there’s a crisis or need. For example, during the Winnipeg floods last May, Canadian Tire donated much-needed supplies, and when an arsonist torched a beloved playground structure in Toronto’s High Park this past March, the company donated $50,000 to rebuild it.

Consumer Cred
Canadian Tire stores thrive because the brand is familiar and trusted. “It comes back to time-tested truth and authenticity,” says Shields, noting Canadian Tire has been around for 90 years. “I think small things mean a lot to people… We have a no-quibble returns policy and people remember stuff like that.”

Reputation Tips
“The first thing is trust, and establishing trust is very difficult to do and it takes quite a bit of time,” says Shields. “The challenge is that you can lose it very easily if you’re not careful.” Internal branding and getting everyone on board is second. “Embed it into the organization to a point where everyone in the organization knows what you’re saying and how they can live up to it,” says Shields.

9. Subway

2011 Rank: 10
Subway surpassed McDonald’s in terms of worldwide locations: it now has 36,500, including 2,700 in Canada. On the marketing front, Subway launched its “Commit to Fit” program, which included a cross-country media tour by U.S. spokesperson Jared Fogle. The tour supported a contest that searched for two “Canadian Jareds” and entrants were asked to upload stories and photos that showed how Subway sandwiches have contributed to their healthy lifestyles. The winners won $10,000 each and will be featured in a marketing campaign this year.

Consumer Cred
In a fast-food world of greasy burgers and fries, Subway is viewed as a healthy alternative. “Canadians are trying to make healthier lifestyle choices,” says Kathleen Bell, director of national marketing at Subway Canada. “We did some research and 91% of respondents said eating healthy foods was important to them.” Moreover, 74% said Subway had the healthiest menu options of leading quick-service restaurants in Canada.

Protect the Rep
“We always strive to conduct business in way that has a positive impact on communities we serve,” says Bell. For example, Subway has been working on cutting sodium in its products for the past five years and is reducing its environmental footprint with things like reduced paper packaging.

Reputation Tips
First and foremost is listening to your customers, says Bell. “We listen to our customers through social media, through our franchisee feedback, through customer feedback and we have in-store ways that they can respond to us.”

10. Staples

2011 Rank: 4
The much-anticipated iPad 2 launch last spring drove a lot of traffic into stores, giving Staples “the opportunity to interact with customers and provide them with a lot of insight and knowledge and help them get the most out of their experience,” says Steve Matyas, president of Staples Canada. The launch of RIM’s Playbook also “gave our tech folks an opportunity to really shine,” as they helped people through the complexities of synchronizing their BlackBerrys with their tablet, says Matyas.

Good Deeds
Staples’ Recycle for Education program recycles used ink/toner cartridges, then donates funds back to participating schools. The company is also a long-time supporter of the Special Olympics; its 2011 “Give a Toonie, Share a Dream” campaign raised $500,000 to send athletes to the Games.

Protect the Rep
“We honestly never think about corporate reputation,” says Matyas. “We just think, ‘What are we going to do that’s right by our customers?’” Whether it’s allowing customers to order something online and return it in a store, or refurbishing stores to make them easier to navigate, “we just try and make things extremely easy for customers to do business with us and we do it in a very cheerful way.”

Reputation Tips
Be responsive and listen to customers and make the transaction easy. “We’ve got people following Twitter feeds and any time somebody picks up something negative, we usually turn it into a positive within an hour,” says Matyas. “We’re absolutely manic about great customer service.” Secondly, instill a strong sense of staff engagement. “Make sure that people who are working for you feel that you care about them, that their contribution matters and that your listen to them.”

Methodology: The 2012 Marketing/Leger Corporate Reputation Survey was conducted online between Feb. 22 and March 7 from a sample of 1,500 adult Canadians. In total, 202 companies from 33 industries were evaluated in order to adequately represent the players within the various sectors surveyed. Each particpant was asked if they had a good or bad opinion of the companies on the list to determine the reputation score (the good opinion minus the bad opinion, rounded to the nearest whole number). Every year, Leger adds new companies to the list based on their significance in the marketplace as well as consumer feedback.

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