Believe it or not, all but one of the most reputable companies operating in China are based outside of the Celestial Empire. In the eyes of members of the general populace polled on which companies they hold in high regard, technology firm Huawei – based in Shenzhen – is the only domestic corporate entity to break into the top ten most reputable companies in China.

This according to a recent ranking of the world’s most reputable companies by Reputation Institute (RI), a reputation management consulting firm based in Boston that launched in 1997. Since its founding the firm has offered corporate clients strategies and insights into how they might gauge and improve their reputation among customers in various markets. (See above for our slideshow of the 10 Most Reputable Companies in China).

The top three most reputable firms to Chinese consumers are Intel (based in Santa Clara, California), Rolex (Geneva, Switzerland) and Rolls Royce (London, England). Other Chinese companies that ranked in the top 100 include China Merchants Bank (15th), Alibaba (30th), Tsingtao Brewery (31st), Air China (56th), Lenovo Group (75th), Hutchinson Whampoa (77th), China Construction Bank (80th), Bank of Communications (91st), Tasly (93rd) and Bank of China (98th).

In putting together its annual list of the world’s most reputable companies, RI assigns each company a score – The RepTrak Pulse – ascertained by taking into account how the general public within a country feels about company in seven categories: products and services, innovation, workplace, governance, citizenship, leadership and performance.

China is different from the global community in reputation-gauging in that it places a higher priority on the Leadership category. Of the seven factors RI rates, leadership tends to be the least important for most countries—in China it is the third most important. Also powerful in winning respect of Chinese consumers is the perception that the company is successful.

According to RI, in China, a company need not be as respected in order to get consumers to buy its products, compared to the rest of the world. Internationally, companies that rated ‘average’ on RI’s score chart (with a RepTrak Pulse score of between 60 and 69) saw only about 35% of respondents willing to buy their products. Companies that scored a ‘strong’ rating – between 70 and 79 – saw that willingness to buy jump up to an average of 55%. In China, companies of ‘average’ reputation could expect 52% of consumers willing to buy their goods. Those with ‘strong’ reputations saw 76% of respondents say they would buy their products.

“In a world where companies are fighting for market share,” says Kasper Ulf Nielsen, Executive Partner at RI, “this is showing us that reputation is an avenue to improve the recommendations you get from consumers.”

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