CPG Brand House Perceptions
While a few sources suggest that big CPG brand houses such as Procter & Gamble (P&G) and Kraft Heinz have not adapted to a changing American society and have lost the trust of consumers, especially millennials, a large-scale survey indicates that the overall perception of said CPG brand houses in the United States is generally positive. According to this survey, P&G, Kraft Heinz, Unilever, and Nestle perform very well with respect to reputation attributes. Millennials in the country distrust CPG giants because of the push marketing and one-size-fits-all tactics that brand marketers employ. They also remain unsure if these companies have their best interests at heart.
A press search for the requested information did not produce the desired results, so we pivoted and looked for reports ranking brands in terms of perception, reputation, image, impression, trust, loyalty, relevance, or value. This change in strategy led us to a number of insightful reports, including the 2018 and 2019 Axios Harris Poll 100, the Future Brand Index, the Brand World Value Index, and the Brand Relevance Index. Of these reports, however, only the Axios Harris Poll 100 was specific to companies operating in the United States. The Brand Relevance Index, although specific to the United States, covers brands, not companies. To supplement the information we got from the Axios Harris Poll, we used platform 30dB to gather social media opinions on the companies and conducted a press search as well.
If the results of the latest Axios Harris Poll 100 are any indication, American consumers' overall perception of CPG brand houses such as P&G and Unilever is generally positive. Ranking the reputations of the country's most visible companies and measuring people's thoughts on companies finding their way into the country's cultural conversation, the latest Axios Harris Poll 100 was based on a nationally representative sample of 18,228 Americans. A two-step process, the poll began by identifying the companies that, for good reasons or bad reasons, have entered the public's top-of-mind-awareness. Then it ended by asking another group of respondents to rank the most visible companies across a number of corporate reputation attributes, namely, affinity, organization character (good culture, ethics, and citizenship), and business trajectory (vision, growth, and products & services).
Based on the results of this poll, P&G, Kraft Heinz, Unilever, Nestle, and PepsiCo all have good to very good corporate reputation quotients. In fact, all these CPG brand houses except PepsiCo have very good reputation quotient scores. Moving up 12 places in the ranking, P&G is one of ten companies that have shown the biggest improvements in corporate reputation. The other nine companies are outside the CPG industry and are Samsung, Sony, 21st Century Fox, The Home Depot, L.L. Bean, JPMorgan Chase, Royal Dutch Shell, LG Corporation, and Patagonia.
P&G's ranking across the key corporate reputation attributes suggests that the American public believes the company shares its values, champions good causes, offers high-quality and innovative products and services, has great growth prospects, and has a clear vision for the future. The company ranks 7th in citizenship, 6th in products and services, 7th in business trajectory, and 9th in vision.
For millennials in the country, P&G and Nestle are the companies with the 6th and 10th highest reputation quotients, while for Gen Xers, Kraft Heinz is the company with the 5th highest reputation quotient. Overall, P&G is 8th in the reputation ranking, Kraft Heinz is 14th, Unilever is 25th, Nestle is 28th, and PepsiCo is 50th. In 2018, Kraft Heinz was 13th, Kellogg Company was 14th, General Mills was 30th, Nestle was 33rd, Unilever was 37th, and PepsiCo was 45th.
According to the 2017 BrandSpark American Shopper Study, which polled over 10,000 American shoppers, around a quarter of the products on BrandSpark's roster of most-trusted brands are manufactured by P&G. The company won in the following categories: children's toothpaste (Crest), diapers (Pampers), dish soap (Dawn), Dishwasher detergent (Cascade), fabric softener (Downy), facial cleanser (Olay), feminine sanitary products (Always), men's deodorant or antiperspirant (Old Spice), men's shaving (Gillette), paper towels (Bounty), men's shampoo and conditioner (Head & Shoulders), women's shampoo and conditioner (Pantene), teeth whitening (Crest), women's deodorant or antiperspirant (Secret), women's shaving (Gillette/Venus), cough and cold remedies (Vicks), and laundry detergent (Tide).
Opinion search platform 30dB shows, however, that in the past 14 days, social media opinions on Nestle were 60% negative, opinions on P&G were 42% negative, opinions on Unilever were 36% negative, opinions on Kraft were 66% negative, opinions on Mondelez were 72% negative, and opinions on General Mills were 24% negative. Driving the negative sentiments on Nestle, Kraft, and Mondelez were words such as 'accused', 'investigation', 'nightmare', 'allege', 'suspected', 'faked', 'scare', 'investigation', 'doubt', 'caution', and 'dispute'.
Stephen Wilmot, editor of The Wall Street Journal's Heard on the Street, recently made a statement as well that "P&G risks giving the impression that it is losing touch with the U.S. consumer culture." The Axios Harris Poll 100 made the same observation when it reported that the USD 15-billion write-down of Kraft Heinz is a sign that the CPG giant is "out of touch with the times" and is "not adapting to a changing society."
P&G has reportedly been dueling with investor Nelson Peltz of Trian Partners, who wrote that the company is facing a number of marketing challenges, including how "millennials now distrust big brands and seek out purpose-led brands." It appears P&G is projecting an image of a company that is stuck in the past, as Forbes contributor Pamela Danziger wrote the company should "forget the old ways of doing business, aimed at the lifestyles and mindsets of the baby boomers." She explained that millennials distrust mass brands offered by CPG giants because of their one-size-fits-all approach. Millennials detest the push marketing tactics that the mass brands of CPG brand houses employ. While they perceive small, purpose-led brands as good and righteous, they perceive mass brands as the opposite of these purpose-led brands.
An article released by Food Navigator USA suggests too that consumers have lost trust in big CPG companies. According to this article, consumers remain unsure if these companies have their best interests at heart, and as a result, CPG giants are taking steps to regain consumer trust.