Bad press has been dogging Bank of America (NYSE: BAC) a little more than usual lately thanks to the testimony of a handful of former employees in a lawsuit in progress concerning the big bank's treatment of mortgage borrowers seeking refinancing of their loans. Together with a recent survey showing the appallingly low regard in which the general public holds B of A, it's a wonder that the bank has any business at all.
But, just as no one person or company is perfect, so it is that none are all bad, either. Here is one survey of public opinion that shows that, despite all the negativity surrounding Bank of America, many Americans have noticed the efforts the big bank has been making to clean up its act -- and are giving credit where credit is due.
Four big banks on the "Improvers" list
YouGov BrandIndex, a research firm that measures public sentiment and perceptions regarding major companies and their brand, recently released its 2013 Top U.S. Buzz Improvers list. These companies were considered to have improved their brand perception appreciably in the first half of the year, and it's notable that four of the 10 companies listed are big banks.
In addition to Bank of America, Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS), JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM), and Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS) also made the grade, and it's interesting to note that there a couple of common threads, here. Overall, the site gives credit to the improving U.S. economy in general and an improvement in the sentiment toward the financial sector in particular as reasons for the banks' new, less tarnished image.
Another factor that seems to have been given some weight in the poll is the fact that most of these banks have launched public relations campaigns designed to improve their reputations with the public. B of A's newest image-polishing promotion was mentioned, as well as JPMorgan's own "So You Can" advertising campaign. Even Morgan Stanley aired a "We Are Morgan Stanley" TV ad, pushing its investment expertise. Though No. 1 improver Goldman Sachs did not seem to follow this type of strategy, it was noted that the firm made the top 100 in Fortune's "Best Companies to Work For" list for 2013.
Public perception matters
While a healthier economy certainly has helped boost these banks' profiles, this survey makes the salient point that reputation does matter -- and banks know it. In addition, advertising campaigns targeting that metric do seem to make a difference.
The difference in sentiment may be fleeting, however. In B of A's case, CEO Brian Moynihan has shown much concern for the bank's reputation, with mixed results. Efforts in 2011, as noted in this Huffington Post article, did prop up the bank's brand value that year, but there have been many slip-ups and downright awful reputational surveys since then, and outpourings of rage toward the bank occur with disturbing regularity.
While this poll is one of the few that shows any improvement in Bank of America's image, a gain of nearly 10% in positive perception is notable. Hopefully, the bank's newer, softer side will help reduce occurrences where past incidents of bad behavior come back to haunt the bank in the present. If B of A could stem the flow of negativity long enough to build up a more lasting, friendly image, it just might have a chance to effect some permanent reputational repairs.
As the big banks work on their reputations and balance sheets, paying big dividends may not be back on the menu for a while. If you're on the lookout for high-yielding stocks, The Motley Fool has compiled a special free report outlining our nine top dependable dividend-paying stocks. It's called "Secure Your Future With 9 Rock-Solid Dividend Stocks." You can access your copy today at no cost! Just click here.