Branding

Company with best reputation in Australia revealed — but there’s one unusual thing about it

Emma Koehn /

All business owners know reputation is life or death, but a recent ranking of the companies Aussies hold in the highest regard has revealed the business we think is most reputable is not even Australian.

Air New Zealand has taken out the number one ranking in the Australian Corporate Reputation Index (ACRI) for 2017, beating out local ASX-listed giants like JB Hi-Fi and Qantas when it comes to what consumers think about its products and services, citizenship, governance and leadership.

The ACRI list takes 60 of the businesses on the IBISWorld Top 2000 company list each year and asks Australians to rank their reputations based on how they feel about each company’s performance across seven categories.

Managing director of research firm AMR, Oliver Freedman, said in a statement Air New Zealand’s winning moves came down to messaging and emotion.

“This is an incredibly strong results for a company clearly based overseas, and shows Air New Zealand’s ability to engage and create an emotional attachment with the Australian public,” he said.

Air New Zealand’s chief executive Christopher Luxon says the win is a result of long-term work and strategic thought.

“The results are testament to all the hard work of Air New Zealand staff who over the past decade have helped build an enviable reputation for the airline globally by delivering our uniquely Kiwi award-winning experience,” he said in a statement yesterday.

While the airline has a big budget for creating emotional branding, smaller local businesses can learn a lot from its consistent approach to capturing hearts, says social media expert and director of CP Communications, Catriona Pollard.

“They haven’t ever used controversy or tacky tactics. I definitely think that helps with the profile-building of a company,” Pollard says.

While the high production values of Air New Zealand’s cult-favourite in-flight safety videos have garnered international attention, Pollard says the basic premise of these communications can also be applied to other digital branding campaigns.

“They’re quirky, funny, they’re videos that you want to share, and I think also they stick to their messages in them, and do it in a quirky way. They’ve thought about how they want viewers to perceive their brand.”

The business has also managed to maintain perspective on its potential customer base, and leverage reach through its social media channels, she says.

“The way that the business model works in airlines, you can use Emirates to fly to London, you don’t have to use Qantas. For this [sector], if you create a tactic that is great for reputation but also has great viral [elements] to it, you are attracting people who could later be valuable to your brand,” Pollard says.

Director of InsideOut PR Nicole Reaney agrees the airline’s brand position has captured the emotions of Australian consumers, and it has done so by focusing on things other than the complexities and conflicts associated with air travel.

“The brand, through its creative marketing and customer approach has hit a chord with the Australian public in a sector that’s battled political and multiple issues management occurrences,” Reaney says.

While it might be surprising that an overseas business has such strong reputational pull in Australia, it goes to show there’s no such thing as a marketing to one country alone, she says.

“Consumers live in a global brand world now, and all brands, whether local or international, play and are evaluated from the same playing field.”

Read more: Australian airlines vying for your company’s money: Behind their SME loyalty programs 

Should local businesses be lifting their game?

Of the top 10 ranked businesses in 2017’s Reputation Index, only four are Australian founded and operated.

Instead, several are local offshoots of multinationals, like Mazda Australia, ranked second this year, or ING Direct, ranked sixth. Apple’s Australian operations rank seventh overall, while Aldi Australia is the only supermarket brand to make the top 10, coming in an number nine.

Are Australian companies lagging when it comes to developing a PR strategy that can cross borders and secure strong reputations, particularly through digital channels? There are good years and bad years, Pollard thinks.

“I think it comes down to ebbs and flows, there are some years Australian companies seem to be doing better and others are not,” she says.

For social media strategy, however, Aussie businesses could be more clued into the idea that digital strategy is a 24/7 proposition that needs to be backed up by actual service.

“When your customers are everywhere, you have to understand social media needs to be a part of your brand all the time no matter what, and it actually has to match up with your brand values, which sometimes Australian businesses need reminding,” Pollard says.

“It doesn’t matter how amazing your advertising is, if you don’t back it up with amazing service, it’s irrelevant. You’re then driving people to experience something you show you don’t actually value … and if they have a bad experience, it can backfire on you significantly.”

Here are the top 20 businesses according to the 2017 Corporate Reputation Index

  1. 1. Air New Zealand
  2. 2. Mazda Australia
  3. 3. JB Hi-Fi
  4. 4. Toyota Motor Corporation
  5. 5. Qantas Airways
  6. 6. ING Direct
  7. 7. Apple Australia
  8. 8. BlueScope Steel
  9. 9. Aldi Australia
  10. 10. Australian Super
  11. 11. Nestle Australia
  12. 12. Hewlett Packard
  13. 13. Insurance Australia Group
  14. 14. Samsung
  15. 15. Hyundai Australia
  16. 16. Virgin Australia
  17. 17. Visy Industries
  18. 18. Bendigo and Adelaide Bank
  19. 19. Wesfarmers
  20. 20. IBM

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Emma Koehn

Emma Koehn is SmartCompany's senior journalist.

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