About a week ago, Jason Buckhead posted an interesting editorial on msn: The Most Hated Companies of All Times. Selecting the most hated companies will always have a degree of subjectivity (e.g. Is a company with 1,000 spiteful haters more hated than a company with 2,000 less spiteful haters?) but Buckland does a compelling job of backing up his list by describing some nasty corporate transgressions. The Buckland Eight includes: Union Carbide, Dow, Enron, Goldman Sachs, Wal-Mart, BP, AIG and Exxon. His posting is a good read and I suggest you take a look at it. In my post tonight, I'm going to share a few observations regarding Buckland's list.
First, the Buckland Eight has disproportionate representation of companies that had recent transgressions. More specifically, three of the "eight most hated companies of all times" got "hated" because of "crimes" that occurred within the last decade: BP, Enron, and Goldman Sachs. But, I think Buckland is on to something here. There are many other companies that could have joined this list due to their recent transgressions including Halliburton (overcharging on government contracts 2006), Andersen (fraudulent accounting 2002), Fannie Mae (credit scandal 2008) and Freddie Mac. Some might argue that the list has a bias- the so called recency effect - but I'll argue in favor of the author. Today's companies are much larger than ever before. Many firms have revenues larger then the GDP of sovereign states and have international trade flows significantly larger than a nation's. All this to say, transgressions from today's multinationals have a greater opportunity for financial and environmental catastrophes which can affect larger populations than ever before.
Second, Buckland's rankings correlate well with the most hated brands on Brand Mojo. A quick look at the leaderboard reveals that Enron and BP are the most despised brands while Exxon, Wal-Mart and Goldman also have a strong hater constituency. Pushing this one step further, Buckland's summaries of the company transgressions help explain why these brands have so many haters.
My third observation relates to Wal-Mart. There's no doubt about it that there are a lot of folks who hate Wal-Mart. For example, a quick search on Google for "Walmart sucks" cranks back 225,000 web sites and Google images tosses back thousands of negative images. Yep, that's a lot of upset people. Just think how much animosity towards a brand you would have to have in order to spend time and money to campaign against a brand. Yet, to the dismay of the many haters, Wal-mart continues to be successful. Unlike the Enrons and BPs of the world which do not have any brand lovers, Wal-Mart has an ardent fan base (see image below). Clearly, these lovers appreciate Wal-Marts discount price and value offering. And this explains why being a hated company does not always damn the brand.