Wells Fargo Ramps Up Marketing In Push to Regain Trust

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Wells Fargo logo
Wells Fargo logo Credit: Wells Fargo

Consumers can expect more marketing from Wells Fargo in the fourth quarter. The recently beleaguered bank said on an earnings call Friday that it will be ramping up its consumer-facing efforts. The new push follows a "commitment campaign" that began running in print and digital late last month after the disclosure of millions of fraudulent accounts.

"We have begun to reintroduce marketing and we'll be gradually increasing our marketing efforts throughout the coming months," said Tim Sloan, chief executive and president, on the call. Mr. Sloan was appointed leader of the $86.1 billion bank on Wednesday after former CEO John Stumpf stepped down in an effort to steer the San Francisco-based firm away from the turmoil and scandal that has plagued it over the last few weeks.

Wells Fargo's 'Moving forward to make things right' ad.
Wells Fargo's 'Moving forward to make things right' ad. Credit: Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo will continue with its commitment ads in major daily newspapers, according to a spokeswoman. "Moving forward to make things right," read the ads, which specify actions like putting customer interest first, proactively communicating, fixing what went wrong and undertaking full transparency. "The trust you place in us means everything and we will work hard every day to earn it back," the text reads. Wells Fargo's agency of record is BBDO. The bank, which works with communications company Kekst and Co., has also retained a crisis management firm.

According to crisis experts, Mr. Stumpf's departure was the bold and expected move—a symbolic sacrifice, in essence—that was necessary for the Wells Fargo brand to move forward and try to regain consumer confidence.

"To truly win back consumers, I think Well Fargo has to keep putting action behind its words – action that will mean more to consumers than putting a pelt on the wall," said Thomas Fladung, VP of Hennes Communications, which specializes in crisis management, via email. He noted highlighting customer relations and service, and transparency.

Yet the bank should research consumer sentiment before going full-steam ahead with big campaigns, cautioned Gene Grabowski, a partner at public affairs firm KGlobal.

"The bank would be well-advised to conduct some focus-group research and monitor social media before lunging into a full-scale marketing program," said Mr. Grabowski via email. "That way, it can learn what people want to hear and also gauge if the time is right to market or if consumers will be resistant to an immediate marketing effort."

It has been a rough ride for the bank, which spent $129.8 million on measured media in the U.S. last year, according to Ad Age's Datacenter. Last month, Wells Fargo came under fire even before the accounts scandal broke for an ad campaign that was criticized for seeming to belittle artists. The print ads prompted complaints from well-known artists such as Josh Groban and Zachary Levi. Soon after, Wells Fargo issued an apology on Twitter, reiterating its commitment to the arts.

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