Oct 13, 2023
40 min
Episode 44

TOP CMO: Jill Cress, H&R Block - 'Trust, Taxes & Transformation'

Jill Cress - H&R Block  00:00

Tax season is 105 jam packed and exciting days when I started my boss the CEO Jeff Jones spent his life in retail working at Target the gap and other brands. And he said retailers got nothing on tax season and boy did I experience it in those 105 days.

Ben Kaplan  00:16

This is the podcast where we go around the globe to interview marketing leaders from the world's biggest brands, fastest growing companies and most disruptive startups, re ideas packaged a certain way want to spread, they want to be called to someone else's simple, surprising and significant data to unlocking viral creativity is to make it rapidly scalable. This is TOP CMO with me, Ben Kaplan. today I'm chatting with Joe Cress chief marketing and Experience Officer at H&R Block, a well known us brand that is synonymous with tax preparation services. Jill has served the long distinguished career as a marketer in the financial services industry, including 23 years at MasterCard, and two and a half years at PayPal. at PayPal, she was the force behind strategies that impacted more than 350 million global consumers redefining brand identities for both Pay Pal itself and its Venmo brand. Beyond financial services. Jill served as Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at National Geographic, where she oversaw a brand overhaul leading to unprecedented digital engagement and making it the most followed brand on Instagram. So how do you make potential customers excited to talk about something potentially as dry as your tax return? And what do you do when you're known for a primary delivery channel, in person and in store? But you want to expand into the digital frontier? Let's find out with Jill Cress. Gil, maybe a good starting off point that is unique for how you think about marketing the brand is with this big retail footprint that H&R Block has typically had, I think it's more than 10,000 locations. The idea is to look everyone in the eye give them confidence. That's a real asset. But it's also a challenge in the digital environment. Wouldn't you say?

Jill Cress - H&R Block  02:16

Such a great jumping off point, Ben. Yes. So H&R Block is a 70 year old company. It's actually founder led company, it was founded in Kansas City by two brothers. And they were seeking to connect with Americans around this complex moment of filing your taxes. And understanding that we could build a platform of expertise through tax professionals who really cared about helping those customers get the best outcome by building our office footprint and communities across the United States. And our purpose continues to be to provide help and inspire confidence around this moment. It's an unvalidated fact. But a few years ago, we did validate that we are within five miles of every American with that near 10,000 retail footprint. And that is a really important part of how we differentiate ourselves and how we compete in the work that we do to provide help and inspire confidence around taxes for exactly what you said people who want to come in and look someone in the eye and feel like we have provided them with the best possible outcome. At the same time. We are very much a digital brand. And so that experience is something that's a bit of a headwind when it comes to increasing awareness around the other option that you have, which is to work with H&R Block in a completely online environment, with a virtual experience with a tax pro and get all of that great expertise and care from the comfort of your own home.

Ben Kaplan  03:52

And how do you think about that also, with expanding the brand? Some would say yes, I've heard of the brand. I've heard of H&R Block. But as you start looking at particularly and transformations and cultural patterns and habits that were happening during the pandemic, how do you start thinking then about, hey, we don't want to lose our equity, and we're five miles from your house. But we have a lot of potential opportunity for potential new customers who might say, Oh, I don't need to go in. In fact, that's a hassle for me to go in and see someone I'd rather engage online. And this is a legacy brand that might be for my parents, for instance, but isn't for me. So how do you start thinking about that delivering, as you said a couple of times now sort of help and confidence but deliver the confidence in a way that is different and new and as part of your title because your chief marketing and experience officer

