Brand marketing is the fuel to business success; it humanizes an organization and ultimately creates customer awareness, trust, and loyalty. Not only this, according to Alison McGlone, VP Brand at NerdWallet, brand marketing has several intangible benefits, such as building employee retention, morale, and recruiting efforts. Joined by Rogelio Magana, Senior Director of Brand Strategy & Campaigns at Instacart, they discuss how they came into their respective roles to build their brand marketing teams from scratch, using cohesive storytelling, meticulous strategy, and diving deep to understand consumer insights.
Here is what they had to say during the Marketers That Matter 411 call and how it could impact your teams, talent, and future.
Q: What does your Brand Marketing team look like, and what are you focused on?
Alison McGlone: In its simplest form, my team is responsible for growing NerdWallet awareness. We talk about it internally as getting people to know, trust, and love NerdWallet because we believe each dimension creates long-term sustainable leverage for our business. Our team is divided into four sections: Brand Advertising, Content Marketing, Brand Studio/Internal Creative team, and a Market Research Consumer Insights team.
Rogelio Magana: I joined Instacart when there was only a Performance Marketing team. Over the last year, we have been building the Brand Marketing team from scratch, understanding what we want from the brand, who the brand is, and transforming from a functional space to more of an inspirational space. My team is responsible for the brand’s strategy, carrying out campaigns, applying social media, engaging celebrities, influencers, etc.
Q: How is Brand Marketing scoped at each of your brands?
Rogelio Magana: At first, we had to understand who we were as a brand. That required us to understand how people saw us and explore where we are today and where we want to be. We realized that our brand wasn’t very emotional. We had an incredible performance team, but it wasn’t connecting to consumers on a human level. We started our journey by mapping out what we needed to do to get there. Ultimately, we wanted our customers to feel inspired and good about grocery shopping. After we brought together the best-in-class team, we started changing how we do things across the organization. We launched a new visual identity that is more modern and recognizable by consumers.
In our brand identity update, one of our goals was to make sure people saw us not only as a grocery company, but what we call Grocery+. We want our consumers to know that they can do grocery shopping with us, but they can also shop at Sephora, the Container Store, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and more in both the physical store and online.
Alison McGlone: Like Rogelio, NerdWallet was largely a performance marketing function when I started. As you think about scoping the team, the first and most important thing is to pause and listen to the consumer and understand what keeps them from doing business with you. Our team spent at least six months before we launched any work doing market research, tracking consumer insights, and getting a better understanding of NerdWallet’s equity. Then, we were able to consider where we thought we could be based on what makes our brand unique.
We wrote that story, built a communication strategy, and felt confident in our differentiators. Once we arrived at a place we felt excited about, we started considering where we needed to tell this story based on where our consumers were paying attention and where our competitors were spending time. Since then, it’s been an evolution of the brand, and we’ve expanded the scope of reach, the channels we are showing up on, and how we engage.
Q: Financial services and Delivery are crowded categories. How do you think about your brand to make you stand out?
Rogelio Magana: You have to build trust and credibility with your customers so that what you’re offering, doing, and saying is aligned. There also has to be a factor that excites people about what you’re selling. Two things help brands stand out: the power of storytelling and trust.
When everything makes sense within a story arc and what you’re saying in your CRM is clear in the upper and lower funnel campaigns, your customer will quickly identify your brand no matter how or when they see it. The challenge is, especially when building something from scratch, building memory structures and connective tissues with consumers and within your team.
Good marketing is not being able to differentiate what part of the team the content is coming from; it’s the same brand and persona all around.
Alison McGlone: According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, personal finance is one of the most untrusted categories. We’ve all been at the mercy of countless direct mailers in our mailbox, email offers, credit score breaches, or banks taking advantage of the system.
In our brand strategy, we think a lot about how to be the trusted expert our customers need to build a more emotional connection. Another unique challenge we face is that while most people comparison shop for electronics and other products, no one comparison shops for financial products. We not only have a brand challenge; we have a category challenge. We have to get people excited about the category and accept the brand.
