What Are America’s 10 ‘Most Trusted’ Brands? And Why?

A few weeks ago we gave you a list of the 10 brands Americans hate most and tried to figure out why. Today we’re taking the opposite approach with the help of Harris Interactive‘s latest public opinion poll gauging the most (and least) trusted brands in the country.
Here are the brands held in highest esteem by the 19,000 random people who participated in the poll (along with our attempts to figure out how they got there):

1. Amazon: It could be the fact that Amazon remains the first and biggest online retailer with a reputation for security and an endless inventory. It could be the brand’s truly innovative recommendation system. Or it could be Amazon’s plan to create its own “virtual” currency–because no dishonest individual would ever make his own money, right?

2. Apple: Of course the public respects a brand that has long dominated the world of innovative technology and customer service. But Apple hasn’t released any “wow” products for a while, and the company’s new semi-desperate PR approach tells us that they probably won’t rank so high next year.
3. The Walt Disney Company: We could be wrong, but we’d like to think people trust Disney because Pixar still somehow manages to make great movies. We also feel like everyone took a cue from the horrible promo campaign and skipped John Carter.
4. Google: The “Don’t be evil” company’s “premature” earnings statement was a big PR fail, but it has maintained a reputation as a great place to work. And we don’t care how many cute videos Microsoft releases–we’re still not going to use Bing.
5. Johnson & Johnson: We find this one surprising in light of all the product recall business. But the PR team did as well as it could with damage control, and any brand known as “the baby company” has already earned some trust from the public. Keep your eye on J&J next year, though.
6. Coca-Cola: While some say that the public loves Coke because it “sells happiness”, we will attribute this position to its bold decision to admit that Americans should probably consume a little less of its product unless they want to end up like this unfortunate lady. It can’t be because our fellow Americans trust Taylor Swift more than Beyoncé–Bey would never write a breakup song that is so obviously about John Mayer.
7. Whole Foods: It’s expensive–and its CEO is very good at placing his foot in his mouth. But Whole Foods does sell top-quality products, and it’s well-known for its CSR and purpose marketing successes. The whole “in-store drinking” experiment was pretty cool too.
8. Sony: “Green” isn’t everything–quality products like the ever-popular Playstation guarantee a good reputation for Sony, which seems to have emerged from a 2011 hacking scandal with an even stronger public image. It also gets great marks for customer service.
9. Procter & Gamble: The other “baby company” has always earned high marks for leadership within its industry. We don’t quite understand why, but we’re going to say “Moms. Moms. Moms.
10. Costco: It’s simple: people love cheap stuff. People also love underdogs, a tag that could apply to any company competing with Walmart. Costco also doesn’t have too many problems with things like fake PR stunts, terrible labor practices, large-scale employee protests or testy relationships with major media outlets.

The most important conclusion to draw from this study is the change in “drivers for ‘great’ companies”. Many respondents said that, in order to be great, brands need to “play a valuable social role”, be “a great place to work” and inspire “a good feeling”. Seems like it might be time to study some “purpose marketing” strategies, no?
What do we think of these findings?

@PatrickCoffee patrick.coffee@adweek.com Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.