At Intuit, Purpose Drives the Brand Narrative

Lara Hood Balazs, CMO of Intuit, is on a mission, working on reframing the brand and how it speaks with consumers.

At Intuit, Purpose Drives the Brand Narrative

by Kristine Hamlett

Posted on 11-19-2019

Lara Hood Balazs, CMO of Intuit, maker of TurboTax, QuickBooks, and Mint, is on a mission. She is working on reframing the Intuit brand and how it speaks with consumers to align to the company’s mission of powering prosperity around the world.

Research shows that 63% of consumers today prefer to purchase from purpose-driven brands. Additionally, brands with a purpose grow two times faster than others.

In this exclusive interview with CMO by Adobe, Balazs shares how Intuit is telling powerful, compelling stories through authentic influencer marketing, and deep-dives into the company’s passionate pursuit of design-driven thinking.

What’s top of mind for you over the next couple of years?

Breaking through in a relevant and authentic way with compelling content is really what is top of mind for me. There’s so much that goes into this craft, everything from creativity to data. Data plus creativity equals great content and great storytelling. When all of those things come together, it’s magic.

So what are you finding is key for telling great stories?

At Intuit, we utilize a design thinking process called “Design for Delight.” The process starts with “Follow Me Homes,” where we actually go into our customers’ homes, offices, and workspaces to observe them. The process is so critical to us. By observing what customers do versus what they say , we are able to uncover true pain points. Every employee builds this empathy and that shapes how we talk about our products across our channels.

Sounds like a design thinking-driven approach to storytelling. I read in a Harvard Business Review article from 2015 where an Intuit exec had said that by 2020, Intuit would be considered one of the most design-driven companies in the world. Where do you think you are with that prediction?

I think we pursue that every single day and it’s an aspiration that we’re striving toward. “Design for Delight” and “Follow Me Homes” are processes helping us see that pay off. I think we can always push the envelope and strive every single day to be customer-obsessed. And that’s so critical to what we do. We’ll always be trying to achieve that.

We do pretty darn well in that pursuit. And it really is all about learning about our customers and really caring about our customer problems because when you know the customer problems, you’re trying to always design to address those problems. We like to say, “We prefer to fall in love with our customers’ problems versus our customer solutions because to know the solution, we have to know the problem.”

Can you give me your prediction about what you think the future of advertising will look like?

I love this question because I think “advertising” as a word feels like something from the past. It implies pushing communications, and I believe as marketers and communicators, storytellers today are providing relevant, compelling content. If you’re doing really great work, it should be pull, not push. And that’s where I see the future going.

Talk to me about some of your recent advertising endeavors that really pushed the envelope.

I mentioned before that the company mission is: “Powering prosperity around the world.” This mission is embedded into everything we do. But I noticed that we hadn’t crystallized the identity of the Intuit brand. We hadn’t defined ourselves in the context of what we truly believe: That everybody has the opportunity to prosper.

Stemming from this new brand identity, our first campaign debuted. “Together We Prosper” is a campaign that helps us go to market in a fashion where we show real stories that illustrate how our company is making an impact on the world through our people and our products. The campaign highlights the actions we’ve taken as a company to make the world a better place. We’ve highlighted “Prosperity Hubs,” a program we’ve created to bring jobs and critical skills to people living in communities in need. “Together We Prosper” has afforded us this wonderful opportunity to share these stories for the first time.

I love that social impact is important to you. Can speak to that a little bit more?

We think it’s critically important. There have been studies done to show how important being socially responsible is to every company stakeholder. But what’s more important to me than that is that it’s truly authentic to our company. We are customer-obsessed and we care about our communities and our employees, and so because of that deep customer empathy, we have the belief that we need to, and can, make the world a better place than we found it.

Our Prosperity Hub program created 1,500 new jobs in communities where jobs are especially hard to come by. And so we care and give back. We want to do more for the community, for Intuit, and for our customers.

I know you also recently launched a campaign called “Pursuit of Prosperity.” Can you tell us a little bit about that campaign?

We did a “Pursuit of Prosperity” study, which actually led to the “Together We Prosper” campaign. We wanted to understand what Americans are struggling with when it comes to prosperity. We found out that today, four out of five Americans believe that prosperity is out of reach; 80% of them believe that financial success, though, is still in their future. So while they are concerned about their prosperity, they are still absolutely optimistic, and so that motivated us to determine: How do we help them?

We also chose to partner with Tiffany Aliche for this study , because she is very authentic on the topic. She’s well-known as a financial entrepreneur and has almost 1 million followers. In fact, she was the perfect way to relay this information out to a community of consumers that we really care about. We have such a strong community. And so finding an influencer who believes in and sponsors what we are sharing was a great opportunity to extend the message.

We’ve seen that working with an influencer that is checking all those boxes that we can amplify our reach by 125% versus having to only use our own channels. That comes with positive social sentiment and strong engagement.

What’s your advice for choosing an influencer and also ensuring they stay “on-brand?”

You chose a specific influencer because you believe that they embody your beliefs. So there’s already that filter. You know it’s authentic and it is a team effort. But at the end of the day, once it’s that strong partnership. They are becoming a fan of your brand if they weren’t already, and you can allow them to share your content in a way that’s authentic to them. And so that does require a little bit of allowing them to be who they are. Often, they’re creative people, and so that’s part of the mix.

If you’ve done your homework up front, you’re going to have somebody who’s really doing a good job for you because they’re excited to share your brand in a positive way.

What was the best advice you’ve ever received?

Oh, be bold and take risks. My career has gone the fastest in the most meaningful direction when I’ve taken a risk, which has usually required being bold, especially earlier in my career.

Interested in having your brand’s innovation story featured on CMO by Adobe? Email abramovi@adobe.com for consideration.

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