Our differentiator is our trusted objective expertise. We have a 100+ content team that includes tax, investing, and credit card nerds. Their work and knowledge set us apart from other brands, and we are very proud of that. As a brand marketer, our CEO gave us a gift by naming our brand NerdWallet – it’s up to us to do something with that.
Q: How do consumer insights drive Brand Marketing decisions?
Alison McGlone: We are lucky that our market research team works closely with the brand team. This collaboration brings us even closer to the consumer. Consumer insights are a part of every stage of our strategy and campaign development. We use a mix of tools that range between monthly brand trackers, qualitative/quantitative, neuro-testing, and ad hoc tools that help supplement those things.
We use data to understand our category, where others are building, emerging trends, and what’s happening in the lives of our consumers. Taking the time to listen and connect the dots is essential. But it starts with solving consumer problems. The work gets easier when you understand what keeps your customer up at night and your unique role in helping them.
Q: Can you share an example of how you are marketing your brand identity refresh to consumers?
Rogelio Magana: During our evolution from functional to inspirational, we wanted Instacart to be known less for shopping and more for savoring. Everyone talks about the shopping experience or what you are using the items for after the checkout, but no one talks about the “carting” experience. Our “The World is Your Cart” campaign with Lizzo communicated that the carting experience can be majestic, beautiful, sensational, and inspirational. Whether shopping from the bathtub like Lizzo or in person, you can build your cart from wherever you are and create a whole new inspirational world.
At the Silicon Valley MTM Forum, Laura Jones, CMO of Instacart, shared a deep dive of Instacart’s Brand Identity Transformation, and how to measure Brand Health. See the recap of the forum here: The Impact of Brand Identity.
Q: It can be a challenge to track ROI on Brand. How are you measuring success and using data to make decisions?
Rogelio Magana: Full funnel marketing strategy works better than only having a lower funnel marketing strategy. A complete funnel marketing strategy will make your lower funnel marketing more efficient. When more people know what Instacart is, they’ll be more willing to move through the customer journey. We are looking at numbers – everything from our unaided and aided awareness to our performance marketing team – and analyzing if they are having an easier time hitting their targets and reaching their quotas.
Another piece I will add is keeping an eye on social media organic mentions. When unsponsored influencers start mentioning your brand publicly for the first time, you know you’re on the right track.
Alison McGlone: Measuring brand health can be challenging, but it is possible. We’re driving tremendous impact for the business. It’s essential to be curious enough to triangulate some data points to tell that story and prove your impact. We do a mix of incrementality testing, brand tracking, a multi-mix model, and channel lift studies.
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of being curious and intellectually honest. Sometimes we get so caught up looking at data that we forget that data is just human actions. If the data doesn’t pass the gut check for you, keep looking at it differently until you can tell that story in a way that helps the company understand what you’re doing and why it’s important.
The 411 virtual events are hosted by Jennie Stark, the Senior Director of the MTM Program at 24 Seven. They are designed for Marketing Managers to bring value, direction, and inspiration to their teams from insightful conversations with top marketing leaders. Each event contains insights on different disciplines, such as what brands are focused on, leading teams, measuring success, and more.
Rogelio Magana, Senior Director, Brand Strategy & Campaigns, Instacart: Rogelio Magana, Senior Director of Brand Strategy & Campaigns, Instacart: Rogelio is a passionate marketing professional who builds purpose-led brands. He has experience overseeing global marketing and regional leadership roles across consumer packaged goods, the quick-service restaurant industry, and high-growth startups. Before his role at Instacart, he worked for Burger King for four years as the Director of Brand Experience.
Alison McGlone, VP Brand; NerdWallet: Alison is a passionate brand builder and enjoys adding distinct value to consumers’ lives and driving outsized business impact. She joined NerdWallet in 2017 to help the personal finance company build its brand marketing strategy, discipline, and data-led media and measurement approaches from the ground up. Previously, she managed advertising, PR, and partner marketing across Gymboree’s portfolio of children’s retail brands (Gymboree Janie & Jack and Crazy8) and worked agency-side in Ketchum’s New York and San Francisco offices, building award-winning integrated marketing programs for CPG brands like ABSOLUT Vodka and Frito Lay.
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