The Secret Sauce of Wells Fargo’s LGBT Marketing

We discussed in an earlier blog post that we are thrilled to see more and more brand leaders incorporating LGBT advertising into their overall marketing initiatives.

Wells Fargo is one of the most exciting examples: they are the first American bank to feature a lesbian couple in a major campaign (their “Learning Sign Language” ad is about a lesbian couple passionately learning sign language as they prepare to meet their adopted daughter who is deaf). A sampling of the responses on Twitter just warms our hearts:

  • “Wells Fargo Ad with Lesbian Couple Adopting a Daughter Will Make You Cry”
  • "But that commercial with the lesbian couple adopting a deaf girl made me cry”
  • “The Wells Fargo commercial about the lesbian couple adopting a deaf child makes me so happy”
  • “… And it’s achingly beautiful”
  • “For real props on your lesbian adoption/sign language commercial. Thank you for taking steps to be inclusive.”
  • “The new Wells Fargo commercial with the lesbian couple adopting a deaf child is priceless. Kudos on supporting diversity!”
  • “…Saw this commercial earlier & well... Hello Wells Fargo, you'll be getting all my accounts now!”

Wells Fargo has long been a supporter of inclusion. The #1 brand on Diversity Inc’s 2013 Top 10 Companies for LGBT Employees, they have scored 100% on the HRC Corporate Equality Index since 2004 and have been on the list of HRC’s Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality for 10 consecutive years. They have had a financial advice unit dedicated to same-sex couples since 2009.

To uncover Wells Fargo’s “secret sauce” with their LGBT marketing efforts, we recently talked to John Lake, their Enterprise Marketing LGBT Segment Leader.


Q&A with John Lake 


How does your LGBT marketing fit into the overall Wells Fargo marketing vision?

Wells Fargo’s broader marketing vision is to reflect the diversity of our customers (from different ethnic groups to millennials, customers with disability, and the military/veterans) and to connect with their needs. We have a long history working with LGBT customers and we are proud to be the first financial institution showcasing their life story in our advertising!


What is unique about marketing to the LGBT customer segment? What is your secret sauce?

One word: authenticity! Everything we do in LGBT marketing is about creating content that is focused on the customer and their unique needs. Because we have been serving LGBT customers for so long, our communications come from a very authentic place.  


How did your secret sauce work the sign language ad?

We are being authentic on multiple levels with this ad. First – the storyline: an adoption story resonates with LGBT customers. It illustrates a specific, genuine need. Second – the message: the need portrayed in the ad has to be something our financial advisers can address. Adoption/financial planning is indeed something we have been advising our LGBT customers over the year years. Finally – the artistic execution: we knew it would be a long shot but we really wanted to find lesbian actors to play the couple in the ad. And we did it: the actors are a real-life lesbian couple and the little girl is deaf, which adds a whole new level of authenticity in the ad’s delivery.


Why launch the sign language ad now – in 2015?

We have long wanted a mainstream LGBT ad; but it’s more important for us to tell the right story than a “LGBT” story. Then the perfect opportunity came along: Wells Fargo’s “Why We Work” brand campaign.

The Why We Work campaign is designed to portray Wells Fargo customers who are working hard to achieve their goals. With the concept of showcasing different but equally real and emotional customer scenarios, the “sign language” story is a natural fit!


We understand the campaign is still running. What are some initial results you can share with us?

We have received very positive feedback from the LGBT community, allies, customers and employees all over the country! With over 1.1 million views [as of date of publication of this blog post] on our YouTube channel, it’s also our most “liked” video. Even Ellen DeGeneres talked about it – now that’s an accomplishment!

The campaign will run till the end of June, and we have a complex matrix tracking and measuring its business impact. Meanwhile, all social media goals have been met as many positive conversations were generated.


Do you expect to see more and more companies getting into LGBT marketing?

Yes I do! Because the market is ready. The trend now is to pull back from LGBT niche campaigns and move towards LGBT-inclusive, general campaigns. As so many bigger brands have gotten into LGBT-inclusive marketing, a tipping point has been reached. LGBT-inclusive marketing is going mainstream!


Wrapping up… on your secret sauce: what are your top 3 advice for companies who want to get into LGBT-inclusive marketing? We know being authentic is one!

Yes, indeed – my #1 advice is to be authentic, to have an authentic voice. #2: I would also stress the importance of having a response plan in place. If something negative happens, having a plan takes away the panic.  On the other hand, if you get a lot of good feedback, you will also be able to amplify the impact quickly. #3: Stand behind the work. Don’t put it out there and duck. Be proud and tout your message!


Epilogue: Wells Fargo has registered a number of .LGBT domain names including We can’t wait to see how these names will be put to work to further grow their digital LGBT marketing efforts!


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Posted on Date:
Thursday, June 11, 2015