Case Studies, Portfolio

Wells Fargo Case Study

Wells Fargo Case Study

By Heather Bodajla

Case Summary

Wells Fargo, under the leadership of John Stumpf, Chairman and CEO, was fined $185 million dollars for allegedly opening over two million unauthorized chequing and credit card accounts without the consent of the customers between May 2011 and July 2015.  The bank settled with the regulatory agencies without admitting guilt or denying any wrongdoing.  Wells Fargo insisted it never directed any employees to open these accounts and ultimately fired 5,300 employees over five years for their participation in the scam.  It also refunded $2.6 million dollars to customers for wrongfully charged fees.  Finally, Stumpf recommended to the Wells Fargo board of directors that they “rescind $41 million of unvested stock awarded to him and $19 million to Carrie Tolstedt, who led the bank’s community banking unit where the wrongful sales practices occurred.”

Problem Statement

Wells Fargo’s reputation and trustworthiness is damaged internally and externally because it allegedly opened over two million unauthorized chequing and credit card accounts without the customer’s knowledge or consent over a four- year period.  Wells Fargo claims its focus is on serving customers, but it has deceived them instead.   It also threw its own employees under the bus, so the leadership team would escape persecution.

SWOT Analysis


  • One of the top ten banks in the U.S.
  • Weathered financial crisis of 2007-08 and acquired Wachovia in 2008. Became North America’s most extensive distribution network for financial services
  • One of the nation’s largest financial institutions
  • Forbes magazine ranks Wells Fargo among top ten publicly traded companies in the world
  • Between 2010-2015, Wells Fargo’s assets grew by 46% and net income by over 85%
  • By early 2015, posted 18 consecutive quarters of profit growth
  • Performed better than its competitors. Lowest efficiency ratio
  • Stock price increased. In July 2015, became the most valuable bank in the world.
  • Success of company came from cross-selling ratios. Incentivized staff to sell more. Had highest cross sell ratio in the industry
  • Had a Code of Ethics and Business Conduct for all employees
  • First bank to launch online banking
  • Wells Fargo returned $2.6 million dollars to affected customers
  • Stumpf asked the Wells Fargo board to rescind $41 million of unvested stock awarded to him, and $19 million to Carrie Tolstedt


  • Cross selling practice too aggressive, went against company ethics
  • Employees who tried to complain about cross selling were fired despite the company’s Code of Ethics and Business Conduct which asked employees to report wrongdoing and protect reputation of the company. The bank had a method in place to retaliate against whistle-blowers
  • Stumpf was still getting paid during the scam
  • Stumpf was CEO and Chairman- ideally these roles should be two separate positions. Shareholders tried to separate them in a proxy vote, but the board of directors urged them not to vote for it because the company was running fine as it was.  In addition, shareholders voted against the move 11 times in a row
  • Wells Fargo pushed blame for scam to lower- level employees and then fired 5,300 of them, but the practice of opening fake accounts was mandated in the culture. Those people were just following orders
  • Senate Banking Committee hearing, House Financial Services Committee hearing, fines totaling $185 million dollars
  • Cross selling makes the bank a lot of money. Successful cross selling and customer retention are highly correlated
  • Bonuses and quotas were introduced for bank employees to open more accounts
  • Destroyed some customers’ credit worthiness by opening and closing these accounts, issuing credit cards and having them cancel them
  • Violated integrity of Sales Quality Manual
  • Employees gave signed petitions to the board during 2014 and 2015 annual meetings urging them to look at the link between sales quotas and fraudulent opening of accounts without customers’ permission
  • Wells Fargo had a dispute resolution policy, but it was a sham- if you used it, you were fired
  • Employees who didn’t meet quotas or didn’t want to do business this way were harassed
  • Wells Fargo forced customers into private arbitration
  • Wells Fargo forced arbitration clauses in employees’ contracts


  • New CEO and Chairman to help restore trust and repair reputation
  • Cross- selling done ethically might keep more customers and maximize revenue potential
  • Hire a new Board of Directors to get rid of the toxic old ones who have let this scam carry on
  • “In August 2015, Wells Fargo hired PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) to carry out detailed analysis of the sales practices pertaining to all the 82 million deposit accounts and nearly 11 million credit card accounts that been opened between 2011 and 2015 to quantify the remediation needed to compensate the customers who had suffered as a result of accounts fraudulently opened in their names.”


