Bank of America Goes on Image Offensive

Bank of America is trying to improve its reputation more than a year after the financial meltdown and the company's taxpayer-funded bailout.
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (TheStreet) -- Big banks have been duly vilified for their role in the economic upheaval of the past two years and the bailout they sought from taxpayers.

"Regardless of how we got here, there is an element of anger among the American public," says Anne Finucane, global strategy and marketing officer for

Bank of America

(BAC) - Get Report

. "Our industry as a whole has taken a very large hit in terms of reputation and trust. In order to solve a problem you have to understand you have one and we have recognized that we've got one."

Finucane has been on the frontline of efforts to restore the damaged reputation of the nation's largest bank. The company is using a mix of traditional media strategies, social media and other non-traditional approaches.

The Charlotte, N.C.-based company has been taking a "holistic" approach in online ads and broadcast commercials, highlighting the trillions of dollars it has seeded for entrepreneurs, civil works projects and community development. Twitter feeds are monitored and responded to when necessary. In what may be one of the bank's most ambitious efforts, a series of mini-documentaries accompanied the recent History Channel miniseries

The Story of US

to remind audiences of the role its legacy companies played in such epic undertakings as the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge and rebuilding of Chicago after the great fire of 1871.

Finucane recently spoke to

TheStreet

about these efforts.

What is the messaging contained in Bank of America's post-recession marketing strategy?

Finucane

: We are a highly regulated company that touches, arguably, one out of every two or three households. What we do matters well beyond a product and well beyond just a specific interaction with a customer.

We began by trying to express, as directly as possible, our value proposition -- the amount of money we lend, which is $3 billion a day every business day, what are we doing in terms on community development and what are we doing in terms of small business.

We are the only big bank to eliminate overdraft fees on purchases made with debit cards. We also now have a clarity commitment in our practices around home loans. This company wasn't in the subprime business, but in acquiring Countrywide, we acquired the issue. We immediately stopped the practice and have so far resolved more than 600,000 customer loan modifications.

We have been modifying one million credit cards in terms of how they are structured. We have also made a 10-year, $1.5 trillion community development commitment, investing in low and moderate income communities.

These are the kinds of things that our clients, our customers and the marketplace need to feel OK about the financial services industry.

What has the response been?

Finucane

: While we certainly took a reputational hit, we have recently seen some more favorable research results. Not what we would like in the longer term, but better. Our business is improving and we are seeing some early signs that at least our own customers feel more valued and we are doing a better job.

But, of course when you have the largest customer base out there, 59 million households, even if a small percentage aren't happy they are going to be larger than maybe another companies full customer base.

Was there much internal debate over the decision to cut into the revenue stream overdraft fees provided?

Finucane

: For our more affluent customers there is already a way to link their accounts so they really can't overdraft. The people that suffer the most are those who are really dependent on today's paycheck. They really didn't mean to charge, as they call it, the $40 cup of coffee. Had they known they were going to overdraft, they would have simply paid with cash or a credit card.

Yes, it is a revenue loss. But the last thing we want to be known for is we made our money on overdraft fees. That's not where we want to be here.

-- Reported by Joe Mont in Boston.

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