More than 800 tech marketing executives in 17 countries voted the Hewlett-Packard chief--enmeshed in a much-maligned bid to absorb Compaq Computer--to the top of the list of CEOs who most harmed their brand in the past year, according to a poll conducted by marketing specialists Liquid Agency and Neale-May Partners.
She's not alone as a chief executive who was seen as compromising a tech company's image. Forty-three percent of respondents said top executives were not highly effective as a "brand emissary" for their companies.
Oracle's Larry Ellison took the second spot among CEOs seen as most damaging or compromising to their brands during 2001. Microsoft's Bill Gates took third, followed by AT&T's Michael Armstrong and Cisco Systems' John Chambers.
Still, it's Fiorina who's been the strongest criticism magnet of late.
In early September, HP and Compaq announced their intent to merge in a deal valued at the time at about $25 billion. Since then, the companies have been subject to a barrage of criticism for the planned union, not least from the Hewlett and Packard families, who are key shareholders. That opposition from the founders' heirs threatens to undo the merger, which will see a key shareholder vote early next year.
Fiorina has cast the HP brand into "chaos--for no good reason," one survey respondent said. "The deal, while it may be good, was not communicated in a clear and articulate manner."
Compaq CEO Michael Capellas came in at No. 6 in the ranking.
The companies seen as worst at maintaining brand value were HP, Compaq and Cisco, along with Lucent Technologies and Sun Microsystems. But not all of the blame went to the CEOs, though: 80 percent of respondents said the overall industry downturn has hurt tech brands. Major causes for that damage were financial losses, stock price depreciation and industry hype, according to the survey.
In spite of Gates' ranking, Microsoft topped the list of tech companies that have done well at maintaining brand value during the past year. Second was IBM and then Dell Computer.