Intuit VP: Great Advertising Is A Mix Of Data And Creativity

In this exclusive interview with CMO.com, Lauren Stafford-Webb explains her strategic priorities over the next few months and how she uses both the left and right sides of her brain to develop programs, campaigns, and customer experiences for the company.

Intuit VP: Great Advertising Is A Mix Of Data And Creativity

by Giselle Abramovich

Posted on 05-12-2019

This article is part of our April 2019 series about customer experience. Click here for more.

There’s no denying that marketing is where creativity meets data. Great campaigns and customer experiences need a mix of the two.

Lauren Stafford-Webb is VP of corporate marketing at Intuit, even though she went to school for finance. Her strength in both numbers and creative thinking gives her an advantage in how she goes about marketing the Intuit brand.

In this exclusive interview with CMO.com, Stafford-Web talks about how Intuit is in its marketing and business transformation. She explains her strategic priorities over the next few months and how she uses both the left and right sides of her brain to develop programs, campaigns, and customer experiences for the company.

CMO.com: Can you talk about your career in marketing leading up to your role now at Intuit?

Stafford-Webb: I initially went to school for finance and thought I was going to be a banker. Coincidentally, I had the privilege of going to a leadership camp for Procter & Gamble and discovered brand management, and it was in that moment that I realized what a privilege it is to be a marketer because you have opportunities to make people laugh, cry, or smile. … That’s what drove me to actually switch from finance into brand management, and I went to work at P&G. I was there for about eight years, and I used that time to develop several consumer brands and to develop my own leadership skills.

After a great experience at P&G, I wanted to gain experience in building a tech brand. I really fell in love with Intuit, makers of TurboTax, QuickBooks, and Mint, from a technology perspective and its commitment to solving really hard problems in the world.

If you think about the impact our products make, finances are such a hard and challenging problem in people’s lives. It’s often the No. 1 source of anxiety in people’s lives, and so the opportunity to work at a business where I can truly make a difference in people’s lives by helping them gain more confidence and control of their finances both personally and professionally really attracted me to Intuit.

The other thing that stood out about Intuit was its values and culture. Intuit is a values-based organization that really lives our values in everything that we do. Our mission is to power prosperity around the world, and we take that very seriously. As a marketer, it was an amazing opportunity because we’re a 36-year-old company and we hadn’t invested in building the Intuit brand beyond our core products. The opportunity to get to build the Intuit brand and our corporate marketing organization really inspired me.

I have what I’d call a builder’s spirit, where I’ve always loved the opportunity to take the hardest job, tackle the biggest challenge, or build something from the ground up. I encourage people to run to those opportunities because that is where you will experience the most growth.

CMO.com: It’s funny because you were a finance major and you still ended up at a financial company, right?

Stafford-Webb: It’s the best of all worlds. In today’s world, with the importance of being data-driven in marketing, it’s allowed me to use both sides of my brain and all of those skill sets to be a great marketer. Today there’s always [the question of]: Are you a brand marketer or are you a performance marketer? I think that that’s a false tradeoff. You’ve got to be great at both in today’s world, and part of being great at performance marketing is being able to read data well and make smart business decisions from there. So I’d say my finance background has set me up for success to do both of those well.

CMO.com: Where would you say the marketing team is in terms of the digital transformation journey?

Stafford-Webb: For the marketing team working on the Intuit brand, we’re fairly advanced. When we started building an Intuit brand campaign about two years ago, it was rooted in our beliefs that we are committed to powering prosperity around the world, and we know the path to prosperity is not easy for everybody. And what we wanted to do was bring to life our ecosystem of products–QuickBooks, TurboTax, and Mint–in a way that demonstrated how we’re always working on behalf of our customers. Through our Intuit Giant, we created an animated metaphor for our ecosystem of products that are working on behalf of our customers tirelessly to help them take control of their finances, live the life they want, and ultimately prosper.

When we brought that campaign to life, there could’ve been 1,000 ways that we went to market. We had such low awareness, the easy thing to do would’ve been to jump to the obvious options like TV, but we wanted to explore and test multiple channels to best reach our audience. Last year we launched the first-ever campaign for the brand digitally, and we ended up with over 25 million online views and had a stronger view-through rate than YouTube’s average movie trailer for the year.

So this year, we really leaned into digital and wanted to focus on being great storytellers, and then doing that in a format that allows us to do it. By focusing on content first, we can then build a strategy on where it belongs and how to encourage our audience to engage on a deeper level. When we think about our audience, we know they are often working different types of hours, they’re on the go, and they’re very mobile-first. Because of those reasons, we often lean into digital channels as our first priority; however, it doesn’t mean we don’t do traditional TV advertising.

