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  • 标题:Relationships between logo stories, storytelling complexity, and customer loyalty.
  • 作者:Pham, Long ; Pallares-Venegas, Ebetuel ; Teich, Jeffrey E.
  • 期刊名称:Academy of Banking Studies Journal
  • 印刷版ISSN:1939-2230
  • 出版年度:2012
  • 期号:January
  • 语种:English
  • 出版社:The DreamCatchers Group, LLC
  • 摘要:A business organization is a multi-faceted, complex structure made up of numerous departments or functional activities. Common functions or divisions include finance, marketing, personnel, research and development, information, and operations. Moreover, each of these functions, whether a cost or revenue center, has its distinct role in the smoothing of operations in the company as a whole.
  • 关键词:Bank holding companies;Banks (Finance);Business planning;Business plans;Corporate image;Corporations;Customer loyalty;Employee attitudes;Employees;Firearms;Home banking;Home banking services;Insurance brokers;Retail banking;Workers

Relationships between logo stories, storytelling complexity, and customer loyalty.

Pham, Long ; Pallares-Venegas, Ebetuel ; Teich, Jeffrey E. 等


A business organization is a multi-faceted, complex structure made up of numerous departments or functional activities. Common functions or divisions include finance, marketing, personnel, research and development, information, and operations. Moreover, each of these functions, whether a cost or revenue center, has its distinct role in the smoothing of operations in the company as a whole.

In addition to the functional areas, some scholars argue that there are additional factors that can communicate the successes or failures of a company to internal and external audiences. The storytelling process plays an important role. The communication process of storytelling is a powerful way to support internal and external communication to improve teams and leadership skills, as well as strengthen the relationship with clients and customers (Collison & Mackenzie, 1999). Thus, not only do leaders and professionals utilize storytelling, but other stakeholders are also very likely to live the reality of their own stories that may or may not harmonize with the values and norms of the company (Boje, 2005).

Companies rely on the endurance of their stories to gain a better understanding of where they have come from, where they are and where they are headed (Bartholme, 2002). That is why storytelling acts as a bridge, connecting the past to the present and then building on that foundation to extend to the future with vocal, visual and textual images. It is worth noting that a favorable image is viewed as a critical aspect of a company's ability to maintain its market position. Furthermore, the image of an organization (brand value or goodwill) has been related to core aspects of organizational success including continued customer patronage (Granbois, 1981; Korgaonkar et al., 1985).

Commodities are products or services that can not be easily differentiated. Furthermore, the only way consumers will be able to differentiate between companies that provide commodities, for example, banks provide traditional bank services is through strong image and brand positioning (Heerden & Puth, 1995). There are several important antecedences to the image of a bank; one of these is its logo, which plays an important role in influencing the way customers perceive the bank's image. The logo itself diffuses a variety of stories that can be perceived in different manners depending on their customers' backgrounds and cultural lenses. One way to learn how the brand is perceived in a customer's mind is by asking customers to write a story based on the image of the bank's logo. Although the value of such stories, as well as storytelling process, is well recognized by companies, and banks in particular (Denning, 2004), there is a dearth of research focusing on how stories about the bank's logo are distilled and what the dimensions of storytelling complexity contribute to the customer perspective. This study adopts an explorative and qualitative approach aimed at reducing this gap. Specifically, the objectives of this study are three-fold:

1. To explore the way the Wells Fargo Bank is perceived based on the stories customers share about its logo;

2. To illuminate what dimensions comprise the complexity of storytelling as seen from the customer perspective; and

3. To examine whether or not there is a relationship between the customers' stories and customers' loyalty.


The Role of Stories in Organizations

According to Czarniawska (1997), a story consists of a plot--casually related episodes that culminate in a solution to a problem. Stories are a way to understand where we have come from, where we are and where we are going (Bartholme, 2002). Ricoeur (1984) posits that a story describes a sequence of actions and experiences done or undertaken by a certain number of people, whether real or fictitious. These people are presented with situations they either adapt to change or react to change. In turn, these changes reveal aspects of the situation yielding a new predicament calling for thought, action, or both. This response or set of responses to the situation is what brings about a story's conclusion.

The role that stories play in organizations is examined from a variety of perspectives (Greco, 1996). From a cultural perspective, stories can be regarded as artifacts useful in understanding the nature of an organization (McCollum, 1992). Stories serve as an instrument with which to perceive the organizational structure and processes with conceptual foundations in sociolinguistics, folklore and communications. From a social perspective, stories can help employees assess behaviors or attitudes that are acceptable or would be expected within an organization (Wilkins, 1984).

