Business + Controversy = Rebranding

Have you deleted your Facebook yet? If so, most people wouldn’t blame you. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, then I’m sure you’ve heard of Facebook’s recent data breach. It was first reported by the New York Times on March 18th that Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm based in the UK, had accessed personal user data of Facebook’s millions of subscribers. Cambridge Analytica was hired by President Trump’s 2016 campaign to help influence voters by identifying personality traits and serving them targeted ads via the popular social media platform. However, this targeting superseded the tools Facebook already provides advertisers. This betrayal has led to paranoia and backlash from the American people. 

After plummeting stock, a decline of users and a meme-worthy appearance by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Facebook has been dealing with a public relations nightmare.  In response to this, Facebook has launched a new advertising campaign titled “Facebook Here Together.” In the campaign, Facebook highlights what made the social platform so beloved in the first place: friends. The commercial zips through images and videos that have been posted by users in the past, creating nostalgia. Towards the end, Facebook addresses the data breach head-on and acknowledges the mistakes that the platform has made, using the words fault, spam, click bait, #FakeNews and data misuse. 

Wells Fargo is another brand that is currently reacting to public disgrace. The bank has been coping with what could only be described as a snowball effect of scandals. Since news broke in 2016 that the millions of fake accounts were opened in customers’ names without their consent, more and more news of shameful actions have been reported. This has resulted in the company answering to the United States Senate, the termination of over 5,000 employees, the retirement of multiple executives, including CEO John Stumpf, and more. After being compared to a “criminal enterprise,” Wells Fargo has been forced into submission. 

The solution? A brand new ad campaign called “Earning Back Your Trust,” paying homage to the history and traditions established when the bank was first founded. The campaign focuses on portraying a tradition of trust. Images of the iconic Wells Fargo Wagon being pulled by horseback transition into a train and then a 1950’s bank teller. The voice over admits, “We’ve lost your trust.” They inform customers that they will no longer have product sales goals for branch bankers, a key reason they are in this mess to begin with. It ends with a showcase of diverse customers while the narrator says, “It’s a new day at Wells Fargo, but it’s a lot like our first day.” 

It is not a shock to hear that the car service, Uber, is in the spotlight for having a bad reputation. The company is currently under scrutiny for their toxic public image. There have been sexual harassment lawsuits, campaigns against Uber, refusal to relicense, and a CEO step-down in the past few years.

Uber has recently announced a future rebranding campaign working towards fixing their public image. The campaign will focus on Uber being a trustworthy company, providing safe and reliable drivers, which some will argue is absolutely necessary after recent events.

Rebranding of controversial companies has become a regular occurrence. Will these new campaigns be effective? Only time will tell. Messaging is of high importance when dealing with a PR disaster. However, it is not the only measurement for success. Facebook, Wells Fargo, and Uber will have to put their money where their mouth is. Change will have to be implemented and visible to customers effective immediately. This would be even more crucial for Facebook due to the simplicity of deleting an account with them. At this time, it appears the brands have listened to their respective consumers. We will just have to see if they stick with it.