Wells Fargo is climbing out of a huge reputational hole after a scandal broke in October that revealed dodgy retail sales practices (opening unauthorized accounts) spurred by aggressive targets. Since then, the financial giant has implemented internal reforms including replacing its CEO, transforming sales incentives and overhauling local-level manager compensation structures. It has paid huge fines and seen declines in customer loyalty and new customers, in addition to losing its crown as America’s biggest bank and its Better Business Bureau accreditation.
With structural fixes now underway, it’s now the marketing team’s turn to help get the word out, Wells Fargo chief marketing officer Jamie Moldafsky told brandchannel. Today, Wells Fargo launches a new brand campaign with the tagline “Building Better Every Day,” which Moldafsky stated “reflects what we are doing to make things right for our stakeholders, and our efforts to develop and offer innovative products and services that help our customers reach their financial goals.”
The kick-off ads in the campaign, which will be running on TV and its YouTube channel, highlight how the bank is bringing innovation to customers through improved security measures, digital technologies and other advances such as card-free ATMs, which let customers withdraw money by entering a one-time access code from its mobile app. The campaign’s other themes: guidance, service (financial health) and community support.
“We’ve done extensive research with various constituencies to understand where they are with the brand and Wells Fargo,” Moldafsky told us. “Most of them want to hear what we’re doing to be a better financial institution for them, whether it’s around their security and ease and convenience, or around guidance and education. So we’re sharing the things that we’re doing that will make their lives better. That’s why people choose to bank with Wells Fargo.”
In that spirit, two of the new TV ads depict the ease for customers of using their smartphones at a Wells Fargo to get card-free ATM access. Another spot highlights R&D advances in voice recognition security technology. (Its innovation incubator just received a $20 million infusion to continue funding startups and clean tech plays.)
The retail ethical breach concerned a compensation structure and sales incentives that encouraged branch employees to open multiple accounts for customers who never knew they “had” the accounts. Wells Fargo has been addressing the situation by firing thousands of employees, closing branches and implementing process reforms and new checks and balances. It attributed the phony accounts to an internal cultural breakdown, prompting CEO John Stumpf to step down and make way for a new management team.
An independent auditor’s report, released April 10th, also cast the company’s leadership culture as a contributing factor in the scandal. Meanwhile, its CFO also said the scandal’s costs will be higher than projected, while in the background there are efforts to oust directors. New CEO Tim Sloan told analysts on its April 13th quarterly earnings call, however, that he’s confident about the steps the company has made so far and the direction in which it’s headed.
To support the ongoing restructuring and the new campaign, throughout 2017 Wells Fargo is running a grassroots storytelling effort that brings to life “real, tangible examples of how the bank is building better every day.” These stories will be featured on WellsFargo.com/stories.
To expand the campaign’s reach, in-language language spots have been produced, such as these in Spanish and Chinese (Mandarin):
While this English-language spot appeals to the South Asian/Indian community:
brandchannel spoke with Moldafsky for more insights on the new campaign—which encompasses print, digital, broadcast TV and mobile channels in partnership with AOR BBDO San Francisco—and a new era for the brand.
bc: How is the journey to rebuild trust with customers, employees and key stakeholders progressing?
Jamie Moldafsky (right): It’s a journey. That’s the most important piece. The whole notion of “Building Better” is getting better every day, knowing that some days will be better than others. It’s going probably per what we’d expect. It’s going to take us time to restore all the relationships and trust in those relationships, but we’re making good headway because we’re head-on confronting some of the issues we had that made us less than ideal for some customers and stakeholders.
bc: What issues are you confronting head on?
Moldafsky: It’s an overarching platform for Wells Fargo. “Building Better Every Day” applies to us on several levels: becoming a better bank; fixing things for customers; making sure things that happened to us don’t happen again; building a better organization for team members, communities, and customers. The campaign fits in a lot with how people can experience better through their own lives and Wells Fargo, helping people on their own journey and providing a better financial experience for them. As in some of our parallel advertising, like a letter that was put out by Tim Sloan, we’re taking actions to make ourselves a better bank for employees and shareholders.
We’re sharing with our customers and key stakeholders all the actions we’re taking to address the issues that we have. We absolutely believe that is job number one. And that’s why it’s seven months later before we’re running a new campaign. The last seven months have really been about making sure we’re getting it right … and changing our processes. We’ve changed compensation structures in our community banks. We’ve done a lot of things to fix the basics so that people can trust us, and now we feel customers are ready to hear and desirous to hear what we’re doing for them as a customer.
It would have been for us a very bad idea to just have jumped into, “We’re a great bank and come bank with us.” We knew we had a lot of work to do to make sure our actions have come first. And we do believe we have, and are making it, a better bank. This [campaign] comes in on top of that.
bc: How does this campaign fit into the bigger goal of “decisive action” to win back the trust of customers and stakeholders?
Moldafsky: We’ll be going in more directions too. The reason we chose these [launch ads] is because they’re actually important to rebuilding trust. The only way non-customers or prospects are going to trust us is to feel we’re on their side to do things that make them trust us most—the kinds of things we’re doing to protect their identity, to make banking easier, to provide objective guidance around loan products. These are tangible actions that we can share to make customers understand we’re on their side and this is how we can help.
Earning back trust will take time, and these services are different from other kinds of institutions. ATM cardless access has been viewed widely as an innovation and those specific spots tested extraordinarily well. People understand that’s a huge value to them, and they understand the benefit of them. When we want to highlight that they’re unique or competitively advantaged, we will.
bc: What steps have been taken to maintain or strengthen employee engagement in your brand purpose in the past few months?
Moldafsky: Our team members are job number one. They deliver the innovations, and team members are the most important stakeholder group. We’ve taken many actions to make sure they’re cared for, things like increasing our minimum wage, changing compensation plans—which has been very well-received by them—and a “raise your hand” program that encourages and doubles down on safeguarding and communicating.
We’ve held dozens to hundreds of town halls with leaders to be transparent and open about what we’ve encountered and our role in that, and teammates have our utmost support. We want to be the best place to work for them and for them to be able to deliver the best possible service to customers. They, more than anybody, are so excited about this campaign because they feel it represents them, and they want to help customers be successful. This represents the best of them.
bc: What is your long-term strategy for rebuilding the brand beyond this initial campaign?
Moldafsky: We’re sticking with our core values. We know that this was something that occurred in a piece of Wells Fargo and one of our divisions. We serve 70 million customers across our company and are 100 percent committed to serving them as well as possible. The notion of “Better” for our customers is very core to our values. Whether it’s that specific articulation may change but who we are as an institution will not change.
Because while this is going on, our employees are at work focusing on making a better Wells Fargo for customers. They wake up every day to make our customers’ lives better. We are doing these things, and it’s all about making our customers’ lives better. It’s innovation with very clear goals at the outset.
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