I was delighted to host Wells Fargo at the Financial Services Club last night.
Wells gave an update on their Web 2.0 strategies, which are far and away ahead of most other banks in Europe. This was corroborated by the bankers attending, who said to me afterwards that they were stunned by just how leading edge some of Wells Fargo’s online distribution services are, compared to their own.
For example, if we start with basic blogging, Wells Fargo has been blogging for a few years now. They began with Guided by History, and now have the Student Loandown, Commercial Electronic Office and Stagecoach Island blogs. Each is designed for a different audience, and covers all aspects of the history and breadth of the bank.
The bank’s view is that if you’re invited to the party and don’t attend, then people are going to trash you, and that’s exactly what happened to Wells Fargo a few years ago. They weren’t on the internet, and some joker started posting horror stories about bad service at the bank. That joker’s stories became a website called Wells Fargo Sucks, and was coming top of the listings when you searched for Wells Fargo on Google. However, by blogging and actively deploying online media strategies, this site has now slipped well down the google listings. For example, google “Wells Fargo” today, and it doesn’t even appear in the first few pages of results.
In other words, by leveraging the internet by writing and socialising about the bank online, you can change the profile of the bank on the internet. And this was the learning lesson from last night. By being at the party and engaging with the folks online, you get into a conversation and it is far more civilised and interactive than leaving folks to talk about you without a response.
As a result, the bank went a step further and focused upon other online services such as Facebook and YouTube.
YouTube had lots of videos of people who talked about the bank in a dismissive way. What do you do about that? Answer: launch a competition to create the best version of the Wells Fargo song from the musical, “The Music Man”.
Wells Fargo launched the competition a year ago, and aired the winning video as a prime-time advert during the College Football final at the Rose Bowl, watched by over 40 million American viewers.
The side effect was that the videos made as entries flooded YouTube, and hence drowned out some of the negative videos posted there with positive viewings.
Similarly, in another strand of intelligent online marketing, they have recently started a series about “Someday Stories”.
These are stories of folks who have a dream and the five finalists have been selected. The finalists win $10,000 each and every story is quite emotional. For example, about illness, the loss of a love one or something similar. Now, Wells Fargo’s customers can vote for the most worthy story and that winner gets $100,000 prize.
It’s a reality show for the internet age in other words, and the stories again form videos for YouTube and advertising. It also extends to Facebook and other online networks. It even gets talked about in other websites favourably, such as the Fashionable Housewife.
In totality, what this tells me is that Wells Fargo, based in California and at the heart of the internet age, understand online marketing for banking today.
One of the few.