  • Stumpf as CEO
  • Unethical corporate culture
  • Senior executives were out of touch to let this happen and let the lower level employees take the fall
  • Settled with regulatory agencies without admitting or denying alleged misconduct. Not giving any response makes them look guilty
  • Scapegoated people at the bottom of the employee chain
  • Accused of fraud by Senator Pat Toomey during Senate Banking Committee hearing
  • Broke trust of employees, current customers and future customers
  • Dozens of fired employees spoke to the media
  • Lawsuits piled up
  • Shareholders filed class action lawsuit
  • Stock price fell more than 10%
  • Competition can come in and take the business now. Customers might be very willing to leave Wells Fargo

PEST Analysis


  • Stumpf appeared before the Senate Banking Committee and the House Financial Services Committee


  • Cross selling is the cornerstone of the marketing strategy of the financial services industry
  • “In 2012, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California had ruled that even if its sales targets were unreasonable, the Bank had the right to use them as an employment yardstick.”
  • “In July 2015, with market capitalization of about $300 billion, Wells Fargo became the most valuable bank in the world.”
  • Worldwide trend of separating CEO and Chairman of the Board roles
  • Wells Fargo stock outperformed the broader stock market index over longer periods of time


  • Cross selling was used across the financial services industry. Many of Wells Fargo’s competitors used it too
  • Acquiring new customers was seven times more expensive than retaining existing customers
  • In 2016, NYSE Governance Services gave the board Best Board Diversity Initiative Award


  • There aren’t any indicated in the case study


Secondary research will be needed to determine more information about the current social, political, environmental and technological climates in the financial services industry in the United States at this time.

Stakeholders/ Publics


What are the stakeholders wants, interests and needs?

Stakeholders need to trust the company again and know that this will never happen again.  They want the people responsible for the scam to leave the company and know changes will be made and their investments and credit history are safe and uncompromised.

Audience Research

I recommend primary research such as interviews, surveys and focus groups to get a pulse of customer and employee perception of Wells Fargo’s reputation and trust before we launch a communication plan.  We need to re-administer the surveys and focus groups at regular intervals throughout the plan, to the same groups, in order to know if we’re making progress.  We will also continue to monitor media.


The goal is to repair the long- term damage to Wells Fargo’s reputation, and rebuild trust among customers and employees.


Objective for Customers:

To have an effect on acceptance.

To create a positive attitude among 50% of current and potential customers about Wells Fargo’s commitment to its customers by year end 2018.  Success would look like a 70% approval rate.

Objective for Employees:

To have an effect on action. 

To increase attention about the stories we will tell in our internal communications campaign about ethical behaviour by 90% by June 2018.

Objective for Shareholders:

To have an effect on action. 

To increase opinion of shareholders and key analysts about the new board and CEO by 60% by year end 2017.

Output Objectives:

To increase MRP score of Wells Fargo to 70% by year end 2018.

To decrease negative attitude on social media by 50% by year end 2018.


  • A consumer relations strategy, along with a social media strategy are needed to repair credibility of Wells Fargo.
  • Internal communications are needed to repair credibility internally and communicate the stories.
  • Financial and investor relations are needed to reach the shareholders and analysts.
  • A media relations strategy is needed to address how Wells Fargo will rectify behaviour and increase MRP score.



Key Messages

We are deeply sorry to our clients and employees for knowingly perpetrating this scandal.

