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Credit Karma’s Dana Marineau: ‘We want users to think of us as more than just free credit scores’

  • Here's to Progress is the company's newest marketing campaign.
  • It's all aimed at helping users know that Credit Karma is there to help beyond just credit scores.
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Credit Karma’s Dana Marineau: ‘We want users to think of us as more than just free credit scores’

We’re continuing to experiment with an interesting new series on the podcast called Marketing Talk.

Today’s marketer on the hot seat is Dana Marineau, Credit Karma’s vice president of brand, creative and communications. People love Credit Karma for its free credit scores, but the company provides so many other free tools. Dana’s team is tasked with elevating the brand beyond just free credit scores, as a place to get help with financial decisions and achieve financial progress. She brings a 15 year experience at EA, working on many of the top sports games in the business.

We discuss the metrics Dana and her team use to judge their success and how her team is structured. Dana shares a lot about Credit Karma’s Here’s to Progress campaign: goals, who conceived of the idea, how it was produced and how it performed.

Moving from gaming to financial services

I joined Credit Karma about sixteen months ago after spending 15 years at EA. I came here because I fell in love with the financial progress mission behind why Ken Lin and the other founders started Credit Karma in 2007. I fell in love with the idea of joining such a mission-driven organization.

I grew up at EA, working on every brand you’ve heard of: Madden, Need for Speed, Star Wars, FIFA, and Battlefield — real flagship brands for EA and EA Sports. I’m a huge sports fan. I went to Duke, so there was really something special about being there.

In video gaming, the business model changed about every five years. When I first started there, you had to go to a store and buy a package that had a disk inside. Now, you press a button on your Xbox or Playstation and a game downloads right to your living room The people who game have completely changed, too.

That experience of evolving the business model, marketing, personal skills and team skills and who you are as a marketing leader — this helped me transition over to Credit Karma. I credit this experience in helping me make the move from packaged goods to a live service business.

Brand success at Credit Karma 

credit karma dana marineau
Credit Karma’s Dana Marineau

Our team’s mandate is to transform the way people think about Credit Karma. We were founded in 2007 and we’re best known and beloved for free credit scores. Credit Karma has introduced other free products and features that help with financial progress — tax filing, credit cards, loans, auto leases.

Our job in marketing is to tell people about all that and educate them about all we offer. We want to elevate the brand beyond just a free credit score. The good news is we’re beloved. We have something like 63 percent unaided brand awareness as it relates to credit scores. It’s a lot lower in other categories. It’s almost like when Amazon was know for books or Netflix for shipping DVDs. We’re trying to change the way people think of us so that when they make any financial decision, we want them to think of us first.

Measuring success at Credit Karma

One of the biggest metrics we used to look at is new match members — new people downloading the product and using it. We have over 85 million members now and we’re looking for member engagement and whether they’re using our product beyond credit. How often do they come back? Member engagement is the number one thing we’re looking at right now.

Marketing team structure

I love and believe in an internal branding and creative team. We’ve built a really talented team inside of Credit Karma, including brand strategists, producers, designers, editors, writers. Of course, we will ask an outside agency to help us think outside our walls. When you have people sitting next to the people who build the product and the founders — everyone who breathes the brand — you get the best, most passionate work.

Here’s to Progress campaign

Financial progress is really hard. It’s intimidating. Finances are scary. People are fearful. it takes discipline.

At the heart of our campaign is a relatable and approachable brief into how we can get people who a) think about Credit Karma in a very specific way (credit scores) b) how can we approach them in a way that gets them to see Credit Karma in a different light to help them with other things and c) in a way that’s helpful and approachable.

Here’s to Progress is our creative platform that touches all the the work we do in marketing, whether it’s an email, tweet, or television spot. Finances are hard and we can be your guidance counselor throughout the process. It cuts across all our marketing channels.

Our goal was to share stories that people can relate to. It’s not just a few TV spots — it’s the idea behind our brand.

Channel mix and the soul of the brand

In terms of channel mix, we pushed this campaign though all our channels. Of course we had a robust digital buy and television buy. But we also have this idea behind the Here’s to Progress campaign that ‘small is big’ — that small steps can make big impact. This kind of stuff is great for Twitter, social and even email when we give tips and tricks for financial progress.

We have an inside joke at Credit Karma. Now, when we end a meeting, we say Here’s to Progress! I like to say that the soul of a brand begins inside a company. This idea behind Here’s to Progress really exemplifies that — in elevators, town hall meetings, in email. We keep saying that and it lives inside and out.

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