We also recently launched our tech talent brand campaign for an employee audience. We want to attract the best talent in the world, particularly tech talent, to work at Intuit. This means we have to tap into what they really care about, which is solving challenging problems, making an impact at scale, and working with advanced technologies, like artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Last month, we launched a dedicated film for tech talent to help them understand the daily work we do in powering prosperity for customers around the world. We partnered with our engineers and technologists to bring that video to life with authentic code and algorithms from our company. The video already has over 27 million online impressions in under a month, with also above-average video completion rates. We’ve placed it everywhere, from YouTube to Native to Twitch, as well as connected TV, like Hulu and Roku. We’re also seeing paid social work really well, driving the video links on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Overall, we’re exploring a range of digital touch points to reach our audience, even going as deep as websites like KDnuggets, a popular data science website.

CMO.com: And can you speak to the overall business transformation as well?

Stafford-Webb: Digital transformation is embedded in our culture. We are a data-driven culture where the code wins, and I think you’re seeing that throughout all departments, whether that’s IT or customer-facing care or marketing. We are embracing the digital transformation and leveraging and honing everything technology has to offer.

CMO.com: What do you see as the biggest opportunity for Intuit in the next 12 to 18 months as it pertains to your role?

Stafford-Webb: We are embracing technology for all that it is. Historically, we were a desktop company. As we transitioned to our next chapter in artificial intelligence and machine learning, we will move from individual financial software products to an AI-driven expert platform. And that influences marketing by marketing our transition from a house of brands to a connected house of brands. The main difference is that a house of brands showcases how all of our brands work together as an ecosystem, and there’s a constant value exchange between Intuit and our products because that’s so critical to best serve our customers.

For customers, we know they want to put their information in one place and then be served holistically both personally and professionally; that’s truly powering their prosperity. And so they need to know that our brands are from the same family. That’s going to be a big focus moving forward.

CMO.com: I’m hoping you can tell me the details of your new campaign—the strategy behind it and who the target audience is?

Stafford-Webb: We’ve been advertising the Intuit brand for the last two years, going from being focused on driving awareness and consideration of our ecosystem. In the last month, we’re focusing on how to attract top tech talent as an extension of that same story. We know this is a highly educated and professionally experienced audience. They are looking for seamless tech experiences via utility and connectivity. They overindex hubs of information on new tech within word-of-mouth groups, and they really value knowing that they can make impact at scale. They truly care about the technology they’re going to be working on. And at Intuit we do solve really tough, challenging problems, both from a technology and humanity perspective.

When you think about the facts that 50% of businesses fail and most people can’t cover a $400 emergency, those are really needy problems that we get the opportunity for tech talent to come here, work with AI and ML, and solve. We wanted to bring that to life in an authentic way, so we took the initial campaign and adapted that to use creative storytelling to show how our employees’ daily lives and work at Intuit are used to power prosperity for our customers, how they’re working on the tough, challenging problems, and that this is affecting millions of people around the world. The campaign has over 27 million video views and above-average video completion rates with over 10 million completed views, which is higher than industry averages.

Our strategy is to inspire current employees and future employees in the Bay Area and Bangalore. We found that creative storytelling about our employees’ daily lives and how they power prosperity is a way to help tech talent understand what we do. This video is just one of the ways we do it. We also tell real-life tech stories; we have a blog that brings to life the technical work we do at the company as well.

CMO.com: How are you measuring the success of this effort?

Stafford-Webb: We’re looking at a couple of things. We’re monitoring the overall impact of the creative, looking at the video view-through rate, impressions, social sentiment. Social sentiment right now is 99% positive, which we’re thrilled to see. And the other thing we’re looking at is monitoring interest in working at Intuit. We also are watching our traffic to our career site, and we’ve seen a 120 index increase with a very large percent of viewers being trafficked directly from the video, and so we know that it’s working.

CMO.com: Things are moving fast in the industry. There’s always new technology and new platforms. How do you keep on top of all of these trends and identify opportunities?

Stafford-Webb: It’s such an interesting time we live in as marketers, isn’t it? You’re no longer being compared to the next best competitor in your category. Customers hold you accountable in different ways. If you think about mission-based work, they compare you to Patagonia. If you think about convenience, they are comparing you to Amazon. If you think about entertainment, they’re comparing you to Netflix. And so it has raised the bar for marketers and for the brand work we do to be the best at your game from a storytelling perspective holistically.

It’s our job as marketers to stay on the forefront of leading technology and trends in the industry, whether that be immersive media or chatbots or AI, the personalization that really delights the customer. All of those things are critically important in today’s world, and we believe it’s our job to stay at the forefront of technology.

CMO.com: What’s the best leadership advice you ever received?

Stafford-Webb: We’re always debating as marketers. We have tackled it with a single mantra: more creating, less debating. Let your customers tell you what works. Learn in real time and experiment.

I also recently read the book “Multipliers” as recommended by our CEO, and I believe that bringing out the superpowers of your team is an important aspect that I incorporate into her practice and craft every day.

Topics: Insights & Inspiration, Leadership, Experience Cloud, Digital Transformation, Digital Foundation, High Tech, Analytics, Future of Work, Marketing, CMO by Adobe

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