Leaders in the political, religious, military and business realms have always used stories to inspire others towards actions (Barnes & Harris, 2006). In some cases, stories are used to predict the future (Gold, 1996). Stories elicit a common vision of the future, portray the journey to reap that vision, specify important stages along the journey, form a clear road for employees to pursue and specifically define the concept of success (Marzec, 2007). Management can utilize stories to help employees understand business decisions, customer characteristics, competitive advantages, and the relationship between and within other stakeholders. In addition, stories can link the company's strategy with individual roles and responsibilities (Bartel & Garud, 2009).

Stories can also help employees work in teams and create a stronger sense of community. They establish an environment that fosters career aspirations and thus make each employee feel more valued (Adamson et al., 2006).

Companies are conducting business in the ever-increasing competitive markets. To be successful in these markets, companies should get closer to their customers (Limehouse, 1999) to gain a better understanding of their needs and how to satisfy them. Customers should be the focus of any strategic business decision companies make. Customers can bring to light a variety of stories derived from various sources, including a company's logo (Whetten & Godfrey, 1998). Thus, the important role that these stories can play cannot be ignored (Driscoll & McKee, 2007).

Company's Logo as a Source of Stories

The identity of an organization is what its members regard as the focal, distinct and lasting features of their company. Companies transmit these features through their behavior, communication and symbols (Whetten & Godfrey, 1998). Symbols, more specifically logos, can be viewed as an effective tool that management can use to orchestrate the desired features that the company wants to convey (Ried et al., 2001). Annually, companies invest a large amount of money and time on logos, and new logos are established as a consequence of mergers and acquisitions. For example, in 1994, over 3,000 new companies in the US were responsible for jointly spending about $120,000,000 to create a new logo (Anson, 1998). These investments are made because management has an expectation that the logo is part of the value and reputation of a company.

Logo selection can be an extremely difficult task for companies, because a number of considerations such as colors, graphics, layouts, and sights, all play an important role. In addition, it is also very likely that the desired responses to the logo are not achieved because a logo's design may make it difficult to associate with the organization, or it seemingly fails to convey the ideas originally intended (Dubberly, 1995). However, if carefully managed, a logo can contribute to the competitive advantage by enhancing a company's reputation (Baker & Balmer, 1997).

Logos increases an organization's recognition. The premise behind this is that pictures convey information faster than words (Edell & Staelin, 1983). That is why the appropriate selection of logo is vital, because they are one of the primary instruments to communicate a company's image--cutting through clutter to gain attention--increasing recognition of the company, thus enhancing customer loyalty. Unfortunately, in spite of their importance and widespread use, some logos evoke negative sentiments, are unrecognizable, and do damage to the corporate image (Henderson & Cote, 1998).

Logos can be expressed as vocal, visual, or textual attributes that customers perceive, and these perceptions can vary depending on the backgrounds of customers. From a company's logo, customers can distill various stories that influence their sentiments about a company's image.

Storytelling Complexity

The storytelling process is related to the signs, symbols, and actions where people find clues on how to interpret events. These clues are viewed in different manners, and depend much on the backgrounds of the participants. The variation of interpretation is how participants make sense of the information. Storytelling complexity is strongly influenced by sensemakings. Weick (1995) lists seven attributes of sensemaking, which he summarizes the following way, "how can I know what I think until I see what I say?" The seven properties of sensemaking are:

(1) grounded in identity construction;

(2) retrospective;

(3) enactive of sensible environments;

(4) social;

(5) ongoing;

(6) is focused on extracted cues; and

(7) is based in plausibility rather than accuracy.

The sense making process can lead to the derivation of different stories from the same phenomenon (Taylor, 1999). This is because the sensibility of environments and the need to extract cues, individuals in different settings are expected to make sense of things differently (Taylor, 1999).


This study was conducted in a student housing complex on the main campus of a university located in the southern US. It draws from the bank customer's perspectives. It used a convenient sample of 25 Vietnamese students studying at the University. By doing so, it controlled for culture, geography, and institution.

This study relies on qualitative research procedures based on interview questions focusing on the bank's logo (https://www.wellsfargo.com/about/history/stagecoach/). It used open-ended, semi-structured questions designed to allow participants to tell their stories and to focus on their personal experiences as Wells Fargo Bank customers. Questions included prompts such as, "What story does the picture tell you?" "What does the picture's story tell you about the Wild West?" "What are men doing with their guns?" and "How safe is your money in the stagecoach?" as well as open discussions about storytelling complexity. The interviewees received a written briefing about the purpose of the research in advance and any questions from the interviewees were answered at the beginning of the interview. Interviews ranged from 30 to 60 minutes in length and were conducted at each participant's home. All conversations were audio-taped and transcribed verbatim. After the transcription of the tape-recorded interview, the interviewees were encouraged to make any corrections, changes or comments to what they had said. Both the tapes and the transcripts remained completely anonymous and confidential.

