How Wells Fargo Connects Locally Via Sports, Philanthropy, and Digital

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Making a nationally familiar brand seem like part of the community takes more than simply setting up a local branch and inflating a bunch of balloons for a grand opening. For Wells Fargo & Co., one of the largest banking and financial services companies in the world, its international brand might seem too big to relate to local customers.

That is not the case, says Gary Korotzer, executive vice president of marketing and brand strategy and community bank marketing for Wells Fargo. He says that through a mix of efforts the bank weaves its way into the day-to-day lives and needs of its customers. Korotzer spoke to Street Fight about how Wells Fargo’s local marketing strives to make the brand part of the communities it serves.

Wells Fargo is a widely known name, but how does the company connect at the local level and steer its marketing to relate to surrounding communities?
Ultimately our goal is to be part of the communities where our customers live and work. It’s all about relevance and how we’re part of the local community. We do things that are community-support-oriented.

We are a heavily philanthropic organization, so one of the things we want to make sure we’re connecting with our customers on is all of the work we’re doing to support local communities. How we bring our brand to life at the local level — there’s a set of things we do around sponsorships and experiential marketing. A third thing is how we engage our customers. There things we do that are more business driving when engaging the local market.

How do plans for local interaction get formed and play out? Does Wells Fargo launch initiatives at the national level, and then bring it to communities? Do local branches make suggestions that can be replicated in other markets?
It’s absolutely a two-way street. There things we do at the national level are relevant at a local level. An example is our “Small is Huge” program, which is related to our corporate philanthropy. We donate money to local charities. We created an interactive map on our website where people can find charities near them that Wells Fargo has engaged with. We have a broad national program of philanthropy, yet we have set it up in a way that we can connect really locally.

We also have a number of sponsorships that we do, which includes sponsoring Major League Soccer. It’s a national program but we work really closely with the local markets where we have team relationships. That can include player appearances at local branches.

There are examples, such as in Seattle, where the market came to us and said they were interested in local sponsorships. It turned out that the Seattle soccer team was available and we were able to do a deal. You gain empowerment that way. It really does go both ways.

What does Wells Fargo do at its branches to connect with prospective or returning customers? Are there any new marketing initiatives to project a community bank feel?
How we understand what our customers are doing at the local level—the world has obviously changed with mobile, social, and all the data we have about our customers. There’s something about local relevance now that’s game changing, where we can understand what our customers’ needs are, where they are, and how they want to do their business. How we use data about our customers, when we know they’re in a branch for example. We spend a lot of time trying to figure out, because we’ve talked to them or have some data, what our customers’ needs are. When they’re with a banker or talking to a teller, how we can prompt the conversation in a way that serves the customer’s needs. We’ve spent a lot of time on this because at a local level that is really where this all comes to life.

We spend and effort time getting information, based on the data we have, to our bankers to help them serve our customers better and serve their needs at a local level.

What changes has mobile banking brought to local marketing?
What you can do transactionally through mobile devices is something that sees huge adoption and usage, and yet there are sets of needs where customers want guidance and people want to talk to us about more complex circumstances and situations where they have a service need. They want to talk to someone. Many times it’s in a branch, sometimes it is over the phone. Our job is to connect the dots and make customers aware that we are there to serve them in-person with experts. We see mobile as complementary.

How have customers’ needs changed in relation to needing local bank services?
We offer a lot of new services and ways to interact with the bank. You don’t even need to have your debit card with you to use our ATMs. That is a hugely popular feature that we’ve introduced that lets you connect locally at a branch. We are using our bankers to approach customers about using digital and all of the services Wells Fargo offers. A lot of this is about local relevance for our customers.

Joao-Pierre Ruth is a Street Fight contributor.