10 of 2014’s Top Reputation Winners

Taken from YouGov's year-end surveys

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve posted on our personal picks for PR’s biggest winners, losers, and failures of 2014.

That’s all well and good, but what about the brands that did the best job in terms of improving their own reputations last year?

Thankfully, the annual YouGov brand index came out this week to help us answer that question. We were particularly interested in 2014’s “top buzz improvers,” or brands whose rankings in the game of public perception increased most dramatically over the past twelve months, and the overall list of most esteemed brands in the United States.

A side note before the list: some may take issue with YouGov’s methodology, which amounted to asking participants whether they’d heard anything about a given brand over the past two weeks and whether that general sentiment was positive or negative. It’s admittedly a somewhat limited approach, but we still find the results interesting.

10. YouTube:

In 2014, Google’s greatest purchase took the opportunity to remind people that it is not just an endless collection of pranks caught on film and failed attempts at humor.

The “brand” ran ads early in 2014 that focused not on the service itself but on its biggest creators, or people who actually make money using it.

In other words, it matured into a legitimate business.

9. Cheerios:

Remember the gay family ad, the ensuing controversy, and General Mills’ decision to stand firm in the face of the trolls?

So do millions of other Americans. Hard to think of a larger megaphone or a more obvious case of consistency in messaging.

8. Google:

This one is a bit of a head-scratcher thanks to the recent failure of Google Glass and the company’s ongoing struggle with privacy issues.

But Nest did make some waves — and most Americans, no matter what they might think about Google’s ethics or operations, use the company’s services every day. That’s one way to ensure brand loyalty.

7. Samsung:

The tech company received a bit of a smackdown for its attempts to hijack the ALS Ice Bucket trend, but the relentless trolling of King of the Hill Apple appears to have worked: Samsung went from #11 to #5 on YouGov’s list of most-loved American brands.

Unlike Microsoft, Samsung also has some decent products to pitch…

6. Netflix, Amazon, and MTV:

Amazon hadn’t won a Golden Globe when the YouGov survey occurred, but these three brands all received a big boost that can be explained in two words: original content.

5. NBC:

Who knew Jimmy Fallon would stop laughing at his own jokes long enough to elevate the network’s reputation?

4. CVS:

The fact that CVS remains the only chain to stop selling tobacco explains the improvements in its reputation ranking.

3. Apple:

The company landed back on the “top brands” list after two years away despite all the U2 nonsense and some telling revelations about its PR strategies. Seems that shiny, compelling new toys are all the public needs for a refresh.

2. The financial industry:

Public perceptions of JP Morgan, Bank of America, and Goldman Sachs remain negative on the whole, but the big collapse happened so long ago — and these institutions play such a regular role in Americans’ lives — that the damage has finally begun to recede.

1. Carnival Cruise Lines:

Who can forget what an awful 2013 Carnival had? We certainly won’t — not after every news outlet everywhere ran pics of the Triumph disaster.

But time seems to heal all wounds, making Carnival the winner by simple virtue of the fact that all the news about them was negative one year ago.

What do we think of the YouGov lists?