Among the 25 students, 14 were male (56%) and 11 female (44%), while 96% of the students were graduate and only 4% undergraduate students. With regard to degree levels, 44% were PhD students, 52% Master students, and 4% Bachelor students. In addition, 24% of the students specialized in mathematics, 20% in computer science, 4% in business, 16% in economics, 12% in biology, 12% in electrical engineering, and 12% in construction engineering. In terms of their relationship with the bank, 22 students (88%) had a relationship with the bank by opening accounts and using a variety of services provided by the bank, and 3 students (12%) had accounts with other banks (e.g., Bank of America).


Wells Fargo Bank Brief

Wells Fargo growth is characterized by many recent merger and acquisition activities in the banking industry. This characteristic makes the storytelling process at Wells Fargo Bank more complicated because various organizations were combined into one over time. However, the success of Wells Fargo Bank illustrates that a constant identity, based on its rich culture and history in directing the bank's stories are very important.

The following is a brief synopsis of information on Wells Fargo Bank (https://www.wellsfargo.com/downloads/pdf/about/wellsfargotoday.pdf): Holding company name: Wells Fargo & Co.

Founded: March 18, 1852 Headquarters: San Francisco, California, USA Industry: Finance and Insurance

Products: checking accounts, Insurance Brokerage, Stock Brokerage, Asset Management,

Asset Based Lending, and Consumer Finance

Assets: $1.2 trillion (2010)

Market value of stock: $132 billion (2010)

Q4 net income: $3.4 billion (2010)

Q4 revenue: $21.5 billion (2010)

Team members: 278,000 (2010)

Customers: 70 million (2010)

Stores: more than 9,000 (2010)

ATMs: 12,094 (2010)

Website: www.wellsfargo.com

According to many of the U.S residents, Wells Fargo Bank's logo is a symbol of the Wild West and the Gold Rush era. On March 18, 1852, Henry Wells and William G. Fargo founded a business named Wells Fargo & Company (Hungerford, 1949). At that time, it specialized in banking and forwarding operations. It was involved in a significant number of transactions on gold dust, gold and silver coin, and bullion. Concurrently, it provided banking services, such as deposits, collections and remittances. It also accepted packages, mail and freight for delivery between San Francisco and New York, and other main areas in California. Wells Fargo adopted the image of a stagecoach with horses galloping over bumpy roads transporting passengers and treasure from one town to another, undaunted by weather or the threat of a holdup.

It was the stagecoach that provided the first rapid transit to the American West. Also, Wells Fargo Bank has experienced a set of pivotal events. Many of these events are based on the effects that mergers and acquisitions have had on, as the number of stories increases.

Wells Fargo Bank has been regarded as one of the leading banks in the U.S providing diversified services to its customers, including retail banking, internet services, wholesale banking, and consumer finance. The present business model is embedded in its vision statement (https://www.wellsfargo.com/invest_relations/vision_values): "we want to satisfy all of our customers' financial needs, help them succeed financially, be the premier provider of financial services in every one of our markets, and be known as one of American's great companies."

Although Wells Fargo Bank has experienced many mergers and acquisitions, its identity is mostly unchanged and the logo of six-horse drawn stagecoach, treasure box, and short-gun messengers still conjures a strong sense of the Wild West and Gold Rush era of the U.S. These stories are rich in history, image and a reputation that management has relied on throughout the success of the bank


Upon arrival at the university, the students found it difficult to choose a bank. All the students who are Wells Fargo customers were encouraged to open accounts by their friends, existing Wells Fargo Bank's customers. They were influenced by the stories and good experiences shared by the pioneering students. The stories were diverse, ranging from the products to the services that the bank offers. These stories influenced new students to open accounts at Wells Fargo Bank.