Jill Cress - H&R Block  04:48

really comes down to understanding our current clients and those clients that we want to win with in the future and pretty consistently ease of use speed Confidence are things that matter to every American who files taxes. There's an addressable audience on an annual basis of about 150 million Americans who, who file taxes? And so really understanding what do they want from us? What are those jobs that we can do for them. And again, it comes down to speed, accuracy and confidence in the outcome, which for about 70% of Americans is actually a refund. And so with that, we have a really functional way of thinking about who our clients are. And that functional way historically has been to say, well, you either want in person help, or you want to do it yourself from the comfort of your own home. And that's a pretty taxi way of thinking about it. And what we're doing is really digging a little bit more deeply to understand what are those triggers that move someone from a state of doing their taxes themselves from the comfort of their home, to a point where they need more assistance, or vice versa. So we are very deep in a customer segmentation. And, you know, we understand that your need state around that changes, if you're a really simple filer, doing your taxes yourself from the comfort of your own home makes sense. There's a huge cohort of consumers who feel really convicted that no one else will care more about their tax outcome than they themselves do, and looking for every possible credit and deduction to ensure that they maximize their outcome. And so it really is, first to start with, who are our existing clients? What do they want from us? What is the role of wanting to work with a tax pro in the retail environment, while augmenting virtual tools and solutions that make that process more seamless, and go a little bit faster and on for the segment of consumers who really want to do their taxes themselves from the comfort of their own home? It is to really understand, is it about the confidence that they have in their outcome? If they do it themselves? Is it a question of cost? And what is the role of a really low cost? Do It Yourself solution at home? And so with that, you know, one of the big areas of focus for us last year was understanding how could we win with a younger audience. And so we were really focused on Gen Z, and understanding some of those moments that they face where their taxes may become more complicated. So graduating from college and starting a first full time job is a great example. There are implications as to are you still dependent? Are you filing on your own. And we also had an opportunity to think about how the brand could show up in more relevant and targeted ways for that audience to position H&R Block as a brand for them. We do benefit from very high awareness and the traditional solution that we've provided, which is that amazing retail footprint of 10,000 locations, the awareness that we have to use H&R Block from the comfort of your home, or wherever you decide to do your own taxes is a lot lower. So last year that was really core to how H&R Block went to market was to tell that story to very specific audiences.

Ben Kaplan  08:17

When you talk about maybe let's break apart two pieces. So one is just being more relevant. Right? There's an idea that you're relevant. How did you think about that? And certainly, your business that is extremely relevant at a certain time of year, right tax season. So how do you kind of AMP up relevance? And how do you do it in the context of the Corps days leading up to April, every year in the US where you'd be at peak relevance based on what people have to do to comply with the law

Jill Cress - H&R Block  08:48

tax season is 105, jam packed and exciting days. And when I started, my my boss, the CEO, Jeff Jones shared with me that he Jeff Jones had spent his life in retail working at Target the gap and other other brands. And he said retails got nothing on tax season, and I worked hard to internalize that, but boy, did I experience it in those 100 in five days. And so as we approach that, and thought about what is the opportunity for us to become more relevant. One of the things that we wanted to do was to put a little bit of fun into tax season, as I shared earlier, the majority of Americans, more than 70% of Americans will actually get a refund. So it's not the outcome that many people dread. It's actually the experience. And so last year, we decided to have a little fun with tax season, and to draw some parallels to some of the seasons that we most love like holiday season, or football season award season and put it into the cultural conversation around seasons that are actually fun, and celebrate the outcome and the way that we provide a more human person analyzed approach to that experience. So we launched our campaign last year with tax season is back. And we celebrated it among all the other great seasons. And so we did some fun content around it being as exciting as holiday season and gifts that end up under the tree. One of our most loved pieces of content was a woman winning an award, kind of playing with awards season where she won an award for switching tax providers to H&R Block so that we could really get that message out about how easy it is to switch an agent. How easy it is to switch to H&R Block in a really fun way.

Ben Kaplan  10:39

I know from talking with you in the past that there's two peaks in the season, do you have basically people who file early. And as I understand it, that means that, hey, you're doing this before February 15. Or you have people who are doing this, you know, within the week of the April deadline, whatever it happens to be in each given year. So how do you think do you treat those cohorts separately? In terms of messaging? Do you think more of the same, but you're constantly trying to get you know, late filers to be in the early wave? And your messaging changes there? How do you kind of think about those two waves? Do you make them very distinct and separate lanes or merge them together?

