It's a Social Media World

A Discussion on Digital Media & Communication Trends

Charlotte’s Potential Identity Crisis – Does Wells Fargo Even Care?

Never has the changing Charlotte landscape been more noticeable. The 2nd largest banking city in the country has been refaced with red and gold. Last week all of the Wachovia signs were removed and replaced with the very bright red and gold of Wells Fargo.

This poses a question for me. Is Charlotte under an identity crisis? I never realized how the calm of Wachovia’s blue and green so highlighted our cities personality. A combination of First Union and Wachovia, both North Carolina based banks; there was a rich heritage that existed that is now lacking. Not to seem melodramatic, but I feel lost. Just walk in Uptown Charlotte any day or night and the whole area has a different feel. Wells Fargo’s yellow and red clash with the beautiful architectures and intermingle with Bank of America’s red and blue. I even have to do a double take when I approach and ATM.

I don’t think I am alone in this feeling. Many people have commented that they are leaving Wells Fargo, or that they hate the “new” brand. Interestingly, most of the naysayers are local to the area.

In reflecting on these issues as a Wells Fargo customer, it makes me wonder if they did their crisis due diligence. Did they think about corporate social responsibility and how these changes would impact the Charlotte community?

Corporate social responsibility states that citizens of a community expect four key things from the companies that share their space:

  1. Pride – An organization should have pride in the community and create pride for the community
  2. Stability – An organization residing in the community will exist with permanence and without mass change
  3. Participation – An organization will be active within the community
  4. Aesthetically Pleasing – An organization will enhance the communities appearance not detract from it.

Wells Fargo spent two years transitioning the brand. They slowly transitioned the name by adding a division of under the original logo. Additionally, Charlotte was the last market they transitioned. Finally, they over communicated that the change was occurring to all customers. However, I think they underestimated the graphical power that a brand possesses and what those symbols mean to people in a city or region.

I don’t think there was a good way to change the logo and brand elements. Perhaps Wells Fargo recognized that it was impossible to retain the level of corporate social responsibility Charlotte was accustomed to from Wachovia. Charlotteans would naturally feel a sense of loss. Wachovia was a major company; an entity intertwined into the fabric of Charlotte’s society. Therefore, transitioning slowing could have been Well’s way of losing the least (‘Learning to Lose the Least’ – Important, But Difficult Lesson for Organizations). My only question is did they even think about how the brand changes would impact the city and did they strategically review the potential for crisis?

Have you thought about how graphics or logo changes could affect your society, employees, or other external stakeholders? Comments always appreciated!

*picture credit: http://sanatogapost.com/2010/12/05/wachovia-change-to-wells-fargo-coming-quickly/

*Corporate social responsibility information taken from an interview with Dr. John McArthur in October of 2011.

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4 comments on “Charlotte’s Potential Identity Crisis – Does Wells Fargo Even Care?

  1. PattiPalmer1
    October 25, 2011

    I love the new logo! i think the colors are rich, bold and vibrant, and I think they symbolize a dynamic approach to a traditionally staid industry. The stagecoach and tag line, “Together we’ll go far!” connect the pioneering spirit of the Old West with the entrepreneurial spirit of the New South.

    The logo and colors appeal to me on a personal level because I banked with Wells Fargo when I lived in LA. I recognize that red/gold wherever I go!

    • kbconway
      October 25, 2011

      Patti – Thank you for a different perspective. Design does create a visceral response whether positive or negative.

  2. Tiffany Bell
    October 27, 2011

    As a result of the radical re-branding of uptown Charlotte (and other areas in the city where Wells Fargo branches are located), it no longer feels like a familiar place. Regardless of how people feel about the bold red and yellow colors plastered across the uptown Charlotte landscape – an unfavorable reaction based on the opinions of many Charlotteans – it is clear that change, welcome or unwelcome, is here.

    Many would argue that Wells Fargo did not do its due diligence in getting a handle on strategically managing a potential identity crisis as a result of the bank acquisition. Unlike the merger prior to the more recent takeover, employees were invited to be a part of the re-branding effort. During the First Union/Wachovia merger in 2001, employees were asked to submit creative ideas for the new logo, as well as color schemes for the new organization; this made us feel as though we were a part of the merger and that our voices were valued. As a former Wells Fargo employee, we were not involved in the re-branding effort for the Wells Fargo/Wachovia conversion. Maybe this was due to the fact that the First Union/Wachovia merger was considered “a merger of equals” – clearly not the situation with the Wells Fargo/Wachovia acquisition.

    Maybe one of the reasons for the upcoming Charlotte Community Celebration on October 29th co-sponsored by Wells Fargo and the ASC (Arts and Science Council) is to attempt to mitigate the adverse effect of the sweeping branding changes on the local community (Wells Fargo Community Celebration). It’s being billed as a major free arts event with free admission to many of the local museums and features Grammy award-winning jazz artist, Branford Marsalis.

    In all fairness, this event may be considered by some as a semi-valiant effort on the company’s part to try to get the Charlotte community to give it a chance. At best, in the short-term, it will provide a good reason for people to trek to uptown Charlotte on a Saturday afternoon to partake in the free family-friendly festivities. However, I doubt that the desired long-term result will be what Wells Fargo may be hoping for with crossed fingers and baited breath – which is to endear the Charlotte community to its sweeping re-branding efforts and ultimately, to the company itself.

    • kbconway
      October 27, 2011

      Tiffany – Thank you for your insightful and extremely thoughtful reply. Non-Charlotteans certainly will see this differently. I remember the First Union/Wachovia merger. They were far ahead of there time regarding PR and crisis communication.

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