For those who didn't select Wells Fargo Bank when they arrived at the university for the first time, they were actually unable to compare Wells Fargo Bank to the other banks. The reasons for selecting another bank (e.g., Bank of America) were not different from those who selected Wells Fargo Bank. Hence, all the Vietnamese students in the sample were influenced by the stories about Wells Fargo Bank's employees, customers, and potential customers. When talking to the authors, one Vietnamese student still remembered clearly that:
   I was very afraid of numerous difficulties when coming here at the
   beginning. Among them was to figure out what bank was suitable to
   contact with and the way to go to its address. Fortunately, my
   friend--a second year graduate student with major in economics-
   came to my house and told many stories and comfortable experiences
   that she had with Wells Fargo Bank. One of the stories was that she
   did feel extremely convenient when using the services of Internet
   banking offered by the bank. At that time, I was still vague with
   the concept of Internet banking; however, I totally followed her
   suggestions to open my account in Wells Fargo Bank. So far, I have
   been satisfied with this bank.

Thus, if used effectively, storytelling plays a powerful role in informing and influencing a target audience. In this respect, Wells Fargo Bank seems to be quite successful.

When asked "What story does the picture tell you?" Surprisingly, 100% students (even those who didn't have any account with the bank) answered this question with consistent and nearly identical responses. They thought that the picture evoked the symbol of Wells Fargo Bank. In spite of not having extensive knowledge about commercial banks, they could, to some extent, perceive some cues about the bank. Actually, this is not the first time they had seen the picture; rather, all the students stated that they have already seen Wells Fargo Bank's logo (e.g., on the roads, in restaurants, at the university, or in supermarkets). Hence, it appears they had no difficulty recollecting the bank. In addition, some cues have also made contributions to the recognition of the bank. The following student's story is quite interesting.
   One day, I went to the University. Suddenly, I needed some cash for
   small transactions at the University, so I arrived at the first
   floor of the student center where ATMs are available. At that time,
   I was wondering about what ATM I would use for the cash withdrawal.
   Not long afterwards, on the screen of one ATM, a six horse drawn
   stagecoach with short gun messengers appeared, and promptly I saw
   the words "Wells Fargo Bank"--it is the very bank that I have
   opened my account with. Finally, I completed my transactions. Since
   then, I have had a strong impression with the logo of Wells Fargo
   Bank. And I often tell my friends about its really nice logo;
   perhaps, it has been conveying some meaningful image.

Regarding the question, "What does the picture's story tell you about the Wild West?" It seems that there is no discrepancy in this respect. It is noteworthy that the Vietnamese students are familiar with some Wild West films. Thus, from the background of the picture and cues pertaining to riffles, messengers, horses, and treasure boxes, the Vietnamese students all drew the conclusion that this picture is reminiscent of life in the Wild West. However, most of them do not agree with why Wells Fargo Bank uses this picture as its logo. They are left to wonder whether or not there is a relationship between the time the bank was founded and the Gold Rush. Response from a student reflects this issue.
   Well, I have been living in the US for approximately four years. I
   have seen a number of American films with reference to the Wild
   West in the 1850s during which, the Gold Rush was occurring. So in
   this situation, based on signals from the picture, such as guns,
   riders, horses, treasure boxes and stagecoach, it is quite easy for
   me to state that the picture is depicting the time of the Wild West
   in the 1850s. It is noted that this period of time is characterized
   by the use of horse drawn stagecoaches as the main means of
   transportation. Nevertheless, I am wondering how such a picture can
   relate to Wells Fargo Bank's existing business operations.

Besides the above response, the answer of another student also reinforces the ease of recognizing the Wild West.
   I have just come here for three months. Everything seems unfamiliar
   to me. But, I can perceive a lot from this picture. There is no
   doubt that this picture evokes the time of the Wild West in which
   people rushed into gold in the 1850s. I have heard about cowboys in
   Texas; nevertheless, this is the first time I see cowboys, although
   I don't know exactly what the men in this picture are doing.

With respect to question "What are the men doing with their gun?", the responses to this question are summarized in table 1 as follows:

The percentages of students with answers of "Protecting gold", "Protecting money" are highest--28% for each response. These are followed by 20%, 8%, and 8% for "Protecting things other than gold and money", "Keeping their company safe", and "Doing nothing with guns", respectively. The lowest percentages are 4% for each of the remaining responses--"Fighting with messengers from other companies" and "Robbing gold mines".

It is interesting that the same picture leads to different answers, when perhaps we would expect the exact same response. One reason for different answers is that the picture elicits a story, and a story is never linear, finalized, and coherent (Boje, 2005). Hence, this situation is similar; one picture conjures different stories.

For the question: "How safe is your money in the stagecoach?", the responses are summarized in Table 2.

