Report Card: How Are Wells Fargo, Samsung Managing Crises of Culture?

Katie Paine

In terms of the rules of crisis communications, Wells Fargo and Samsung have been following all of them, although sometimes they’ve moved slowly. Still, both brands issued apologies, took action, offered compensation—and nothing has worked. The problem in these cases is that no amount of abject apologies can make up for a lack of ethics and an overabundance of bad choices. In other words, both brands primarily are facing crises of culture, not communications.
It isn’t hard to imagine the conversation in the boardrooms at Samsung when board members heard that the highly anticipated Apple iPhone7 wasn’t as exciting as people expected it to be. They quickly chose to capitalize on the opportunity and rush the new Note 7 phone to market in advance of the iPhone launch. The design and production folks probably said something along the lines of, “That’s three months ahead of schedule. We can’t do that!” And someone higher up the ladder said something like, “That’s your problem to solve. Make it happen.”

Regardless of who said what, the competitive ethos of the company ruled the day: The Note 7 was rushed to market. In the process lower-quality batteries were used.


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