2018 Thunderbird Opinions Most Admired Companies Survey

Methodology: 2018 Thunderbird Most Admired Companies in the Global 500

The methodology and the results.

(Credit: CollegeChoice.net)


  • Why does Apple have a GlobalRank™ of 90% and Huawei 100%? Does it mean one is more admired?
  • Not at all. Our system identifies the #1 global company in each country and every region judges business differently. This factor is implied in the rating variances.
  • For instance, banks in Russia are more admired than banks in The Netherlands due to cultural and historical factors. Yet banks in both countries may be equally outstanding.
  • We do not correct for regional, sector and demographic bias. We believe that by revealing them, proper solutions can evolve.
  • If a shoe maker sells shoes in Asia and in America, they develop a strategy for regional variances in foot size. The same goes for corporate reputation.
  • In our example of Apple and Huawei above, the way to read a 10% variance is that it reflects the best of class in both countries.

Thunderbird Opinions? The opinion research polling organization for business attitudes and trends at the Thunderbird School of Global Management of Arizona State University.

What does Thunderbird Opinions Most Admired poll do? It ranks companies and leadership qualities based on the level of admiration.

What does it mean to be a top 20 company? The top 20 companies were the most admired companies in the Global 500, according to our GlobalRank™ system of rating.

How do the respondents rate the company? Each company was rated by business executives who live or work in the county of the company. This gives respondents sound working knowledge of the companies.

Why do you have most admired in the country and not globally? Global rankings tend to look like American rankings once the finalists re known. Country level data is usually more precise and reliable as a proxy for admiration around the world.

Who were the respondents? All respondents were qualified by the following factors to ensure working knowledge of the companies: graduate business school degree lived or worked in the company’s region, had sector expertise.

How do you maintain sample base quality? Our 50,000 alum database of business executives, all of whom have graduate degrees from Thunderbird, enables us to conduct an online survey without incentives or opt-in.

How do you classify a company with two headquarters? Some companies have dual headquarters and we added the company to both country samples.

When was the survey conducted? The survey was sent in April-May 2018 and results were calculated through June.

What survey tool did you use? Our survey provider is www.segmanta.com, an Israeli based hi-tech company.

What were device types respondents used? Desktop (55%) Tablet and Phone (45%).

What browsers were used? Chrome (31%) Safari (Mobile) 31% Safari (19%) Edge (13%) Other (6%)


How were rankings arrived at? Companies are rated on Thunderbird’s proprietary GlobalRank™ scoring system: the percentage of admire votes out of total admire/do not admire votes.

What does GlobalRank™ do? It is designed to show admiration signal strength. Over 50% is considered an indicator of business improvement; under 50% indicates potential for business defection.

What question defined admiration? Business executives were asked which company they admire, do not admire, or are undecided. The GlobalRank™ score is the percentage of admirers.

What is the ‘corporate elite’? If a company has 100 admirers and no non-admirers, the score is 100%, and that was required for inclusion in the corporate elite. Companies also had to have total votes above the median of their cohort.

How are “Most Dubious Companies” rated? The most dubious companies were ranked as highest in undecided votes compared to their admired ratings.

How were the least admired ranked? We compared the percentage of admires vs. do not admire scores.

Why aren’t your rankings in numerical order? Thunderbird Opinions ranks the top companies within a sector or country. It is common to have two top companies with different ratings from different countries, so a simple numerical list is not the appropriate way to see the data.

Is there a global ranking? The company with the highest GlobalRank™ is the most admired company in a country or sector. The list of companies with the highest scores are de facto the most admired companies in the world.

How did you develop the admiration qualities? These factors are alternately referred to as qualities, styles, or dimensions, which people admire most about a company. They were selected by a review of leading corporate reputation research findings.

Are there biases factors that readers should consider? Five biases that affect GlobalRank™ ratings from a global perspective should be considered when analyzing Most Admired Company findings:

  1. Country bias
  2. Sector bias
  3. Familiarity bias
  4. Gender bias
  5. Media bias

Biases are not factored into GlobalRank™ ratings.


Why is the ranking based on country data and not a general ranking of all companies from 1–100? The respondent base required working knowledge of the companies and the most reliable approach was to find people who lived or worked in the region of the company and had expertise in the sector.

Why does country data matter so much? Each country has its own attitude towards business, and this is reflected in a company culture and actions, and therefore, must be measured on a country basis.

How were your respondents qualified? All respondents have graduate degrees in business, are current business executives, and possess working knowledge of the companies through living or working in the region, as well as relevant sector expertise.

What were the respondent demographics?

  • Global: — business experience in 27 countries and regions
  • Sectors: 13 economic activities
  • Graduate degrees in business
  • 74% male; 26% female
  • Age: 25–34 (8%); 35–44 (12%); 45–53 (35%); 55–64 (28%); 64+ (18%)


Where did you get the companies in the survey? The company universe was taken from the Forbes Global 500 list and seven other independent databases* reflecting key admiration qualities of performance, community, employee satisfaction, and brand recognition:

  • — 2017 Newsweek Green Rankings
  • — 2017 Harvard Biz Review Best-Performing CEOs
  • — 2017 Global RepTrak Most Reputable Companies
  • — 2017 Interbrand Best Global Brands
  • — PWC Top 100 by Market Cap Increase From 2009 to 2017
  • — 2017 Harris Poll Reputation Quotient Ratings
  • — Top “unicorn” companies in technology

In surveying corporate brand names, how did you handle Japanese and Korean conglomerates? Keiretsu, Chaebols, and private equity portfolio companies often share the brand name as the parent. In all cases, we chose the company name that appears in the Forbes Global 500.

Are all companies public? High tech ‘unicorns’ and Levi’s, private companies with a billion or more market value, were included. Several private companies and some that are part of larger organizations were also included, Levi’s, WhatsApp and LinkedIn.




Thunderbird Opinions is an opinion poll and business trend researcher from the Thunderbird School of Global Management of Arizona State University. Our focus is on trends in global business and leadership.

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Jeff Cunningham

Jeff Cunningham

2019 Telly Award IconicVoices.tv; ex-publisher Forbes

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