Our focus is on serving customers honestly and ethically.  Your investment and credit history are safe, and uncompromised.

We have removed the CEO, replaced the board of directors and implemented a new code of ethics to ensure this will never happen again.  We know it will take time to regain your trust, and we hope to earn it back.


It is quite obvious Wells Fargo knew what it was doing when it initiated and continued the scam it was running.  Hopefully with Stumpf out of the company, and several board members replaced, Wells Fargo can begin the long process to repair its reputation in its customers, employees and the industry’s eyes.


Communications Plans, Portfolio

Elder Care Communications Plan

Communications Plan Template

Elder Care Alert Canada

Situation Analysis/ Problem

Many new companies are entering the elder care emergency medical market and creating products like ours.  But they are not performing anything like us.  They’re cheating customers, providing bad services, ripping off old people.  This behaviour has attracted bad media attention and we’re being lumped in with everyone.  The value of our stock has dropped slightly.

Problem: Need to promote ECAC’s success, honesty and integrity.  Increase consumer trust and confidence.




  • In business 10 years
  • Received awards and commendations
  • Saved lives
  • Quick and personable services provided by ECAC
  • Reported $3.3 million in assets in 2017


  • Being included in negative press surrounding competitions’ poor behaviour/ service
  • Value of stock has dropped slightly due to negative industry press


  • They have a solid reputation
  • No major complaints
  • Working on ways to improve products and services


  • Competition’s reputations could drag down ECAC’s




  • Legislation


  • Many seniors are a fixed income. This product and service needs to be affordable for them


  • People are living longer and will need elder care as they age
  • Seniors want to stay in their homes and be safe


  • Other companies are developing technology to compete



We need to research the following:

  • benefits of our products/ services
  • stats on number of seniors living alone in Canada
  • stats on how many customers we currently work with, and how many we have worked with in the past
  • how many lives have we saved and other relevant stats
  • compile positive media stories in our history


Mostly secondary research but could do some primary research by talking to our satisfied customers to get testimonials via focus groups and interviews.



Seniors (current and future consumers)

ECAC employees




  1. Consumers- they keep us in business. They need to work with a trustworthy company.  They want this type of care and to feel safe in their homes.
  2. Media- they can help spread our messages and we can distance ourselves from the competition. They are always looking for human interest stories.  This is content they need.
  3. Employees of ECAC- they know the mission, vision and values of our company and can act as unofficial spokespeople. Sales people can potentially increase sales by spreading positive messages to their clients.


Research methods needed to understand stakeholders

We can draw on our own up to date data of our customers’ needs and wants.

Do some quick phone interviews with some recent customers to get some fresh feedback and soundbites.



Increase consumer trust and confidence.



To increase positive media coverage about our company by 70% within 60 days.

Interview 10 current customers to compile 10 positive feedback comments for press materials within seven days.

Get 10 positive customer testimonials within seven days to use in media relations strategy.

To achieve a score of eight out of 10 on a customer satisfaction survey we will perform on 50 current customers within the next seven days.

At least 80% of employees feel they have the tools they need to confidently deliver our values to potential and new customers within two weeks.

To increase comprehension by consumers of ECAC’s key messages by 70% within 30 days.

Execute five community bbq’s in the next two months for seniors in our five biggest markets in Canada to increase interest in ECAC’s products and services.



We are using proactive strategies such as media relations, consumer relations, community relations and internal communications.  These will help us cover our key audiences.  We’re getting ahead of any negative press in case it becomes a bigger issue in the media.


Key Messages

ECAC cares about its customers.


ECAC has saved over 100 lives in the past 10 years with our best in class products and service.


ECAC allows older citizens to safely live alone with the assurance that they can receive assistance immediately if there is a medical emergency.



