To learn how the landscape between society and business has shifted, Darden and APCO conducted a global study of more than 36,000 people in 14 of the world’s largest economies.

End of the Era of Push Communications


With the advent of the Internet and the rise of social media, corporate brands no longer maintain full control of messages or their reputations.

Anyone with a computer or mobile device can access information about a company and quickly and easily start a global conversation about corporate practices.

Unprecedented Scrutiny of Corporate Behavior

Greater access to information, coupled with the perceived influence large companies have over people’s lives, has led to greater scrutiny of corporate behavior.

68% agree

“When evaluating companies, it is as important for me to know how the company operates as it is to know what it sells.”

73% agree

“People scrutinize what companies do more today than they did 10 years ago.”

71% agree

“In the last 10 years, people's expectations for companies' conduct have increased.”

Shift in the Balance of Power Between Government & Global Corporations

Alongside this greater access to information, society is increasingly feeling a change in the balance of power between government, society and business.

60% agree

“Companies now serve functions in society that were previously reserved only for the government.”

77% agree

“Global corporations have a bigger impact on people’s lives today than they did 10 years ago.”

Companies Have the Power, If Not the Obligation, to Add Value

To succeed in this new era, great brands must manifest an explicit corporate brand strategy in every aspect of their business — from business strategy to employee communication and policies, to more deliberate external communication with customers, policymakers and society more broadly.

This corporate brand strategy must explain the social value or mutual interest the company fulfills.

Rather than build brand champions for products, the crucial dimension is to create a Champion Brand, one that champions the interests of stakeholders and society.

94% agree

“Companies have the ability to shape a better society.”

62% agree

“The best companies are those that are an advocate for things that are important to me.”


Companies today impact many aspects of our lives, and people are thinking and acting as more than just consumers of products and services. Champion Brand research has uncovered a whole new audience that is more invested in and engaged with corporate brands than others. We call this new audience the “Stakebroker” and it represents the future for building strong and enduring corporate brands.

Stakebrokers are not your traditional opinion leaders or influencers who read the news and talk to people about their opinions; they are a highly engaged group that looks at companies from a 360-degree perspective. What makes this audience unique is not just that they are more informed and active, but that they engage with companies from the perspective of ALL of the traditional audiences and their respective interests simultaneously (consumers, community members, environmentalists, policy influencers, employees and investors).

Let's Meet the Stakebroker:

  • 58% contacted a government official to express views about companies’ practices, compared to 11% of the general population.
  • 73% didn’t buy a product specifically because they didn’t agree with the company’s practices, compared to 35% of the general population.
  • 60% frequently follow news on companies’ supply chain or human rights practices, compared to 7% of the general population
  • 46% are active members of a community or charitable group, compared to 10% of the general population
  • 61% contacted a company to comment on their environmental practices, compared to 9% of the general population
  • 64% engage in socially responsible investing, compared to 12% of the general population.

The discovery of the stakebroker is significant because it suggests that the lines between traditional stakeholder audiences are blurring. The stakebroker is someone who cannot be placed into a single stakeholder category. Moreover, the stakebroker cares about how companies impact everything around them and are most likely to be paying attention to all of the practices, policies and behaviors of companies.

Stakebrokers also represent the future: They are more likely to be younger (Generation X and Y), and there is a higher proportion of stakebrokers in emerging markets such as Brazil, Mexico, China and India than in more developed markets. Learn more about the stakebroker methodology.

Four As

Darden and APCO have a groundbreaking model that creates a more comprehensive framework for how to think of corporate brand strength in the 21st century.

Molecular Vertical

Alignment draws upon traditional notions of reputation and measures how well companies meet the rational expectations of their various stakeholders.

Authenticity builds on The Arthur W. Page Society’s work on authenticity and ideas of “trust” many firms use to measure their corporate character. Authenticity is achieved through saying what you mean, meaning what you say, and doing what you say.

Attachment is about building strong relationships. Although key to product marketing, corporate brands often overlook the power emotion plays in forging bonds.

Advocacy is inspired by work on shared value and measures how well a company applies its unique business expertise to advocate on behalf of society and stakeholders. Companies demonstrate advocacy when they communicate how they add value to society in the course of achieving their business objectives.

