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‘Personal agency and digital transformation are here to stay’: 4 top marketers sound off on trends and strategies

  • Tearsheet interviewed marketing and UX experts to gauge their insight on industry trends.
  • We look at digital transformation, virtual collaborations in user experience teams, B2B marketing strategies and PPP lending.
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‘Personal agency and digital transformation are here to stay’: 4 top marketers sound off on trends and strategies

Tearsheet’s Acquire Conference is one day away. To kick things off, we’re sharing four industry experts’ thoughts on marketing, sales and user experience campaigns -- from marketing trends we can expect to see in 2021, to how their companies pivoted marketing, and digital strategies under pressures of the pandemic.

Tearsheet's Rimal Farrukh and Rivka Abramson contributed to this article.

Halle Hutchison is the chief brand officer at Varo Money 

Halle Hutchison has been the chief brand officer at Varo Money since November 2019. She has over 20 years experience in the industry.

In addition to her role as chief brand officer, Hutchison has also been a board advisor at Spoonful, a health and wellness platform, since October 2018, as well as principal at HH Consulting, a marketing and advertising consultancy, since 2016.

Her previous experience includes her role as director of advertising and brand at T-Mobile from 2005 to 2008, where she was responsible for Time Magazine Reader’s #1 advertising campaign: “Who’s in Your Fave Five?” for T-Mobile’s NBA sponsorship featuring Charles Barkley and Dwayne Wade.

For Varo, using its platforms as a way to share customer stories has helped the challenger bank create a sense of empathy, which has been extra important under the effects of the pandemic.

“For Varo, opening up our social platforms to let customers have a voice has been incredibly impactful,” said Hutchison. “Rather than use our platforms to always talk about ourselves, Varo lets our customers take the mic per se.”

Still, Varo had to rethink its strategies as the effects of Covid started stacking up. Hutchison said to stay afloat, it was crucial that the company doubled down on understanding their users' needs -- new and old -- and figuring out how Varo fits into their customers’ lives.

“It has always been true in good marketing, and even more so now during the pandemic and the political and social strife of 2020, to ensure you are listening to your customers and continually monitoring trends in the broader culture,” said Hutchison. “You should know your brand’s role within the current environment.” 

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In 2020, lots of people used the pandemic’s pause button effect as a motivator to work on their goals, including working on startup ideas and planning out their own businesses. Meanwhile, people who already had businesses were doubling down on digital transformation to stay afloat. 

These two trends -- personal agency and digital transformation -- are here to stay, said Hutchison. The goal now is to find ways to incorporate these trends into future marketing campaigns.

“The already emerging trends around personal agency and digital transformation will continue to accelerate,” said Hutchison. “Brands that are poised and prepared to leverage those will emerge as more relevant and stay in pace with culture.”

Jeanniey Walden is the chief innovation marketing officer at DailyPay

Jeanniey Walden has been the chief innovation officer at DailyPay since 2019.

Before that, she was at Mercer for three years, making her way to global chief marketing officer in April 2017.

She is the first woman to be among the C-suite at DailyPay and was included in "Top 25 Women Leaders in Financial Technology" by the Financial Technology Report.

DailyPay’s DEI marketing methods are rooted in the resources it provides its own employees, said Walden. “More than ever, in today’s social climate, employers need to take charge to create an inclusive, diverse culture that communicates their corporate values to their staff,” said Walden. 

In the past five years, the company has established three employee resource groups, including DailyWomen, DailyNoire, and DailyGay. This year, it hosted events surrounding its DEI initiatives.

“We also worked with our clients to host an informative webinar on forming employee resource groups, and weave DEI into our marketing tactics -- from website design to articles on DEI.”

Then there are the challenges specific to Covid-19.

Before the pandemic started, DailyPay had planned for months to launch Pay Experience, a rebranding campaign. But when the company saw the impact Covid-19 was having on the economy, the company knew it had to pivot. Instead, it ended up launching Pay Different, a campaign founded on the idea that an instant pay platform is a safer way to pay employees as they return to the workforce. 