  • Write news release, backgrounders, Q&A, fact sheets
  • Pitch key media (print and tv) to interview spokesperson and 2 of our customers
  • Media train the customers and the spokesperson
  • Develop fact sheet with key messages for employees
  • Schedule two, one-hour training sessions for employees to attend and get briefed on their materials. They only have to attend one session.
  • Put the materials on the company intranet for everyone to read and sign off that they read it
  • Ask Sales team for names of 20 recent customers we can interview.
  • Ask these customers for testimonials.
  • Survey 50 customers for positive feedback on ECAC product/service.
  • Do a Canada wide customer survey of 500 people
  • Plan and execute 5 community bbq’s in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton. Work with local reps to invite community and coordinate logistics. Create an invitation they can use to invite people.  We will provide budgets for food, signage, flyers, posters and venue rental.


Critical Path and GANTT


Don’t forget taxes and assigning a contingency


To increase positive media coverage about our company by 70% within 60 days.- use content analysis

Interview 10 current customers to compile positive feedback for press materials within seven days.  – we received 10 positive feedbacks from customers we interviewed.

Get 10 positive customer testimonials within seven days to use in media relations strategy.- we received 10 positive testimonials from the 10 clients we interviewed.

To achieve a score of eight out of 10 on a customer satisfaction survey we will perform on 50 current customers within the next seven days.- average score was 8.5/10 on our customer satisfaction survey.

At least 80% of employees feel they have the tools they need to confidently deliver our values to potential and new customers within two weeks.  – online survey to employees via intranet and 85% answered confidently

To increase comprehension by consumers of ECAC’s key messages by 70% within 30 days. – surveyed 50 customers via phone interview.

Execute five community bbq’s in the next two months for seniors in our five biggest markets in Canada to increase interest in ECAC’s products and services.  – we ran 5 events and handed out customer comment cards before they left so we could gather info on customer recall of products and services.





Communications Plans, Portfolio

Case Study: Carnival Cruise Lines

white cruise ship on blue body of water during daytime
Photo by Pixabay on







The fire and subsequent poor emergency contingency plans aboard the cruise ship Splendor have lead to damage of Carnival Cruise Lines’ reputation.  Among the issues on the ship, there was a lack of toilet facilities for 16 hours, food had to be flown in from the U.S. Navy, and there was no air conditioning.  Despite this unfortunate incident, the company is still the largest cruise line in the world and has more passengers than the competition.



Carnival is the largest cruise line in the world.

They have been in business over 35 years.

Carnival is a flagship brand and accounts for 19 per cent of Carnival Corporation’s capacity.

They have more passengers than any other cruise line.

Carnival’s ships are inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard four times a year to ensure they are safe.


Common cruise issues that aren’t unique to Carnival include tilting due to rough seas, Norovirus outbreaks, fire, and pirates.

Poor emergency management contingency plans as demonstrated during the fire on the Splendor.  Since this fire, the plans have been overhauled and greatly improved with the help of an internal investigation and an outside auditor.

The Splendor was one of the pinnacle ships in the fleet so it was damaging to the brand when this happened.


Growing industry (exceptional value proposition, wide appeal, low market penetration, positive guest demographics, high guest satisfaction rates).

Admit they had a poor emergency response plan and demonstrate how they are improving it going forward.


The industry competes for discretionary dollars with other vacation types. Vacation spending is a third priority after savings and living expenses.  In tough economic times, this becomes a threat to Carnival’s business.  Carnival can offer tiered pricing, early booking discounts, and group rates to make their vacations more accessible and competitive.

There is a potential loss of customer trust due to the issue on the Splendor.  Previous passengers may never travel with them again.  Future passengers may not choose Carnival.

In tough economic times when business is slower, Carnival needs to figure out what else they can do with the ships to make money.

Gaps in emergency plans may happen again in the future- unless they can implement their new safety strategy


To be the number one recommended cruise line by industry experts


  1. By end of year 2012, increase Carnival’s ranking to number one among cruise travel agents.
  1. Become the number one cruise line on and in 2012.


