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2023 GRT100: Generation Gap?

Corporate Reputation21 Apr, 2023

RepTrak's massive annual Global RepTrak 100 report is our most comprehensive report of the year, and yet, we have even more insights to share. In addition to our reputation wheel breakdown included in this year's report, we're now digging even deeper into generational differences to further our understanding of the state of global reputation. Just as location impacts experience, so does age and life stage.

GRT 2022’s Reputation Score decrease was the first global reputation decline we’d seen since 2018. GRT 2023 continues the trend, with the global Reputation Score decreasing ▼1.0-point YoY and settling at a Strong 73.2.

It’s been a rough year. Lifting global COVID restrictions was supposed to solve everything. Instead, we got a combination of old problems mixed with new ones: global concerns of recession, frustrations with inflation, prolonged (or forgotten) timelines for carbon neutrality, increasing employee empathy, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, supply chain disruptions, and unrealized race-based initiatives got all wrapped up in a COVID hangover. Globally, companies over promised and under delivered, and stopped effectively meeting stakeholder needs. And stakeholders noticed, and perceptions shifted accordingly.

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This year, generations have a lot in common with one another. Reputation Scores are down across every age group globally, with one exception: Baby Boomers. Boomers were the only generation to not experience a statistically significant decrease, and we see they have the most optimistic response across industries.

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We’re looking at the youngest of the Boomers, because we’ve divvied up Boomers and those over 65 for a clearer view of respective life stages. But what keeps these younger Boomers from experiencing the same statistically significant decrease as everyone else? It could be their resilience. The by-your-own-bootstraps generation has seen this all before, while still being young enough to make appropriate pivots for a comfortable retirement, compared to those over 65. This is not to diminish their experiences, but they know how to survive financial, medical, and social turmoil. They’ve had enough time and savvy in the in-between to build their lives. They have their sea legs and the most available resources to manage uncertainty.

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As a generation, Boomers also tend to be more corporation-friendly, and not as concerned with ESG endeavors as their younger counterparts. Historical RepTrak data reminds us that for both Millennials and Gen Z, ESG is the most important factor in determining whether they will say something positive about a brand, give the benefit of the doubt in a time of crisis, or trust. But don’t slow down ESG efforts, they still matter to Boomers and beyond. Boomers and Millennials are organic adversaries and have been since the word “Millennial” became vernacular. Across the generations, Millennials had the most drastic YoY Reputation Score decrease. Boomers appear to be the most optimistic and Millennials as the most pessimistic.

While Millennials are experiencing their second wave of economic uncertainty, they're keeping a close eye on corporate behavior, and are feeling skeptical towards their favorite (and not-so-favorite) brands. Millennials came of age during the Great Recession, once they recovered, the Global Pandemic came to town, and now they may be wondering if they’ll ever find their footing — and corporate brands are demonstrating little support.

But what about Gen Z? Why aren’t they as disappointed as Millennials this year? Last year, Gen Z had the largest decrease and lowest Score across generations, and while they may not have the steepest decrease in 2023, their Scores remain lower than both Millennials and Boomers. With lower Scores in GRT 2021 and GRT 2022, Gen Z may be settling into their pessimism. Gen Z has high standards, and they’re holding their ground, even as the seas get choppier.

Across generations, the public is still looking to their preferred brands to be better. Don’t let Boomers’ optimism slow you down. Repairing reputation, across generations, will require dedicated effort.

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READ THE FULL 2023 GLOBAL REPTRAK 100 REPORT


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