Jill Cress - H&R Block  11:16

Then I give you credit, you're speaking like a real tax expert, you're referencing the peaks. There you go, there you go. We've got our first peak and our second peak, and a lot of it really plays in it's been fed, that was the fascinating thing to experience, I just just went through my first tax season. And so you know, that first peek filer is someone who has a pretty easy, straightforward return with a higher likelihood of getting a refund. And so as soon as they get their W two, and the E file system opens up with the IRS, they are interested in getting that return in as fast as possible. And so yes, that definitely impacts how we message, things like ease. Last year, it was ease of switching to us pace of getting your return. We recently launched a financial services arm of our business, we have a mobile banking app. And a big part of our messaging in that first peak was that with our mobile banking app, you could get your refund up to five days earlier, we have a refund advance tool, which allows you to take an advance on your refund. So all of those solutions that are really functional around the timing of your refund matter a lot in that first peak after February 15. It's a really fascinating observation and behavioral science, it's your money. And yet, even as we push towards that second peak, about 70% of consumers are expecting a refund. And yet they still wait until the very last minute and the question we ask is are they procrastinating? Many of them think that they're not they're just waiting for the deadline to file. I think it's the process that overwhelms them, not the not the end result. So as we move through the season, it is a little bit of a shift and messaging around getting the best outcome, managing through the complications for a more complex filer to continue to message how we can get them the absolute best outcome and the maximum refund that that they deserve. And we focus a lot on price, right just how we can do that at a very competitive and cost effective rate.

Ben Kaplan  13:26

So what is the process that leads up to a pivotal moment for your customer? Can we map it on a calendar and match our marketing plan to its ebbs and flows? If your industry doesn't have milestones, as clear as tax day, take the time to listen to more customers. One of the fastest ways to make your marketing spend more efficient and effective is to match it to time periods where your message is most likely to be heard. So we were talking about relevance. And obviously seasonal becomes really important. And we talked about the two peaks that you think about the other part would be if we're talking to appeal to maybe a younger demographic or Generation Z audience that is an aspirational audience. You want to pull more in? How do you think about channels? Are you experimenting with channels? Are you trying to be in different places than you would typically end up? Do you try to kind of break against Oh, if this is a traditional business that people know the brand and they expect retail outlets you want to try it? Do you stay in traditional media? Or do you experiment in a ton of other types of media and try to find one that can break through to that aspirational audience.

Jill Cress - H&R Block  14:34

This is a timely topic as we're working on our plans for next year without giving anything away. We experimented quite a bit with new channels last year and that audience work really allows us to understand where to meet different audiences with different messaging. So last year, we shifted a lot of our above the line content out of traditional television into online video, which trying to reach new audiences was really effective for us. We had great results with Gen Z last year who chose H&R Block, and we move the needle pretty significantly on awareness. And that shift from you know, traditional television traditional linear into online video where that audiences more engaged was a great, a great test for us that proved out, we continue to think about the role of influencers and platforms we did quite well on tick tock with some of our functional content around tax, but also on some purpose led content that we did to to reach a younger audience through a platform that we had, which was called a fair shot, which supported female college athletes as they earned income through their name, image and likeness. So really just understanding, you know, who are we talking to? What are the messages? And how can we test our way into new platforms. The other thing that is interesting for us is to think about holistic partnerships with different platforms, we did something really fun last year with Spotify, we, we learned that when people file their taxes, or I don't know if we learned it, but we knew it that when people filed their taxes, there's often music in the background. And so we did a tax return playlist, which you know, was was a new way into, you know, creating the right environment as you as you start to tackle that work of doing your taxes at home. So, yes, lots of experimentation, understanding who we want to meet, where, and we think a lot about platform specificity with that, so that we start with the right way into those channels.