“During this time period, we had to strategically focus on building our B2B marketing while attending to the needs of our users,” said Walden. “Though the challenges we encountered while pivoting our company’s brand direction were at times difficult and uncomfortable, they opened up avenues of creativity.” 

In terms of what we can expect to see in 2021, Walden thinks virtual is here to stay.

“Marketers will need to understand that conferences, sales meetings, editor events and more will never go back to the way we once knew it. This last year taught us how digitization ultimately created more opportunity and accessibility for all, which is great for marketers trying to cast a wide net of prospects.”

Laura Goldberg is the chief revenue and marketing officer at Kabbage

With around 22 years of experience in building strategy and operations for major companies, Goldberg currently oversees marketing, sales and business development at small business lending platform Kabbage. 

Goldberg started out her career in financial services at global wealth manager and investment bank Credit Suisse. Before joining Kabbage, Goldberg worked as the chief marketing officer at Legal Zoom and led its marketing team to drive accessibility for legal services to small businesses and families. 

As a small business lender, Kabbage had to quickly implement supportive measures for its small business customers at the onset of the pandemic. The company developed cash flow products to support small businesses throughout 2020, including their e-gift certificate launch in March and the formation of new business checking accounts in July. The most significant opportunity for extending its services arrived in the form of the Paycheck Protection Program. In July of 2020, Kabbage reported to have processed over 209,000 PPP loan applications for small businesses amounting to $5.8 billion.

“The pandemic certainly forced us to adapt to a market which was turned upside down for small businesses who were significantly impacted by nationwide closures,” said Goldberg. “Marketing and sales then looked far different than pre-pandemic times, but the Paycheck Protection Program presented an enormous opportunity for us to apply our technology to help deliver relief funds during the largest national-relief program in the history of the administration. I give so much credit to our team during that time. Even without paid acquisition, we became the 2nd largest PPP lender in the nation.”

Goldberg also shared her thoughts on how the pandemic has created a much greater need for increasing opportunities for women in financial services. 

“The pandemic was detrimental to women’s jobs in the workforce as daycares and schools closed forcing many professional women to turn their attention to the home, with some reports stating nearly 2 million jobs were permanently erased. We need you now more than ever,” said Goldberg.   

Sara Tresch is the senior vice president of digital transformation and user experience at Charles Schwab

Sara Tresch is responsible for driving product development strategies and user experience innovation and research. She currently heads Charles Schwab’s Digital Accelerator and Innovation Labs aimed at the company’s digital transformation efforts. 

Tresch also serves as a member of the leadership team of Schwab’s Digital Services organization, which is responsible for developing overall digital strategy and improving client relationships. She is also an executive sponsor for the firm’s PRIDE employee group and serves as a board advisor for marketing technology startup, Simon Data. 

Before her experience at Charles Schwab, Tresch worked at American Express in several leadership roles in customer experience, strategy, operations and business development. At the beginning of her career she worked in investment banking, focusing specifically on mergers and acquisitions in the technology and healthcare sectors.

According to Tresch, the pandemic brought with it several challenges around user experience collaborations. 

“Moving virtually was a particular challenge for user experience,” said Tresch. “Prior to the pandemic, we were big advocates of co-location for our client experience teams so they could collaborate easily across several functions. With the pandemic we had to use new tools and techniques to keep this collaborative style alive, and also find ways to energize and refuel our teams along the way. While an initial challenge, it has created a lot of new ways of working that we will carry forward regardless of where we are sitting in a year.”

For individuals just starting out in digital strategy, Tresch highlighted the importance of honing a diverse range of skills. “So many of the jobs we do today in financial services require a large cross section of skills – marketing, technology, customer insights, analytics to name a few,” said Tresch.

“This opens up opportunities for people with different backgrounds and skills that are needed to work in an industry undergoing so much exciting change.”

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