This Month in Reputation: A Masters Victory, Major Toy Recalls, and University Ranking Surprises

April rep round up


Call it a comeback: Tiger comes out of the woods to overcome his own reputation demons and reclaim Masters glory

It was like something out of a movie: The golden boy who lost his glow (through sex addiction, divorce, and a DUI) and became a bad boy makes good through hard work, determination, and a little luck. On April 15th, Tiger Woods, made an improbable comeback at the Masters, winning his first major tournament in more than a decade.

Upon winning, he rushed to hug his son, Charlie, 10, in the crowd. The image, which was retweeted millions of times, was an echo of an earlier shot from Tiger's first big win in 1997, when he rushed to embrace his late father, Earl. Rarely has redemption had such touching symmetry. Fair to say, he's come reputation full-circle.


Hard work pays off (even in the far reaches of northern Maine)

The Maine School of Science and Mathematics, a school of just 145 students located 5 hours north of Portland, got a wonderful surprise this month: US News & World Report had ranked them the 2nd best school in the country.

Their dean of enrollment, Alan Whittemore, was ecstatic.

"We know what we're doing up here, but for us, as a small school on the fringes of Maine, to be recognized nationally—for others to take hold of the data and say we're worthy of being second in the nation—I'm still numbed by it. It's a great feeling."

With a score of 99.99 out of 100, MSSM was almost perfect.

Despite the triumph, Whittemore says the school won't stop pushing for improvement.

"We're not done yet," he says. "We're not resting on our laurels. That's for sure. Next year's No. 1."


Mattel's reputation takes a hit after the Rock 'n' Play is tied to 10 infant deaths

The toy maker, whose stock had been soaring for the first few months of 2019, faced headwinds after they recalled the exceptionally popular baby rocker, previously a must-have item for all new parents.

Mattel described the recall as voluntary, and said the deaths had occurred when customers used the product "contrary to the safety warnings and instructions." That may be true, but it seems unlikely that nervous new parents will be willing to take the chance.

"Product recalls, while less frequent, are part of the toy business," an analyst told Marketwatch. "But they pose reputation risk and may undermine licensor, retailer, and consumer confidence in the safety of a product or brand, lead to litigation and increased compliance costs, all of which could have a negative influence on the industry and/or a toy manufacturer's business."


In a tough year for tech, Netflix emerges unscathed and more beloved than ever

In this year's RepTrak rankings, several formerly teflon tech giants took a serious tumble: Amazon dropped out of the top 50; Google plummeted 63 spots to exit the Top 100; Facebook sunk all the way to the bottom of the reputation barrel, floating just barely above the much-loathed Trump Organization.

By contrast, streaming pioneer Netflix managed to shine even brighter, ranking as the US company with the best reputation for 2019. It effectively responded to allegations against House of Cards star Kevin Spacey by taking decisive action and cutting all ties with the actor, even at a cost of $39 million. The hit political drama kept on chugging without its disgraced star, and Netflix looked resolute and principled at a time when so many other companies had stumbled in the wake of the #MeToo movement.

It's also become much more than a distributor of content: Netflix is now a creator of critically acclaimed shows like Russian Doll, Stranger Things, and GLOW.

"It was truly the only company that took decisive action [on sexual misconduct allegations]," said Stephen Hahn-Griffiths, Ri Chief Reputation Officer. "Notwithstanding, it's a company that reinvented itself from being a tech-based internet-content-delivery machine to a creator of world-class content. Those two things combined have translated into an unprecedented reputational gain."


Many of the "Best Small Companies of 2019" focus on principles and values

Forbes has just released its list of the Best Small Companies of 2019. Many of the companies set themselves apart not just by their profits, but by their commitment to core principles and values. These may be the creation of an employee stock plans to share the wealth, or a decision to stick to what the company knows best rather than expand and dilute their brand and their expertise.


Fastly makes ethics and values a key part of its IPO

Fastly, a cloud platform used by Airbnb and Vimeo had an unusual—but very welcome—entry with its IPO filing in April.

While most companies speak of maximizing shareholder value, Fastly made it clear to potential investors that its commitment to its ethics and principles might cost it some short-term financial gain.

"We do not knowingly allow our platform to be used to deliver content from groups that promote violence or hate, and that conflict with our values like strong ethical principles of integrity and trustworthiness, among others," the filing stated. "However, this approach may not result in the benefits we expect or may result in negative publicity, in which case our business could be harmed."


Stephen Hahn-Griffiths

Executive Partner, Chief Reputation Officer
Reputation Institute


Why CEOs are Faced with Increasing Reputation Risk
Why CEOs are Faced with Increasing Reputation Risk

It's simple: Do the right thing.

Baseball's Most Captivating Reputation Journey: Alex Rodriguez
Baseball's Most Captivating Reputation Journey: Alex Rodriguez

Here's what companies can learn from A-Rod'd downfall and eventual reputational redemption.