Ben Kaplan  16:39

How do you think about budgeting in your media mix? Do you have, you know, as I understand it, in your kind of vertical, about 80% of revenue happens during tax season? Do you have 80% of your budget firing there? Or do you feel like no, how you're going to win and there's going to be other competitors there is that you've got to shift some prior to the season? Or do things a little counter cyclical to build awareness? How do you think about budget? Or does it match where revenue comes from

Jill Cress - H&R Block  17:08

we invest most significantly over the course of tax season. H&R Block is an always on brand, there are always extensions, we support small businesses who have to file over the course of the year, we've launched our mobile banking app. And so we certainly have an always on media approach, but it's much lighter offseason than it is in season. And marketers are always optimizing on a daily basis. But the level of optimization and rigor that we bring to understanding if we're, you know, are we are we optimizing that performance in season is is really intense and exciting. So, yeah, lots of money spent over 105 days and ensuring that that is planned as efficiently as possible and optimized as as effectively as possible. And season is a very exciting part of our marketers roles at H&R Block

Ben Kaplan  18:01

in to be perceived and to diversify revenue over the course of the year. Do you then focus on those kinds of products and services? You mentioned small businesses that have to pay quarterly taxes or other things like that, you just focus on other products it other times of the year? Or do you try to say, you know, hey, we got these 105 big days, and we got lots of customers through that. And then we're constantly like, just marketing to them about what else can we do to help or prepare early? Or do you think about, you know, other waves that might be with the extension deadline? It's another peak? How do you think about all of that, to try to either turn your customers into bigger customers or bring in new customers that aren't during the peak season?

Jill Cress - H&R Block  18:44

It's really a combination of those things, I'd say three things, we understand who that audience is. So for small business, yes, they file on a quarterly basis, we can also do other things for them. So we do bookkeeping and payroll. And so there's an always on push to market, what we can do. We've got anomalies like we have this year, which is California is it had an extension. There's an extension through October 15. So that's the second big area of focus when we have an opportunity to provide that help outside of those 105 days. And then the other thing, the third thing that I would say is we have an opportunity to understand what are those life moments when our existing customers or prospects might be experiencing a life moment that is in the background, a tax moments so, you know, you think about when someone becomes married when they buy a house when their family expands? Those are life moments that actually trigger a more complex tax situation, on average, consumers tax need state changes about four times over the course of their life from being simple, to more complex to maybe becoming more simple again, and it is because of those things. And so understanding those moments and finding relevant ways for H&R Block to provide either helpful tax tips or things to consider when you're buying a house are things that we think about to do consideration tactics during the year to insert our brand. But you know, the reality is, is people don't want to think as much about taxes outside of tax season as we wish they did. So we've got to be clever about it, we've got to be relevant. And then we have to hit really hard during tax season to ensure that we're not only there from a consideration standpoint, but we are there to do the best job possible, and capture as much demand as we can.

Ben Kaplan  20:35

What's an example of something that you experimented and tried that had surprising results? I know you've talked about the shift from linear TV to kind of streaming television or streaming video, what else has been surprising that has worked? Well,

Jill Cress - H&R Block  20:51

one of the most delightful surprises was work that we did to support student athletes. So two years ago, the NCAA changed their rules, allowing student athletes to earn income for their name, image and likeness. very authentically, we looked at this and said, Here's a whole new cohort of taxpayers who are likely not going to be prepared for what this means in the way of all of this new income that they would realize. And so in a very purposeful way, we thought, well, who better than us to just provide tax help for these these new earners, and do that in a way that perhaps would increase our relevance among students, as we were on that journey, we realized that female athletes were only getting about 26% of those sponsorship dollars. And so it became a platform for us to highlight that and we launched a platform called a fair shot to give female athletes a fair shot at all of those sponsorship dollars. We started small in year one, and we did the work of helping them to understand their tax environment and doing their taxes for them. And then we told their stories and created content. It resonated in a really powerful way with Gen Z students more broadly, and even their parents in as it relates to, you know, trust in the brand consideration in the brand. So last year, we expanded it, and we brought back a fair shot so that we could sponsor more athletes from more diverse schools, we expanded from D one schools through to D, two D three, HBC U schools. And we were able to sponsor different types of athletes. And we were absolutely blown away by the enormous positive response that we received from telling the stories of these athletes, we did a tick tock challenge which had incredible results, we had over 150 billion impressions on our a ferret shot content, which were young female athletes, telling the stories of those who had inspired them. And so it was just a really powerful reinforcement of when you tell stories on a human level, we had a very functional role to play with these athletes. But those human stories are a way to really propel your brand. And again, trust consideration. favourability not only with that specific audience, but with their cohorts of other students and their families was really positively impacted. And so it's just great when you do the right thing. And it actually resounds as well as you hope that it will.

