It’s been a difficult year marked by exploding hardware and high-profile arrests for smartphone giant Samsung Electronics Ltd., and the general public has not been oblivious to its struggles.

While once a top 10 company in the public’s eye, Samsung has dropped 42 spots in just a year, according to the 17th annual Reputation Quotient (RQ) Summary Report by Harris Poll, which measures companies’ reputation strength according to the perceptions of more than 23,000 Americans. These opinions are based on how well a company is perceived according to six classifications: social responsibility, emotional appeal, products and services, vision and leadership, financial performance, and workplace environment.

In 2016, Samsung was ranked in seventh place, but the newest RQ report, released on Feb. 9, finds them at 49th. In terms of points, however, the drop was less drastic as Samsung went from a score of 80.44, to 75.17. The Harris Poll breaks down these scores as 80 and above – excellent; 75-79 – very good; 70-74 – good; 65-69 – fair; 55-64 – poor; 50-54 – very poor; and below 50 – critical.’

It’s not hard to pinpoint the reason for the drop, Constellation Research founder, chair and principal analyst R. “Ray” Wang tells He points to Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 debacle last year, in which the model was subject to a mass recall after dozens of units caught fire and exploded across the globe due to abnormal batteries, as well as this year’s scandal involving company vice chair Lee Jae-yong, known professionally as Jay Y. Lee, who was recently arrested for bribery and embezzlement.

“We see a few obvious factors – the scandal with the phone and the scandal at home with the heir,” Wang says, though he believes these issues “will pass over time” and Samsung will rebound as coverage slows down.

“It’s not easy if you are being bombarded every day on the plane and at the airport that you can’t carry a Samsung phone on to the plane,” he explains.

Wang also believes that Samsung’s “resolve to address the issue” will make a difference in the end, and that its decision to stick with the Note brand shows that the company is serious in amending its relationship with consumers.

“[Not] abandoning the brand is the right move because they’ve put a lot of equity into the phone and they do not blame the phone for the issue, but the battery, which they’ve attempted to separate in the minds of the public,” he adds. “Starting a brand new line would admit failure and defeat.”

Agreeing with Wang’s assessment is William Stofega, program director of mobile phones for American market research firm IDC. He says it was a good idea for Samsung to persevere with the brand, and hopes that moving forward, company executives will stress the importance of delivering quality products.

“For Samsung to bounce back from this, they need to deliver something that doesn’t have any issues,” Stofega says. “They need to do everything possible to recover because the smartphone market is a big business, and selling premium products within it is especially competitive.”

Top five and notable tech companies in the top 50

Meanwhile, Harris Poll’s 2017 report was topped by for the second year in a row, with the ecommerce giant receiving a score of 86.27 (up from 83.96 last year), followed by supermarket chain Wegmans (85.41), Publix Super Markets (82.78), Johnson & Johnson (82.57) and Apple Inc. (82.07). Apple saw a slight decline from second place last year, and so did Google, which dropped from third to eighth spot this year.

Microsoft stayed at 20th place for a consecutive year, and Tesla Motors joined the fray, entering the list for the first time ever and ranking ninth.

The Hewlett-Packard Company made a significant jump from 54th place (72.93) to 29th this year with a score of 77.83. IBM held onto its 40th spot with a score of 76.90 (up slightly from 75.43), while Sony dropped from 27th to 42nd place after its score declined from 77.58 to 76.76.

You can find the rest of the rankings below (click for a larger version).

The 2017 reputation Quotient Ratings from The Harris Poll.
The 2017 reputation Quotient Ratings from The Harris Poll.
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