The majority of the students contend that thanks to the money put in the stagecoach protected by the messengers, the money's safety is very high. Specifically, the response of "very safe" represents 44% and that of "safe" is 32%. Two students (8%) felt that their money is very unsafe. Their responses are worth noting:
   Although I am very deeply impressed by the logo of the bank, I
   still think that the picture evoking the Wild West time in the
   1850s makes people become hesitate to place their money into the
   bank due to the fact that appearance of the guns and men may be the
   representation for high risks pertaining to the bank's business

   Another student who did not have an account with the bank gave a
   similar response:

   I don't open any account with Wells Fargo Bank, because I think
   that the bank's logo is less believable than that of Bank of
   America. I am wondering why guns are imbedded in the symbol of the
   bank. So, finally, I made my decision to open an account in Bank of

Once again, there is no unanimous consensus of the students' responses. This is because the picture can be seen as a single, or as a facet of the story as interpreted by each person. Recall that the story from the picture and its related stories are really non-linear, unfinalized, and incoherent. Thus, searching for meanings derived from the logo is perhaps rather different given each person's direct experience.

It is common for each student to have different information and different perspectives. That is why when faced with an unfinished, incoherent, unplotted and non-linear story, their narratives will certainly go towards discrete directions in an attempt to search for their own meanings. It should be noted that seniority is not positively related to the perceived level of safety. By the same token, the safety construct varies according to specific situations. The following student's comments help explain this.
   Actually I believe that my money would be safely protected by the
   bank. Let's look at these guns and messengers, undoubtedly their
   functions are to protect our money. Further, I don't care a lot
   about this if someone else argues in another direction because I
   don't have much money; I am a student.

Besides information gained from these questions mentioned above, additional information was also attained through open discussions between the author and the respondents. These discussions revolved around storytelling complexity and the determinants of this concept. The students expressed interesting ideas about these topics and about Wells Fargo Bank.

Storytelling complexity

Once we discussed the students' perceptions of Wells Fargo Bank's logo, additional information was collected on the topic of storytelling complexity as perceived by the students. It was the view that there are a number of dimensions that contribute significantly to the complexity level of stories and the storytelling process.

Diversified products and services:

Ninety-two percent (92%) of the students stated that each time they visit the bank, they move from room to room because the employees are located in different rooms, in charge of serving the specific needs of the customers. Furthermore, this is due to the specialization carried out by the bank. Customers will receive many different stories and explanations at each functional unit, because the common target is to motivate customers to utilize the different products and services of the bank.
   Whenever I come into the bank, I am often served by some bank staff
   who specialize in distinct fields. For example, if it is the first
   time you come, you will be helped by a general employee; soon
   after, depending on your needs, you will be directed towards the
   rooms where your specific needs would be satisfied by functional
   staff of the bank. At that time, a variety of stories
   (advertisements) would be given out to help you understand the
   services and products and motivate you to consume them. That is why
   you need to move around the bank, from one room to another, to
   capture what is going on and whether or not your needs are met
   within and/or outside the bank.

Network of branches:

A majority of the students (88%) agreed that the bank's network of branches would make its storytelling process more complicated. The more branches the bank has, the more complicated the storytelling process become.
   I am really surprised that advertisements of one of Wells Fargo
   Bank's branches seem to be the same as, and consistent with those,
   of another branch. The employees' stories between the two branches
   are all conveying slogans that make customers delighted and
   curious, and motivate them to buy more services/products of the
   bank. Thus, I think that to manage effectively the circulation of
   stories, great efforts would be used to make the stories of branch
   network identical and consistent with the aim at bringing about
   benefits for both the bank and its customers.

International geographical involvement:

Before arriving at the university, most of the students only knew some giant banks such as Bank of America due to their global nature. In the case of Wells Fargo Bank, it is quite surprising that all the students were in agreement with the idea that Wells Fargo Bank is a multinational bank (actually not) and they (84%) appeared to think that the bank's international geographical involvement influences the storytelling complexity.
   Since 2001, I have remitted money electrically to my next of kin in
   Viet Nam. I have been really impressed by the speedy transactions
   made by Wells Fargo Bank. I know that this bank has been in
   collaboration with a Vietnamese bank--Industrial and Commercial
   Bank of Vietnam (even I am not sure whether or not its branches
   exist in Vietnam) regarding this kind of service. Up to now, I
   still keep my thought unchanged that Wells Fargo Bank is a
   multinational bank, and the international geographical involvement
   is a determinant of the storytelling complexity.

Number of employees:

Most of them (23 out of 25 students) argued that the storytelling complexity stems from the number of employees in the organization. They seemed to agree that the greater the number of employees, the more complicated the storytelling process.

