And the winner is … General Mills

After a year where two 1990s Internet darlings took home the top places in Reputation Institute studies -- Amazon in the U.S. and Google, globally -- food & beverage and consumer product companies roared back to the top of the reputation heap. New York City-based Reputation Institute, the world's only pure-play reputation management consultancy, in partnership with Forbes Media, released findings from their 2012 U.S. RepTrak Pulse; an annual study that measures the 150 largest U.S. public companies with 10,000 consumers. General Mills ranked No. 1 one in the study with a Pulse score of 83 after just missing the top 10 in 2010 and 2011. The company scored strongest in three key drivers of reputation, namely Products & Services, Governance and Leadership–and was also No. 1 in Citizenship.
“We value our corporate reputation tremendously and work hard every day to foster and honor the trust of our stakeholders,” said Chairman and CEO. “For us, building this trust includes delivering nutrition and value to consumers through innovation, strong community engagement, a commitment to protecting the environment, as well as developing strong leaders to grow our business around the world. We believe consumers reward companies that operate with integrity and stay focused on doing what is right over the long-term.”
Food and beverage companies ranking in the U.S. Top 10 are Kraft (No 2.), Kellogg (No.4), Coca-Cola (No. 7) and Pepsi (No. 9).

Since 2009, U.S. companies have been competing in a new Reputation Economy, where who they are matters even more than what they produce, according to general public sentiment. Framing this in the context of critical consumer behaviors, including purchase consideration, loyalty and recommendation -- company or “enterprise” perceptions explain 60 percent of these behaviors, with product perceptions only accounting for 40 percent. To support C-suite executives and boards in search of how to make more confident and effective business decisions in this new paradigm, Reputation Institute also asked "Chief Reputation Officers" (either the Chief Executive Officer, Chief Marketing Officer or Chief Communications Officer) from these 150 companies about their preparation and strategies to drive growth in today’s topsy-turvy marketplace. Findings include: Those 24 percent of companies furthest along the five-phase reputation management journey now invest over 40 percent of their annual budgets on corporate reputation–a 200 percent difference versus all other companies; Of these same leading companies, a sizable proportion (51 percent) report the CEO’s Office as the primary functional leader responsible for setting the reputation strategy; Reflecting the same trend, nearly all (96 percent) of advanced companies build reputation priorities into annual business planning.

Johnson & Johnson came in at No. 3. Amazon (No. 5), UPS (No. 6), Apple (No. 8) and the most interesting new entrant was legendary consumer product brand portfolio manager Procter & Gamble–from No. 21 last year to No. 10 this year. P&G only began publicly using its corporate brand in the U.S. for the first time around the 2010 Winter Olympics. In contrast, Mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae ranked at the bottom of the list, along with Goldman Sachs, which had the third-worst reputation.