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Why Consumers May Be Souring on Apple and Google

Alphabet CEO Larry Page and Tesla CEO Elon MuskAlphabet CEO Larry Page and Tesla CEO Elon Musk
The reputation among consumers is falling for Larry Page's Google but rising for Elon Musk's Tesla. Photo credit: Getty Images

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Buried amidst all the latest unprecedented news from the White House yesterday, from the Twitter firing of the Secretary of State to the blocking of the largest proposed tech deal ever, was the quiet release of the annual Harris Poll Reputation Quotient ranking. Aaron in for Adam from Boston, where we are also buried by more than a foot of snow, thinking about what people think about tech companies.

Over a foot of snow fell outside Boston

After a year of mounting bad press about the tech giants, the companies are feeling the impact in different ways. Apple’s ranking plunged from fifth to 29th. And Google slid from eighth to 28th. The drops accelerated from last year. In 2016, Apple was second and Google third.

Amazon was ranked number one, as it was the past two years, and Tesla (TSLA) rose to third from ninth. Non-tech supermarket chain Wegmans Food Markets ranked second. The full top 100 rankings are here, if you are curious.

Consumer brands rise and fall for many different reasons. Sometimes it’s an obvious misstep–bankrupt airbag supplier Takata ranked last in the Harris poll this year after the largest recall in the history of the auto industry (and 22 deaths due to the company’s products). Amazon (AMZN) fans were no doubt pleased by the e-commerce giant’s expansion into groceries with the acquisition of Whole Foods.

Discerning what’s going on with Apple (AAPL) and Google (GOOGL) is more complicated. Harris Poll CEO John Gerzema told Reuters he attributed the fall of the two tech giants to a lack of new attention-grabbing products. “Google and Apple, at this moment, are sort of in valleys,” Gerzema told the wire service. “We’re not quite to self-driving cars yet. We’re not yet seeing all the things in artificial intelligence they’re going to do.”

I’m not buying it. It’s been years since Google Maps and the iPad arrived but the companies’ reputations held up just fine until 2017. It’s more likely that people are truly starting to reevaluate how much trust they put in the two companies which increasingly dominate our mobile, connected lives via iOS and Android. And smartphone addiction is a real thing. It’s probably not antitrust related, as that would implicate Amazon most of all. Let us know what you think, either on Twitter or via the email link below.

Aaron Pressman