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Samsung’s reputation was among the most damaged of any company last year

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Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Why it matters to you

Samsung is eager to claw back goodwill with its once-loyal customers by introducing safer and more innovative products.

The annual Harris Poll, which measures corporate reputation among tens of thousands of respondents in the United States, found that Samsung suffered one of the biggest hits of any company in 2016. The South Korean technology giant placed 49th in this year’s survey — down from seventh last year and its peak of third in 2015.

The Harris Poll, which has been conducted since 1999, prompts each respondent to rate two companies on a criteria of 20 different attributes. When asked which firm suffered the greatest drop in reputation over the past year, Samsung was the third-most common answer among those surveyed, taking 5 percent of the vote, followed by Volkswagen in second with 9 percent and Wells Fargo taking the top spot with 23 percent.

More: Samsung’s batteries just caught fire, and nearly took a factory with them

The study also offers insights as to the circumstances most likely to lead to negative reputation. “Intentional wrongdoing or illegal actions by corporate leaders” was cited by 85 percent of respondents as the greatest threat to corporate goodwill, trailed closely by “lying or misinterpreting the facts about a product or service” at 83 percent. “Product recall due to contamination” was the seventh-greatest risk, according to the poll, at 65 percent.

In Samsung’s case, the Galaxy Note 7 exploding battery debacle and arrest of vice chairman Lee Jae-Yong following a monthslong investigation stemming from charges of bribery and embezzlement align with the risks, and provide an explanation to the company’s fall from grace.

That said, it could have been much worse. Samsung’s Reputation Quotient score drop of 5.3 points year-over-year is a far cry from Volkswagen’s 20.5-point margin at the start of 2016 as a consequence of the Dieselgate controversy, when the automaker was found to have lied about the emissions levels of millions of its vehicles worldwide. That set an all-time Harris Poll record last year and was only outdone by Wells Fargo’s performance in this most recent study. The banking giant, embattled by a scandal in which it opened millions of unauthorized accounts without customers’ approval, has fallen 20.6 points.

Samsung’s relatively swift recall of the Galaxy Note 7 and announcement of stricter battery safety protocols likely mitigated what could have been an even greater public relations crisis. As the company gears up for the launch of its upcoming flagship Galaxy S8, expected to arrive in the spring, it has repeatedly assured prospective customers that it has learned from its mistakes and immediately taken those lessons to heart in developing future products.