Number of functions:

With regard to the number of functions, 72% of the students believe that the diversification in bank functions is a clear contributor to the storytelling complexity.
   I often observe what is going on within a bank (even a branch) in
   terms of transaction procedures. I know for sure that basic
   functions of a bank consist of investment, credit analysis, capital
   mobilization, customer service relationship, brokerage, cash-flow
   management, etc. When a customer comes into the bank, depending on
   what kinds of service he or she needs, at the beginning, each
   function is in charge of satisfying his or her demand.
   Nevertheless, it doesn't mean that there is no association between
   the functions; in fact, to meet customers' requirements,
   coordination between the functions is necessary.

Stiff competition:

The ever-increasing competition in the financial industry is considered a strong determinant of the storytelling complexity. Out of the 25 students, 18 stressed that nowadays banks are competing not only with each other, but also with non-bank financial institutions. This competitive pressure is leading banks to restructure their business operations periodically responding to the local and global contexts. Furthermore, each restructure can create various stories that stakeholders will perceive differently, depending on their own values and norms.
   I often ask myself where I can put my money. Nobody can deny the
   fact that banks are still the number 1 priority, although I
   perceive that some alternatives are existent, such as trust funds,
   pension funds, and treasury bonds, etc. The rationale that I am
   loyal to my bank relies on the fact that it is aggressively
   expanding beyond its traditional products and services. This move
   will multiply customers' stories.

Logo meanings:

In discussions about the meanings of the bank logo, all the respondents agreed that they have been deeply impressed by the logo of Wells Fargo Bank. In their opinion, the logo itself is a rich source of stories about the bank. People with various perceptions will touch different contents of the same story. The stories are very likely to bring about good impressions for the bank.
      I am a MBA student, so I understand why the bank has been
   utilizing its logo for a long time without being changed. This
   strategy depicts the long history of the bank originally coming
   from Gold Rush era. From my point of view, it is quite obvious that
   customers would feel safer in dealing with banks with long business

      Well, the critical reason you open your account with a bank is
   that you feel more assured than keeping cash. Let's look at the
   picture containing the bank's logo, you will see the messengers
   with guns who are in charged of keeping your money safe. There is
   nothing more truthful than Wells Fargo Bank as the symbol of the
   safest address for your money.


According to 19 out of the 25 respondents, the role of leaders in any organization is very important. Leaders of an organization are responsible for establishing a clear sense of mission and vision. Also, through a variety of directed stories, leaders can be the catalyst that forms the distinct identity of the organization. That is why the storytelling complexity level is likely influenced by changes in leadership. Such changes can create new business strategies with revised stories that require time for the employees to perceive and convey effectively to customers in a consistent manner.
   So far, I haven't witnessed whether changes in leadership in Wells
   Fargo Bank can impact the storytelling complexity level; however, I
   used to experience such feelings in Vietnam. At that time, I was a
   customer of a Vietnamese bank. At the beginning of 2002, most of
   the executive directors of the bank were replaced by younger ones.
   So, the change in philosophy was unavoidable. The emergence of new
   stories with vital strategies made its customers believe more in
   the bank and maintained loyalty. It is noteworthy that this is not
   the case for every situation, because sometimes changes in
   leadership tend to give rise to turbulence that may have negative
   impacts on customers' perceptions.

In addition to the above dimensions, diverse cultures (72%), and perceptions on bank risks and incomes (64%) are also regarded as important antecedents of the storytelling complexity.



It is interesting to note that 22 students (88%) have a relationship with the bank based on opening accounts and enjoying various services and products offered by the bank, while three students (12%) have accounts with other banks (e.g., Bank of America). It is noteworthy that when they arrived at the university, everything seemed to be unfamiliar to them and they didn't know exactly what kind of bank would be their optimal choice. At that time, suggestions from their friends (senior Vietnamese students or Vietnamese expatriates leaving around the university) played an important role in their choice. Most of the Vietnamese students were strongly influenced by the stories being exchanged between the bank employees and the senior students, and between the senior students and the newcomers, with respect to the selection of Wells Fargo Bank. In this case, the storytelling process is viewed as a significant factor in bridging the gap between the bank and the Vietnamese students, and in assuring the Vietnamese students on their choice of bank. Furthermore, they can have many opportunities to discover more stories about Wells Fargo Bank after the initial relationship is established.

