There are a few Italian corporations that can boast good reputations around the world. The Reputation Institute’s 2014 ranking of the Top 100 lists six of them: Ferrero (34th), Armani (44th), Pirelli (47th), Lavazza (60th), Barilla (73rd), and Benetton (76th). Six is a good number when considering that the classification ranks companies in 15 countries, and it is also worth noting that these are six manufacturing firms and symbols of Italian excellence and of that Italian talent for making beautiful things that are appreciated around the world, as noted by Carlo Maria Cipolla, a great economic historian. They represent the food and agriculture industry in particular, but also fashion and luxury goods, and the rubber and automotive industries, areas in which Italy continues to enjoy a strong reputation internationally.
Topping the international ranking is Google (apparently unfazed by the EU’s accusations of “excess of power” and well defended by US politics and public opinion), followed by Microsoft and Walt Disney. Apple came in fifth behind BMW, then we find Lego, Volkswagen, Intel, Rolex and Daimler. So we see internet companies and car manufacturers as the focus of this good sentiment – all international market leaders and with rock-solid images. Experts point to how reputation and business go hand in hand.
But what does the Reputation Institute measure? The “degree of admiration, trust, good feeling and overall esteem” accumulated over the years. They also add that “who you are matters more than what you sell”. The emphasis is on the intangibles, which are the product of good culture of enterprise, of a history to be proud of, of current actions intertwined with corporate social responsibility, empathy towards the public, quality, sustainability, employee pride and sense of belonging, and the pride felt by all stakeholders. A strong, clear, well-perceived identity is an important asset that is to be developed, not wasted. In this era of the “knowledge economy” and radical rethinking of the paradigms of growth, of production and of consumption, intangibles that convey values (of conduct and positioning, as well as cultural, aesthetic and moral values) translate into financial value (a sort of reward given by international investors to publicly listed corporations) and vice versa in virtuous harmony.