  1. Empower 100 of Carnival’s most frequent cruisers to become influencers by June 2013. Having influencers will help boost the reputation of the brand amongst potential customers.


1.Travel agents- seven out of 10 passengers will book through a travel agent.

  1. The editors of, and key cruise bloggers.
  2. Frequent Carnival cruisers with heavy social media presence.


We will work with our advertising agency to launch a campaign to create awareness among travel agents and agencies about Carnival’s amazing fleet and cruising experiences.

Run a traditional media campaign in leading travel industry magazines to reach the travel agents.

Work with our marketing agency to launch a social media campaign on Instagram and Facebook targeting people who follow cruise lines or search for them.

Leverage John Heald’s blog and establish or re-establish relationships with the top four bloggers in the industry.


FAM Tours

Organize and execute three FAM tours (familiarization tours) for top cruise agents, key media and premier bloggers starting in January 2012.


The advertising agency will run a year- long campaign geared to agents and agencies beginning in January 2011.

Media Relations

Issue news releases and backgrounders.  Pitch phone interviews between travel journalists at industry publications and key Carnival spokespeople.  Update media/ press section on Carnival corporate website.  These media relations duties are to be completed by March 2011.

Email Blasts and Snail Mail

Target agents who work at cruise ship centers to get 10 per cent more of them accredited with our cruise line through email blasts and postal mailing.  Offer a discount on the accreditation if it’s acquired within the current calendar year.  Begin this campaign in January 2012 after the first FAM tour.

Social Media

Buy ads on Facebook, Instagram and top five key blogs to reach Carnival’s frequent cruisers.  These ads will last for four months beginning in January 2011.  We will repeat the campaign for the same four months in 2012 and 2013 until we acquire 100 effective influencers.


These key messages are recommended for use in all communications initiatives.

  1. Carnival Cruise Lines is committed to creating the best cruise experience for their passengers, whether it is their first cruise, or their 20th.


  1. Carnival Cruise Lines is continuously improving its onboard experiences and upgrading the fleet to ensure their passengers have the safest and most fun experience on its ships.


  1. We encourage all current and future passengers to contact Carnival Cruise Lines if they have any questions, comments or concerns.



FAM Tour Planning

9/1/11 9/2/11 Develop a list of the top 10 cruise travel agents and their agency general managers in the 10 major markets. Identify 5 key bloggers and 10 travel journalists to invite on the trip Heather B
9/2/11 9/4/11 Approve invite list Director
9/5/11 9/6/11 Book 72 rooms on the Splendor in Jan, Feb and March for a 4 day cruise out of Miami Heather B
9/7/11 9/9/11 Arrange 2 day trips in Bahamas for invitees Heather B
9/7/11 9/9/11 Set up tours of the ship with cruise director and meet and greet with Captain for each trip Heather B
9/10/11 9/15/11 Create invitations, itinerary, gather promo material for mailing Assistant
9/17/11 9/17/11 Send out invitations, itinerary and promotional material Heather B
9/22/11 10/15/11 Coordinate RSVP list in excel file Assistant
12/01/11 12/05/11 Mail out pre-trip package to invitees on January trip with fun items such as Carnival branded sunscreen, hats and flip flops along with final instructions/itinerary for the trip Heather B
12/20/11 12/20/11 Arrange welcome package in rooms for each guest upon arrival. Set up Sign and Sail passes for each guest with drinks and specialty restaurant access already loaded. Heather B
01/15/12 01/19/12 First FAM trip sets sail
01/18/12 01/18/12 Conduct a focus group on the ship with the invitees HB coordinate with marketing agency and an on-board representative



