- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 25, 2022

The Walt Disney Co.’s brand didn’t quite go from hero to zero last year, but consumers evidently became less enchanted with the entertainment giant as it tangled over politics with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The 2022 Axios Harris Poll 100 released Tuesday found that Disney ranked 65 on the list of the “most visible brands in America,” plummeting 28 spots from the 2021 list.

“Disney’s about-face shows the reputational hit that comes when the public perceives you as being calculating rather than clear in what you believe in and stand for,” said Harris Poll CEO John Gerzema.

The 23rd Annual Corporate Reputation Rankings survey asked 33,096 Americans from March 11-April 3 to gauge companies in seven categories: trust, ethics, growth, products/service, citizenship, vision and culture.

Topping the list was Trader Joe’s, followed by HEB Grocery, Patagonia and Hershey Co.

The one-year plunge earned Disney on the list of “top decliners,” along with Stellantis, Twitter, Pfizer and the Trump Organization. Both Disney and Trump fell by 4.3% from their 2021 scores.

Disney came under criticism in March after vowing to help national organizations repeal Florida House Bill 1557, known on the left as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in grades K-3.

Disney said in a March 28 statement that the bill “should never have passed and should never have been signed into law,” while Mr. DeSantis said the bill sought to protect children “from schools using classroom instruction to sexualize their kids as young as 5 years old.”

Days later, a leaked video showed Disney executives discussing how they promote LGBTQ story lines and characters in their entertainment, and gender-neutral language in their theme parks by removing terms such as “boys and girls.”

Andrew Crapuchettes, CEO of the job-site firm RedBalloon, said that Tuesday’s survey results show that “Disney needs to be aware of their entire customer base and stakeholders.”

“For too long, Disney has only acknowledged one side of their shareholders and customer base,” Mr. Crapuchettes said in a statement. “Woke corporations are learning that when they speak out on social issues, they are incurring a monetary risk.”

He cited the example of Netflix, which fired a shot across the bow last week in a “culture memo” aimed at woke employees.

“Depending on your role, you may need to work on titles you perceive to be harmful,” Netflix said. “If you’d find it hard to support our content breadth, Netflix may not be the best place for you.”

Mr. Crapuchettes said the company’s pushback may augur the start of a trend.

“The conservative majority of this country has remained silent for a while,” he said. “Now that they have spoken up, companies like Netflix and Disney may become more centrist.”

RedBalloon bills itself as the “nation’s first and only free-speech job site,” seeking to connect “employers who still love freedom” with “employees who want freedom.”

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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