Banks will have to invest to resuscitate their brand

The front page headline on the Wall Street Journal did its job: “Bailed-Out Banks Face Probe Over Fee HIkes.”

In the article, three reporters detail how the very banks that received taxpayer dollars as a “bailout” are hiking fees on taxpayers. “Since the Troubled Asset Relief Program was launched last October, banks bolstered by capital infusions have boosted charges on a wide range of routine transactions, hiked rates on credit cards and continued making loans criticized as predatory by consumer advocates.”

You don’t have to read too carefully to detect the outrage factor in the article.

Throughout the recession, banks have received the majority of the blame for the ongoing painful recession, which has cost us all in property values, cost many in the decline of investments and cost millions their jobs.

The problem for most banks is that consumers do not discriminate between their local bank, which may have had little or nothing to do with our economic troubles, and Lehman Bros. of Wall Street.

Arianna Huffington made the distinction in a recent column on the Huffington Post.

“When it comes to the current crisis, all banks are definitely not created equal—or equally culpable. As Edward Yingling, president and CEO of the American Bankers Association, pointed out in a letter he sent to President Obama in February: ‘Wall Street and Main Street banking are very different.’ “

Banks savvy about their media relations and marketing are working hard to differentiate their brand from those shouldering the blame for these tough economic times. Many of these “Main Street” banks have good stories to tell about their business practices. The challenge will be to convince skeptical consumers of this difference.

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