So much for the benefits of a positive image and reputation

An exhaustive 23-year study of Wall Street stock performance shows that despised companies actually outperform admired ones.

The study’s authors found that lower-ranked companies on the annual Fortune “America’s Most Admired Companies” list, posted a 17.8 percent return as compared to only a 15.4 percent return by their ‘admired’ peers.

The authors say the counter-intuitive findings are the result of what they call a "positive aura effect." Investors in companies they admire receive some of their rewards in either warm and fuzzy feelings about the company/product (think Toyota Prius) or ego gratification (think Rolex watches). Investors in despised companies on the other hand (Wal-Mart perhaps?) see their rewards solely in stock performance and invest accordingly.

Wow, so much for investing time and energy in building a positive image, launching corporate social responsibility programs, and believing that doing good is good business.

If the new study is, in fact, accurate, might we see a return of the Robber Barons of the Gilded Age who raped and pillaged their way through the corporate landscape? Will Chainsaw Al Dunlap be brought out of retirement to run roughshod over more companies, torching everything that stands in his way?

The survey results are disturbing since so many CEOs are maniacally focused on pleasing the Street to begin with. If they now also think that ‘doing bad’ has suddenly become good business, woe betide the next corporate communications chief who goes in to sell the boss on a feel-good green initiative.

If this bizarre aberration actually takes hold, might we also see the rise of new publications such as ‘Despot,’ ‘Tyrannical Executive’ and ‘Brutality Week’? Will ‘Infamy Illustrated’ publish their annual "Most Despised Companies" list, causing PR departments and their firms everywhere to retrofit publicity programs to generate the most heinous press coverage possible?

It’s almost enough to make me want to pack up my tent and go home.

2 thoughts on “So much for the benefits of a positive image and reputation

  1. On the contrary, MedGuy, this merely affirms that some investors (and some CEOs) are motivated simply by the pursuit of the almighty dollar. Happily, the majority think otherwise and believe there’s much more to life than just the bottom line.

  2. ha- this is classic!!! i am shocked you would write this, considering the fact that it basically knocks everything you stand for.