Wells Fargo mismanaged their brand reputation, too

Sep 26, 2016

A brand’s reputation is among its most valuable assets.

Especially today when consumer expectations are so high. And your reputation is built over years – not over night.  Brands with strong reputations got there from hard work: consistently providing an outstanding product or service, demonstrating strong values, giving back to the community, being a good employer or all of the above.

Unfortunately, reputations can crumble far faster than they are built. How well your reputation recovers depends on two things:  how strong it was in the first place and how you handle the “crisis”.

Look at Wells Fargo.  The strength of their brand just might get them through their current fiasco by the skin of their teeth.  Their actions handling the situation certainly won’t.  In fact, how they’ve handled it is a lesson on what not to do.

A brand’s best strategy in the face of a crisis is truth.  You have to get out in front of a crisis, be transparent, and tell people the truth about what happened.  You need to articulate a plan to correct the problem and then act to make it right.  You also have to demonstrate what steps you’re going to take to ensure it doesn’t happen again.  And, by the way, it doesn’t hurt to apologize and show empathy for those affected if appropriate.

Let’s see how Wells Fargo stacks up.  They first learned about the problem five years ago and only went public after regulators spilled the beans. They’ve since put a plan in place and taken action but still a lot of questions remain about how it happened in the first place.  And, yes, their CEO apologized but only when put in front of the Senate Banking Committee to testify.

Whether or not Wells Fargo walks away unscathed from a customer standpoint (they’re paying plenty in fines) is yet to be seen, but how the bank has handled the situation from a communications standpoint is nothing short of cringe-worthy and a lesson on how not to manage your brand’s reputation.


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