Ben Kaplan  23:24

You've talked about you think of your messaging in terms of messaging help, that you can have expertise to help and also confidence people can have it sounds like confidence in the process. So how do you try to communicate confidence is it through those stories and human stories and being associated with those are there other ways that you bring confidence from the look you in the eye in a retail environment, to a broader environment where might not be face to face interaction

Jill Cress - H&R Block  23:51

that really comes down to expertise and the knowledge that we've accumulated over the 70 years that we've been doing taxes for our clients. And so we tell those stories of expertise through the things that matter to the audience. Our expertise gives us a corpus of knowledge around taxes, that allows us to say with confidence that we will get you the maximum refund, guaranteed and putting real real guarantees behind that. It allows us to provide peace of mind assurance so that if you do want that confidence of meeting with one of our tax pros in our offices, once we sign the return, we give you peace of mind. So if you know you hear from someone at the IRS that's on us to work with them and resolve that on your behalf. And so it's really understanding what are the the the elements of what expertise represents specific to that confidence and continuing to, you know, talk about the value. You know, the fact that we're cheaper than a CPA, the fact that we've got your back the fact that we guarantee the maximum refund All of those things are the things that we message to convey that that trust expertise and deliver that confidence.

Ben Kaplan  25:08

an underrated aspect of brand messaging is communicating confidence to your customer. Part of what a customer is buying is the peace of mind that this isn't your first rodeo, but they can be more confident in their own situation, because they have you by their side. So how do you show rather than tell your expertise? And how do you communicate, we've got this in a way that sounds authentic and true. One way to do this is to demonstrate that you've got command of the specifics, so that your customer doesn't have to. And what's one thing that you'd love to be able to message better, a challenging messaging point for the audience consumers, this new type of consumer to pick up that you want to focus on the next few years,

Jill Cress - H&R Block  25:55

one of the things that is really important for us to convey is that it's really easy to switch to H&R Block. It's a total addressable market that doesn't grow significantly every year, yet, there's a huge percentage of Americans who have to file taxes so that ease of switching, so that if you are working with someone who you're maybe not satisfied with that, if you're doing your taxes online with another provider, it can be as easy as dragging and dropping last year's tax return into our software to make that easy and seamless. And then one of the things that's a little bit more tricky to convey is in that world of in person tax preparation, where you get assistance from a human, we're not really competing with CPAs, most Americans are going to the guy. And so in tax season, if you're in a big city, you can walk by a grocery store or a travel agent and see a sign in the window, which says tax prep done here. And a lot of people are doing their taxes with the guy or the gal that sits in the back of the store and is there kind of sets up a little shingle within a store and says I can do your taxes. And so conveying that it's easy to switch, oftentimes you might be working with the guy and you know, you're not necessarily wed to that relationship, or you're not sure you're getting the expertise and care that you could get with a company like H&R Block who's been at this a long time. But switching is hard. And it's pain and it's you know, can be a pain, and they have all your data. And gosh, I'm gonna have to, you know, look for things that I did last year and share, share it with a new partner. And so that is the thing that is, is really top of mind. How do you how do you tell those stories?

