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Home > Business Strategy Best Practice > Measuring Corporate Reputation: Methodology, Findings, and Practical Implications of the BMAC Surveys

Business Strategy Best Practice

Measuring Corporate Reputation: Methodology, Findings, and Practical Implications of the BMAC Surveys

by Michael Brown and Paul Turner

This Chapter Covers

  • Key findings about the measurement of corporate reputation, drawn from the data of the Britain’s Most Admired Company (BMAC) surveys, and how these findings may be applied in practice.

  • An overview of the survey’s methodology and how data are collected, codified, classified, and collated.

  • A longitudinal review of the 10 companies that have been identified as Britain’s most admired since 1990.

  • A longitudinal review of the nine constituents that make up reputation and their changing interrelationships.

  • A selection of mini case examples illustrating BMAC results as an alternative measure of performance.

  • Consideration of the practical contributions and implications that the BMAC research has for strategic thinking, reputation, policymaking, and practitioners.

Introduction

The growing interest in the resource-based view of strategy and performance in business (Figure 1) brings with it an increasing emphasis on intangibles, such as knowledge, information, and corporate reputation, and on how to articulate their value and ongoing performance.

Twenty years ago a team set out to measure the corporate reputation of British companies.1 The result was an annual Britain’s Most Admired Company (BMAC) survey, which has gathered executives’ and expert sector analysts’ perceptions—i.e. their tacit knowledge—using characteristics that contribute toward a measure of corporate reputation. The results of the first surveys were published in The Economist, but since 1994 they have appeared in Management Today.2

Each year3 the survey builds on this growing wealth of data. On its 20th anniversary the survey continues to capture approximately 90 data points for each individual sector; that is, 2,070 data points for each survey, which equates to 39,300 data points between 1990 and 2009, and an equivalent of 4,370 company years. The longitudinal insight offered by the continuity of data enables companies’ reputational performance to be charted over the period. As a result, specific trends relating to corporate reputation can be identified and assessed. In addition, trends relating to the individual characteristics that form the basis of reputation measurement can be considered. Correlations between these characteristics can be analyzed, as can patterns in each of the characteristics that might add value to the understanding of this subject.

This chapter will present some key findings, drawn from the data of the BMAC surveys, about the measurement of corporate reputation and how these may be applied in practice.

BMAC: Methodology and Modifications

Brown and Turner (2008) define corporate reputation as the contribution of a multitude of stakeholders who, by how they think and feel about a company, determine how it is seen by itself and by others. The BMAC survey is a peer perception survey based on the views of the senior executives of UK companies and sector investment analysts about a series of characteristics that contribute to a measure of corporate reputation. The methodology of the survey has remained largely unchanged over the period. Some modifications, however, have been introduced into the codification, classification, and compilation of the BMAC data to complement the durability of the survey and its potential longitudinal value.

In terms of the codification, each year the top 10 companies in each sector are identified by their market capitalization value. Senior executives of each company and analysts are invited to provide their perceptions for each of the other nine companies (i.e. other than their own) across each of the nine characteristics (classifications or constituents). The characteristics are:

  • quality of management (QM);

  • financial soundness (FS);

  • quality of products (QP);

  • ability to attract, retain, and develop top talent (AAT);

  • value as a long-term investment (VLTI);

  • capacity to innovate (CI);

  • quality of marketing (QMar);

  • community and environmental responsibility (CER);

  • use of corporate assets (UCA).

The last characteristic, use of corporate assets (UCA), was added in 1994.

The sectors are derived by integrating a number of sources, which included the London Stock Exchange listings of companies, and industrial and media classifications. The validity of the sector groupings is confirmed by business analysts, editors of business journals, and the Institute of Actuaries. Once the sectors are agreed, the top 10 companies in terms of their market capitalization at a specific time are identified. Sector classifications are dynamic and are subject to change. Some sectors have disappeared, such as textiles; others have merged, such as electricity and water, which have become “utilities”; while other sectors have diversified. For example, as the construction sector grew it was split into “home construction” and “heavy construction.” Throughout the duration of the survey, however, many sectors have remained broadly similar, thereby allowing valuable longitudinal studies of companies.

The general criteria for inclusion in the survey are as follows.

  • The company should be a publicly owned (British) company. In the event of split nationality, the significant part should be British; examples of such companies are Unilever and Shell.