Regarding recognition of the logo, it is also quite interesting, and a bit surprising, that all the students--including those who didn't open accounts with the bank--could easily recognized the bank's logo. Perhaps they see it whenever they have contact with the bank, and the logo appears in many places that make customers pay attention to it. We can say that the bank's image is crystalized in the minds of the Vietnamese students and in part driven by the bank's logo. In addition, the students did go beyond the logo recognition. All the students felt confident in concluding that the picture elicits some cues relating to the Wild West and Gold Rush era. This proves that some American films about the American West in the 1850s are a familiar genre to the Vietnamese students. That is why some cues such as guns, messengers, horses, and bumpy roads reminded them of the time period of 1850s of the US. However, although recognizing the Wild West is relatively easy, most of them were still wondering whether or not there is a relationship between the time at which Wells Fargo Bank was founded and the time at which the Gold Rush was occurring. Thus, the bank management needs to make Wells Fargo Bank's long history clearer to facilitate this association.

Interestingly, the stories were not restricted to the picture or the bank's logo. They ranged, in particular, to the actions of the messengers on the picture. Despite the lack of unanimous converge on answers to "What are men doing with their gun?", the combined responses of "protecting gold", "protecting money", "protecting things other than gold and money, and "keeping their company safe" accounted for 84% of the respondents. That is to say that messengers on the bank's logo and their contributions to security conjure a good image in the minds of the customers. Furthermore, the Vietnamese students also expressed their stories in terms of the degree of money safety. Specifically, the responses of "very safe" and "safe" gained the agreement of 76% of the students, followed by "neutral" 12%, "unsafe" 8%, and "very unsafe" 4%. By the same token, the stagecoach as a component of the bank logo also plays an important role in forming a good image in the minds of customers.

In addition to the data gathered from the four questions, data pertaining to the storytelling complexity was also gathered. The dimensions of the storytelling complexity are summarized in Table 3.

It is remarkable that 92% of the students agreed that "diversified products and services" is a significant determinant of the storytelling complexity. The Vietnamese students have been using a variety of products and services offered by Wells Fargo Bank, and each service encounter can bring about a web of stories. These stories depend on the level of customer satisfaction. For example e-customer satisfaction (when customers use online services) is related to three kinds of service quality comprised of banking service product quality, customer service quality, and e-systems quality (Jun & Cai, 2001). Hence, stories about satisfaction with various services and products are unlimited, depending on how the customers' perceptions and on their expectations in terms of service quality.

For the dimensions of "number of employees", "network of branches", international geographical involvement, and number of functions, the Vietnamese students identified them as determinants of the storytelling complexity because these dimensions are interconnected and form the story network architecture. A network is a map of nodes and links that interconnect. These dimensions are supported by Boje (2001) with his arguments that stories can link to names, such as people, organizations or places, and can be mapped as node clusters to other story node clusters by their linking themes, as well as can be connected in time sequence to other stories, past, present and future. In this case, each function, geographical location, branch, or employee of Wells Fargo Bank, can be viewed as a node that is a component of the story network architecture, making the storytelling process more complex.

The "logo meanings", "diverse culture", and "perceptions on bank risks and incomes" are intertwined with each other based on the central position of "diverse culture". Thus, "diverse culture" would lead the customers of Wells Fargo Bank to perceive the bank logo, risks, or incomes in different manners. For example, the bank risk is an abstract construct and not easily measured. Risks can be regarded as high, low, or neutral depending on the customer views, and these views are strongly influenced by various backgrounds and cultures. Specifically, someone still wants to deposit his or her money in the bank with high risks, because he or she thinks that the higher the risk the better the income yield. In contrast, someone else will not place funds in the bank on the grounds that the chance of losing her money increases as risk escalates. The customers tend to try to make sense of something whenever they have to make some decision pertaining to it. This sensemaking process is not merged as a whole (Boje, 2006; Weick, 1995), making the storytelling process complex for every customer.

For the "leadership" and "stiff competition" dimensions, we find that they are also interconnected. We have witnessed the ever-increasing competition throughout many industries. To gain a competitive advantage, leadership can play an important role. Leadership can bring about a rich source of stories relating to organizational strategies. By looking more closely at these stories, we can identify the types of leadership. However, the way people understand the type of leadership and the decisions made by the leaders depend on their sensemaking process. That is why the customers (the Vietnamese students) contended that "leadership" and "stiff competition" are determinants of the storytelling complexity based on sensemaking theories (Boje, 2005; Weick, 1995).


This study confirms the importance of stories and the storytelling process using the context of the Vietnamese student perceptions of Wells Fargo Bank's logo as its backdrop. Bank managers and employees should consider the storytelling process as a powerful tool, or a business function in the bank's organizational structure, and weave it into others such as marketing, operations, finance, research and development, information, and personnel.

