Home Depot's PR problems dwarfed by Target breach


Home Depot's consumer perception fell to a two-year low following the retailer's announcement earlier this month that it was the latest company to suffer a widespread data breach.

Still, its dive paled in comparison to the level of fallout experienced by Target after news of its breach made waves back in December.

A customer buying lumber at a Home Depot store.
Getty Images

According to YouGov's BrandIndex, which gauges daily brand perception among consumers, Home Depot's rating fell from about 20 a week before reports of its data breach, to a score of 5, two weeks after.

Read MorePicking on Target? Outcry bigger due to breach

Although the drop shows consumers were shaken by the company's security issues, the dive was nowhere near as steep as the one experienced by Target, which saw its score fall from nearly 28 to minus 26 over a comparable period. At its lowest point during this time frame, Target's perception touched minus 32.5; it's since rebounded to around 15.

Jack Trout, president of Trout & Partners marketing firm in Old Greenwich, Connecticut, said Home Depot's relative resilience comes down to one simple fact: It made headlines some nine months after Target, meaning customer reaction went from "Wow" to "Oh, is that right?"

"I would say that the first one got all the press," Trout said. "To be No. 1 in a negative way is never good."

Ted Marzilli, CEO of BrandIndex, said the fact that Target's attack was brought to consumers' attention during the biggest selling season of the year also added to its magnitude.

"The timing of the Target breach at the height of the 2013 holiday shopping season created a very big story that was kept alive in the media for weeks at the busiest shopping period of the year," he said.

Target's data breach, which compromised the sensitive information of up to 110 million shoppers, dented the company's traffic and sales over the months that followed. The discounter said in its most recent earnings report that these metrics are finally starting to recover, and it saw positive comparable-store sales in the month of July.

Read MoreHow Home Depot shoppers can stay safe from hackers

Since December, luxury department store Neiman Marcus and arts-and-crafts retailer Michaels have also reported breaches on their systems.

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Home Depot said last week that its investigation goes back as far as April, though it is not yet sure of the "full scope, scale and impact of the breach." Like Target, Neiman and Michaels, Home Depot has offered to provide free credit monitoring to breach victims.

Read MoreHome Depot moves to soothe fears after credit card breach

YouGov compiles its data by interviewing 4,300 people seven days a week. It asks respondents, "If you've heard anything about the brand in the last two weeks, through advertising, news or word of mouth, was it positive or negative?"

Scores range from 100 to minus 100 and are determined by subtracting negative feedback from positive. A score of zero means that a company has received equal positive and negative feedback from respondents.

—By CNBC's Krystina Gustafson