Can Wells Fargo rebound from this much bad publicity? Better yet, will they HAVE to rebound?
The past couple of weeks have been rough for Wells Fargo. Yesterday was likely one of the worst days in Wells Fargo CEO John Stumph’s career, as he tried to answer questions being shot at him by the U.S. Senate Banking Committee pit bull, Senator Elizabeth Warren.
There will be countless memes (adding to the many already out there) shared via social media about Wells Fargo’s lack of ethics and shady sales practices. People, both inside and outside of the financial industry, will continue to openly disparage Wells Fargo and tout why their bank or credit union is better. Likely, many of you reading this blog have done so or will do so. (As we should!)
But at the end of the day, what are the results of this? Are there going to be enough customers angered to pull their money and accounts (both known and unknown) from the bank, voting for clean sales practices with their wallets and feet? Will we see a massive decline in Wells Fargo’s assets and customer numbers, knocking them out of the top-3 largest banks in the country?
Sure, there will be attrition by customers directly impacted and those angered enough to not want to do business with a bunch of lying cheats. But I wouldn’t hold my breath on the bank going under.
Brand Managment 202
The important part of this story is that Wells Fargo is doing an impeccable job of brand management. If you read the bank’s press release on Mr. Stumph’s appearance in the Senate hearing yesterday, you would have thought it was his idea to fly to Washington, D.C. and appear. Even though the video clips tell a decidedly different story.
Not only that, but Wells Fargo continues to take the high road. They’re keeping our focus on the fact that they are making great strides to change their internal culture and sales practices, so that this doesn’t happen again. They’re spelling out all of the feel good ideas that hit people right in their feelings. They’re keeping the focus off of what they did wrong and what they’ll do right in the future.
On the face of it, it looks like Wells Fargo is leveling with their customers (and the general public). It’s the nice, warm, fuzzy blanket that other customers want so that they can keep their account at Wells Fargo and know they’ll be okay.
You see brands going this in all sort of forms and situations lately. Even when they falter or are associated with bad publicity (see the Skittles example), they’re choosing the route of transparency within the confines of their brand.
Take a recent remark by the son of the Republican nominee for President of the United States this week:
And Mars, Inc.’s response:
Or that time Clorox Bleach went racist and responded to themselves:
Brand management is what you make of it. Every situation is going to yield a different response. Obviously, it’s not be appropriate for Wells Fargo to get out on Twitter and make Halloween jokes about ghost accounts. (Too soon?) But the perception of transparency and authenticity has the ability to turn your worst public relations experience into saving your customer attrition rates.
What are your thoughts on Wells Fargo’s scandal? What do you think the outcomes should be? Leave a comment!