Top Champion Brands

For more information on how your company scored and more on your industry

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The following were the top 100 global companies receiving the highest Champion Brand Index ratings, based on the Champion Brand model.

Rank Score Company Industry
2IntelElectronics & Appliances
4NestléFood & Beverage processing, service, and distribution
5Walt DisneyBroadcasting & Cable
8Honda MotorAutomotive
9SonyElectronics & Appliances
12Procter & GambleHousehold/Personal Care
14HJ HeinzFood & Beverage processing, service, and distribution
16BMW GroupAutomotive
18Levi Strauss & CoApparel
19Colgate-PalmoliveHousehold/Personal Care
20Costco WholesaleRetail
21PerdueFood Retail
22VisaConsumer Financial Services
23Samsung (Corporation)Conglomerates
24Discovery CommunicationsBroadcasting & Cable
25Coca-ColaFood & Beverage processing, service, and distribution
26Home DepotRetail
27United Parcel ServiceLogistics
28Campbell SoupFood & Beverage processing, service, and distribution
29WhirlpoolElectronics & Appliances
30Adobe SystemsComputer
31Volkswagen GroupAutomotive
32Robert Bosch GmbHElectronics & Appliances
33HersheyFood & Beverage processing, service, and distribution
35Johnson & JohnsonMedical Equipment & Supply
36Lowe's CosRetail
39Ford MotorAutomotive
40MasterCardConsumer Financial Services
41PanasonicElectronics & Appliances
43KelloggFood & Beverage processing, service, and distribution
44Toyota GroupConglomerates
45BIC GroupHousehold/Personal Care
46Dunkin' Brands GroupRestaurants
50Texas InstrumentsElectronics & Appliances
52MedtronicMedical Equipment & Supply
55Kirin HoldingFood & Beverage processing, service, and distribution
56DanoneFood & Beverage processing, service, and distribution
57Thomson ReutersPrinting & Publishing
59CanonElectronics & Appliances
60Nissan MotorAutomotive
61CovidienMedical Equipment & Supply
62PepsiCoFood & Beverage processing, service, and distribution
63Seven & I HoldingsFood Retail
64Kimberly-ClarkHousehold/Personal Care
66Honeywell InternationalConglomerates
69General ElectricConglomerates
70Jardine MathesonConglomerates
71Munich ReInsurance
72Lenovo GroupComputer
74Glencore XstrataMetals & Mining
75S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc.Household/Personal Care
76Deere & CoConstruction/Equipment
77General MillsFood & Beverage processing, service, and distribution
78MattelHousehold/Personal Care
79Heineken HoldingFood & Beverage processing, service, and distribution
80Roche HoldingPharma / Biotech
82SharpElectronics & Appliances
83Kraft Foods GroupFood & Beverage processing, service, and distribution
84Old MutualInvestment Services
85Rolls-Royce HoldingsAerospace & Defense
86Starwood HotelsHotels & Motels
88L'Oréal GroupHousehold/Personal Care
89Cisco SystemsTelecom
90Volvo GroupConstruction/Equipment
92HaierElectronics & Appliances
93Marriott InternationalHotels & Motels
96Ernst & Young Global LimitedBusiness & Personal Services
97Anheuser-Busch InBevFood & Beverage processing, service, and distribution
98General MotorsAutomotive
99Archer Daniels MidlandFood & Beverage processing, service, and distribution
100Legal & General GroupInsurance

Brand Building

APCO Worldwide’s deep roots in 360-degree stakeholder engagement makes us uniquely qualified to help organizations navigate the increasingly blurred lines between consumer and elite audience segments.

We created the Champion Brand model to help brands tackle the biggest challenges they’re facing today as they strive to make relevant, compelling connections in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.

Our brand services help companies build strong corporate brands that move beyond traditional corporate communications and corporate brand identity. We help build brands that inspire, engage and advocate.

APCO’s brand consulting services include:

Brand Identity

  • Naming
  • Logo
  • Tagline
  • Color Palette and Style Guides

Brand Strategy

  • Brand Positioning
  • Brand Architecture
  • Reputation Management

Brand Activation

  • Employee Engagement
  • Brand Movements and Corporate Campaigns

Brand Performance

  • Brand Metrics
  • Brand ROI