  • The company should be quoted on the London Stock Exchange.

  • The company should produce an annual report and accounts.

  • The company should have a market capitalization value published by the London Stock Exchange and reported in the news media.

Adopting these criteria has helped to maintain a degree of continuity in the survey. The result is that almost all the top 100 FTSE companies and approximately 90% of the top 200 UK companies are included.

Companies’ scores against the characteristics are obtained by a Likert-based scale of 0 to 10, where 0 = poor, 5 = average, and 10 = excellent. Bipolar scales in the form of opposite adjectives, poor to excellent, are designed to capture the respondents’ attitudes toward each company within the industry, for each of the characteristics. The means of collecting these data has evolved with the availability of new technologies. While a first and second-wave written communication remains an important approach, a third, fourth, and fifth approach have been adopted as this unique database has been developed. Stage 3 now incorporates specific electronic communication with executives and analysts who have contributed in the past and provided their personal contact details. Stage 4 is a specific electronic communication with senior executives, and stage 5 includes telephone interviews. Following the collation of the data, the most admired companies for each characteristic, as well as the most admired company in each sector, are identified, and this is extended to an overall British most admired company.

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Further reading

Books:

  • Barney, Jay B. Gaining and Sustaining Competitive Advantage. Reading, MA: Addison Wesley, 1996.
  • Bevan, Judy. The Rise & Fall of Marks & Spencer … And How It Rose Again. Revised and updated ed. London, UK: Profile Books, 2007.
  • Brown, Michael, and Paul Turner. The Admirable Company. London, UK: Profile Books, 2008.
  • Fombrun, Charles J. Reputation: Realizing Value from the Corporate Image. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School, 1996.
  • Fombrun, Charles J., and Cees B. M. Van Riel. Fame and Fortune: How Successful Companies Build Winning Reputations. New York: FT Prentice Hall, 2004.
  • Grant, Robert M. Contemporary Strategy Analysis: Concepts, Techniques, Applications. Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 2002.
  • Hamel, Gary, and C. K. Prahalad. Competing for the Future. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 1994.
  • Kay, John. Foundations of Corporate Success. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Articles:

  • Barney, Jay. “Firm resources and sustained competitive advantage.” Journal of Management 17:1 (March 1991): 99–120. Online at: dx.doi.org/10.1177/014920639101700108
  • Bowman, Cliff, and Veronique Ambrosini. “How the resource based and the dynamic capabilities views of the firm inform corporate-level strategy.” British Journal of Management 14:4 (December 2003): 289–303. Online at: dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8551.2003.00380.x
  • Connor, Tom. “The resource based view of strategy and its value to practicing managers.” Strategic Change 11:6 (September/October 2002): 307–316. Online at: dx.doi.org/10.1002/jsc.593
  • Davis, Jeremy G. “Capabilities: A different perspective.” Australian Journal of Management 29:1 (June 2004): 39–43. Online at: dx.doi.org/10.1177/031289620402900108
  • Fombrun, Charles, and Mark Shanley. “What’s in a name? Reputation building and corporate strategy.” Academy of Management Journal 33:2 (June 1990): 233–258. Online at: www.jstor.org/stable/256324
  • Lovallo, Dan, and Daniel Kahneman. “Delusions of success: How optimism undermines executive decisions.” Harvard Business Review 81 (July 2003): 57–63. Online at: tinyurl.com/67rqrkm
  • Saunders, John, Michael Brown, and Stuart Laverick. “Research notes on the best British companies: A peer evaluation of Britain’s leading firms.” British Journal of Management 3:4 (December 1992): 181–193. Online at: dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8551.1992.tb00044.x
  • Teece, David J., Gary Pisano, and Amy Shuen. “Dynamic capabilities and strategic management.” Strategic Management Journal 18:7 (August 1997): 509–533. Online at: tinyurl.com/43efkon
  • Tranfield, David, and Ken Starkey. “The nature, social organisation and promotion of management research: Towards policy.” British Journal of Management 9:4 (December 1998): 341–353. Online at: dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-8551.00103
  • Wernerfelt, Birger. “A resource based view of the firm.” Strategic Management Journal 5:2 (April/June 1994): 171–180. Online at: dx.doi.org/10.1002/smj.4250050207

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