Air New Zealand reputation flies highest despite COVID travel restrictions

For Colmar Brunton

Despite COVID-19 decimating international travel, Air New Zealand’s resilient reputation has landed it on top of Colmar Brunton’s Corporate Reputation Index 2021 for the seventh year running.

“The airline has built up a bank of goodwill that has been drawn down on during the COVID pandemic. After a challenging year it still retains its reputational lead by a small margin, signalling just how resilient the airline is.” said the Head of Colmar Brunton Sarah Bolger announcing the index today.

The Corporate Reputation Index, a partnership with Wright Communications, uses the global RepZ framework, created by Colmar Brunton’s parent company Kantar, with standardised reputation attributes with fieldwork in February and March 2021.

“Air New Zealand’s RepZ score has come down from 116 last year to 109, but it is still in the resilient zone,” said Ms Bolger. “New Zealanders still feel safe with Air New Zealand and that the airline represents the country well.”

Air New Zealand ranks first among New Zealand top 50 companies for Responsibility, Trust and Leadership, three of the four RepZ reputation attributes.

Air New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Greg Foran says he is humbled the airline has been awarded the accolade for 2021, particularly given the operating environment of the past 15 months.

“I’m delighted for our whole team, who have been through a year of enormous upheaval and taken it all in their stride. Our people are the reason we’ve been able to continue flying throughout the pandemic when not many other airlines have, bringing New Zealanders home and continuing to ensure Kiwi products reach the world. I genuinely believe our people are our competitive advantage, and we’ve absolutely got the best team in the business.

“Thank you to our customers who have really got behind us this year and understood the challenges we’ve faced while operating in an extremely uncertain environment. We haven’t always got it right, but we’ve tried to be open about the human impact of those challenges, and the media has played a role in helping us tell this story to the public.

“Looking ahead, we’ll be even more focused on developing a culture of customer obsession and delivering on our promise of taking care further than any other airline.

Wright Communications’ Managing Director Nikki Wright says accountability, transparency and authenticity have become bastions of corporate reputation.

“Media coverage, good or bad, is the most influential factor on the reputations of corporate brands with limited public interface.

“Companies which do the right things by the public and tell their stories well have resilience that enables them to ride out occasional setbacks and bad news. Conversely, companies that don’t consistently provide a great customer experience or communicate how they are dealing with their issues find their reputations suffer.”

Pak’n Save has risen back to second place in the rankings swapping places with TVNZ which is a close third. Pak’n Save ranks top for the RepZ Fairness attribute.

“Our research shows New Zealanders are having to think carefully about the cost of living and they appreciate companies like Pak’n Save that deliver good value,” said Ms Bolger. “The public also perceived the business looked after its workers during the lockdown and this had a positive impact on reputation.”

Meanwhile Toyota is consistent sitting at number four for the last three years in a row. Toyota New Zealand supported small businesses through the COVID lockdown in 2020 by providing 100 Toyota Highlander vehicles to small business owners for one year and continuing its sponsorship of Emirates Team New Zealand in its successful bid for the America’s Cup.

AA Insurance also perform consistently in the top 5.  The initiatives they put in place in response to COVID-19, including a hardship fund, premium freezes and premium rebates generated a great deal of positive feedback from customers. Their initiatives were understood by customers to be from a truly genuine place which enabled them to keep earning the trust of New Zealanders and this is reflected in their strong trust scores in the RepZ Index.

The other brands in the top 10 are Fisher & Paykel, New World, Bunnings, Kiwibank and Countdown.

Another company which has risen sharply in the rankings because of perceived good value is Bunnings, which has jumped four places from 12th to 8th. “Many people are spending their money on home renovations as they can’t travel internationally, and Bunnings is providing a good customer experience and fair prices. Bunnings ranks highly for fairness, responsibility and trust.”

The other big movers in the index are ASB, up six places from 17th to 11th thanks to strong marketing visibility, community involvement and All Black sponsorship, as well as Mainfreight who ensured supplies were delivered during the COVID lockdowns and have rising recognition of being a fair and responsible organisation. Mainfreight performed incredibly well on the NZX during the pandemic with rising profits. “Their distinctive blue trucks always look clean and the quotes displayed on the cab and rear are uplifting to read as you drive by.”

A strong reputation has been proven to link to business results and has many associated benefits, particularly in times of economic uncertainty. 

An increasingly important aspect of building reputation is perceptions of responsibility towards employees and the environment – companies that have improved their performance in the index tend to also to have a stronger perception of doing well on these factors.

Note: Southern Cross results were impacted by a change in the way they were measured in 2021

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