Email Blasts and Snail Mail

01/05/12 01/10/12 Compile a list of cruise travel agents who haven’t been accredited with Carnival yet Assistant
01/12/12 01/12/12 Write an email blast targeting these agents Heather B
01/12/12 01/12/12 Write a pitch letter inviting them to become accredited and outlining the steps they need to complete Heather B
01/13/12 01/15/12 Email and pitch letter approvals Director
01/16/12 01/23/12 Get the mailing printed, stuffed and stamped Assistant
01/24/12 01/24/12 Send out mailing. Send out email blast Heather B


Social Media Buy

01/02/11 01/02/11 Buy ad time on Facebook to last from Jan 10th – April 30th Agency
01/02/11 01/02/11 Buy ad time on Instagram to last from Jan 10th – April 30th Agency
01/02/11 01/02/11 Buy ad space on Cruise Critic, Cruise Fever, Cruise Industry News, Cruise Law News and Cruise Hive (Agarwal, 2018) to last from Jan 10th – April 30th Agency
01/03/11 01/07/11 Create content for the social ads Agency
01/08/11 01/08/11 Approve the content Heather B
Repeat for 2012 and 2013 on same timelines



FAM Trips    
216 rooms aboard Horizon $195,000 Jan/Feb/Mar 2012
2 Day Trips off the ship $45,000 Jan/Feb/Mar 2012
Invitations, promo material, mailing costs for initial mailing $5,000 09/10/11
Pre-trip package and mailing costs $7,500 12/01/11
In-room welcome packages, Sign and Sail cards $15,000 Jan/Feb/Mar 2012
Focus groups $10,000 Jan/Feb/Mar 2012
SUBTOTAL $277,500
Email Blast and Snail Mail    
Mail printing, stuffing, postage $5,000 01/16/12
Social Media Buy (2012)    
Facebook $5,000 01/10/12-04/30/12
Instagram $5,000 01/10/12-04/30/12
5 blogs $5,000 01/10/12-04/30/12
SUBTOTAL $15,000
Evaluation Costs
See focus groups above
Marketing agency social media KPI report $5,000


To evaluate the effectiveness of the FAM trips, Carnival will conduct focus groups before the cruise returns home.  A representative from the marketing agency will go on each trip to conduct the sessions and compile the findings into a report.

We can determine the success of the email and mail campaigns by running a report at the end of 2012 to see if the number of accredited travel agents has increased by 10%.

Midway through 2012, we will conduct a survey of the key travel agents in major metropolitan cities to see if they feel Carnival is the #1 cruise line in the world.  We will use the findings to see if we are on the right track to regaining the #1 title.

The marketing agency will provide influence metrics (follower counts, Klout scores) and demographic information about who our key influencers are.  We will also find out how we compare to our competition. (Deering Davis, 2012)


This plan was successful when Carnival regained the #1 cruise line in America title in 2012.  We attacked this challenge by targeting 3 groups of important stakeholders: travel agents, cruise bloggers and frequent Carnival cruisers who have a high social media presence.

We coordinated 3 FAM trips for top cruise agents and their agency owners as well as top cruise bloggers and travel industry media.  These were essential to authenticate the experience and fun times available on our ships.

By focusing on advertising to travel agents in the cruise industry, we stayed top of mind.  We also leveraged the travel media and key cruise bloggers to create buzz about new ship launches, destinations and partnerships.

We executed an effective email blast and mailing campaign to target travel agents in major metropolitan cities who were not yet accredited with Carnival Cruise Lines.  By increasing accreditation membership by 10%, we created more awareness of Carnival among the cruising public, which will lead to an increase in bookings.

Our social media campaign was the most exciting program for us because we’ve never used this method.  Influencers are so important to many organizations because of their authenticity and reach and we were able to leverage our frequent Carnival cruisers to turn them into influencers for our brand.

By executing all of these plans successfully, we were able to regain our #1 ranking in the cruise industry by the end of 2012.

















Agarwal, A. (2018). Top 50 cruise blogs and websites to follow in 2018. Retrieved from


Deering Davis Ph.D., J. (2012). The 5 easy steps to measure your social media campaigns. Retrieved from