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For Americans, Patagonia and Sears are Reputational Polar Opposites

Patagonia is the most reputable apparel company in the United States. The least? Sears.

That’s according to the latest Axios-Harris Poll 100, an annual ranking of 100 leading corporations based on a survey of nearly 43,000 Americans in a nationally representative sample.

The poll, which has been taking the measure of businesses since 1999, tallies up scores based on something called a Reputation Quotient, which it crunches based on a company’s performance in trust (“is this a company I trust?”), vision (“does this company have a clear vision for the future?”), growth (“is this a growing company?”), products and services (“does this company develop products and services I want and value?”), culture (“is this a good company to work for?), ethics (“does this company maintain high ethical standards?”) and citizenship (“does this company share my values and support good causes?”)

Patagonia, which also earned the No. 1 place overall, shot up 31 places from its spot last year with an 8.7 percent improvement across all reputational categories. Amazon slid seven positions to 10th place, the only company in the top 10 with a reputational decrease from last year. (It dipped 1.7 percent. Maybe because of this? Or this. Or even this.) Adidas, one of the brands that posted the biggest declines, dropped 4.6 percent but retained 49th place. Nike stumbled 0.8 percent and six spots to 62nd place. Sears scored the worst, sliding nearly 4 percent and winding up at 96th place, higher than only, Facebook, Fox Corporation and the Trump Organization.

Patagonia declined to comment; Transformco, Sear’s parent company, did not respond to a request for comment.

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Patagonia came up on top because consumers—particularly millennials and Gen Z-ers—seek out trustworthy, engaged and authentic brands that hold the same social, environmental and political values that they do, said Alison Bringé, chief marketing officer at Launchmetrics, a data-analytics firm that quantifies a brand’s so-called “media impact value” (MIV) in terms of the reach and engagement of placements or mentions across print, online and social channels.

In the past year, Patagonia’s top-ranking own-media posts focused on the U.S. Capitol riot ($451,000 in MIV), protecting America’s public lands ($271,000 in MIV) and its company-wide day-off for voting ($224,000 in MIV).

“It is no longer enough for brands to just create products—consumers expect them to be part of the discussion and speak up on important issues,” Bringé told Sourcing Journal. “Creating a strong bond between the brand and the consumer is becoming more crucial when looking to make a wider impact. Brands [that] don’t understand their goals or build engaging communication strategies will soon fall to the wayside.”

Patagonia is “riding a lot of the social and environmental concerns that consumers have these days,” agreed Sucharita Kodali, principal analyst at research company Forrester, though she struggled to come up with any specific reason the company would have such complete supremacy.

The poll notes that respondents were randomly assigned two companies, which they said they were very or somewhat familiar with, to rate. Each company received an average of 305 ratings.

“This means that [brands] with greater awareness are more likely to have negative stories and those with less awareness are more likely to get responses from their biggest brand advocates,” Kodali said.

Most stories about Sears either have to do with bankruptcy proceedings or the fact that it reportedly left garment suppliers in Bangladesh high and dry at the start of the coronavirus crisis last spring by canceling orders and refusing to foot any outstanding invoices. (Transformco has since settled a $40 million lawsuit with 21 factory owners.)

“Sears doesn’t resonate with anyone these days,” Kodali added.