The benefits that stories can bring about are substantial, and the bottom-line benefit is perhaps measured in increased customer loyalty and improved bank financial performance. In the case of Wells Fargo Bank, the evidence is that the Vietnamese students are strongly influenced by such stories circulating between the bank employees and the senior students, and between the senior students and the newcomers. For instance, as one respondent noted "I was very afraid of a significant number of difficulties when coming here at the beginning and my friend told me many stories and comfortable experiences that she has with Wells Fargo Bank. I totally followed her suggestions to open my account in Wells Fargo Bank. So far, I have been satisfied with this bank." In addition, among the 25 Vietnamese students interviewed, 22 have their accounts in the bank. Thus, if effectively utilized, stories can be the antecedents of customer loyalty which contributes to bank performance.

Another important concept is that logo management (regarding the storytelling process) should be carefully considered by bank managers, because from the logo, the customers can conceive the history of the bank with important events, its business operations, and shape their feelings towards the bank.

In the case of Wells Fargo Bank, 100% of the students could recognize its logo and perceive the Wild West of the US in the 1850s, while 84% of the students thought that the messengers in the logo picture are doing the right things. Similarly 76% support the idea that the logo is an overall advantage for Wells Fargo Bank. The logo depicts its advantages. Hence, the logo adds value to Wells Fargo Bank (Ried et al., 2001).

Bank managers should understand the attributes of the storytelling complexity from the customer perspective, because these attributes are influenced by the sensemaking process (Boje, 2006; Weick, 1995) which influences the different ways that customers perceive the bank logo. The premise is that the different stories derived from the customer perceptions would be useful for bank managers to revise the logo and elicit as much as positive feedback from the customers. By so doing, a good image would be rooted in the minds of the customers acting as the basis for customer loyalty which contributes to bank performance. All the dimensions of the storytelling complexity should be carefully considered in the context of the bank. Dimensions like "diversified products and services", "number of employees", "network of branches", and "logo meanings" need to be given special priority due to the large percentage of consensus reached by the Vietnamese students.


Little research has focused on logo stories and storytelling complexity from the perspective of the customer. This study is an explorative one aimed at investigating the customer perceptions of Wells Fargo Bank's logo, the associated stories and the dimensions of storytelling complexity. Furthermore, this study also examined the latent relationship between the stories and customer loyalty.

The findings show that the customers can derive various stories from the bank logo, depending on their different backgrounds. In general, all the stories distilled by the customers are in support of Wells Fargo Bank.

Additionally, the ten dimensions of the storytelling complexity are filtered as follows:

(1) Diversified products and services;

(2) Number of employees;

(3) Network of branches;

(4) Logo meanings;

(5) International geographical involvement;

(6) Leadership;

(7) Number of functions;

(8) Stiff competition;

(9) Diverse culture; and

(10) Perceptions on bank risks and incomes.

These dimensions can contribute to theorists and practitioners in the fields of storytelling process and logo management.

No research is without limitations. This study was carried out based on the small size of sample--25 Vietnamese students. The sample was not random, and its external generalization is limited.

Future additional studies should be implemented with an expanded sample size. It would also be interesting to statistically test the various dimensions of storytelling complexity not only at Wells Fargo Bank, but also others as well. This may give us a more comprehensive understanding of the role stories play as well as storytelling complexity.


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Table 1: Dimensions of Answers to "What Are Men Doing with Their Gun?"

Dimension                                       Number of   Percentage

Protecting gold                                     7          28%
Protecting money                                    7          28%
Protecting things other than gold and money         5          20%
Fighting with messengers from other companies       1           4%
Robbing gold mines                                  1           4%
Keeping their company safe                          2           8%
Doing nothing with guns                             2           8%
Sum of responses                                   25         100%

Table 2: Dimensions of Answers to "How Safe Is Your
Money in the Stagecoach?"

Dimension          Number of Students   Percentage

Very safe                 11               44%
Safe                       8               32%
Neutral                    3               12%
Unsafe                     2                8%
Very unsafe                1                4%
Sum of responses          25              100%

Table 3: Dimensions of the Storytelling Complexity

Dimension                                   Number      Percentage
                                         of Students

Diversified products and services             23            92%
Number of employees                           23            92%
Network of branches                           22            88%
Logo meanings                                 22            88%
International geographical involvement        21            84%
Leadership                                    19            76%
Number of functions                           18            72%
Stiff competition                             18            72%
Diverse culture                               18            72%
Perceptions on bank risks and incomes         16            64%