Ben Kaplan  27:37

On the flip side, you have other competitors that don't have anywhere close to your retail footprint? They've been predominantly online first, how do you go to battle with them? The Turbo taxes of the world, the others? Where do you see competitive advantage? And how do you defend your audience? Because they're probably trying to come and take your audience away too, and do the exact same thing, which is switch over to us. It's easy as well, just Right back at ya, just like you're doing to them. How do you think about competing and where are their opportunities to compete?

Jill Cress - H&R Block  28:06

Yeah, it's such an interesting category, because that that is exactly the game, which is everyone's trying to get at the same audience of consumers. So last year, we were very intentional. And we took on the role of a challenger brand in that Do It Yourself tax space, and we actually called out the competition in our content and talked about the ease of switching from TurboTax. To H&R Block, we did content to reinforce how easy it was to switch by dragging and dropping last year's tax return into H&R Block through a tic toc challenge. And so where we had the ability to, in a way leverage the equity they that they had, in that kind of tax prep, we we took a challenger brand position in the kinds of tax prep where you work with a human, we reinforced what we think is really unique about H&R Block, which is we've been at this for 70 years, we provide a different level of human expertise and care than our competition. We focus on our high satisfaction ratings to differentiate ourselves. And the fact that we've really, we've really, you know, got your back and in that moment, but yes, the way that we go to market is based on the audience based on the solution. And it's always I think, for the category, a really curious moment to see how's everyone going to get at it this season to try and capture their fair share and beyond of the Americans who filed taxes every year,

Ben Kaplan  29:39

and you've had personally a long history in financial services and financial services, marketing, 23 years of that, I believe, at MasterCard, and we've had the CMO of MasterCard on the show in the past as well. So what do you take as we go through maybe some of those experiences what do you take that MasterCard does really well that you try to use or a QLAE at H&R Block,

Jill Cress - H&R Block  30:02

one of the things that I really admire about MasterCard is the work that they have done for a very long time, which is to bring humanity to a really functional experience. I was working at MasterCard when they launched priceless, which at the time was very much a storytelling above the line television campaign. And what was so smart about it was, it was based on the insight that it's not about the things that we buy, it's about why they matter. And so priceless, for those of us who are around at the time was a really beautiful format of what it costs to do certain things and why they matter. So the first ever priceless spot, gosh, some 30 some years ago was a father and son going to a baseball game, and it was the cost of the tickets, the cost of the popcorn, the cost of the souvenir, and the payoff was real conversation with 11 year old son priceless, there are some things that money can't buy for everything else, there's MasterCard, and that is still very much at the foundation of how MasterCard thinks about connecting with their audience, through the backdrop of experiences. And Roger and the team there continue to do a great job of telling those stories, while continuing to do the thing that they do well, which is to connect buyers and sellers across the world, but to get people to care about it. And think about it. And I think that's very much something that I have carried with me which is there's what you do and there's why you do it. And that's one of the things I love about H&R Block what we do as taxes. Why we do it is because we care deeply about providing the best outcome for our clients about leveraging the human network of over 60,000 tax pros who care about the clients that they serve, so that we can do the thing that I've talked a lot about which is to inspire confidence well to do the thing I've talked a lot about which is to provide help functional help, but more importantly to inspire confidence in what is a very complex and overwhelming moment for most Americans.

Ben Kaplan  32:09

You also spent about two and a half years at PayPal totally different type of positioning maybe from from H&R Block, just the roots of PayPal, being not only a pioneer in digital payments, but also the home where a lot of other successful entrepreneurs got their start at PayPal and then and then kind of grew on and became very, very famous and other companies in their own right as well PayPal Mafia as they would call it. So what do you take from PayPal for H&R Block sort of digital first brand thought of his innovative, global, ubiquitous in a kind of a new form of money? What do you think about their marketing? And what can you apply now for H&R Block,

Jill Cress - H&R Block  32:46

one of the things that I was most excited about when I joined H&R Block was the combination of all of those experiences I had from MasterCard to National Geographic to PayPal together in this role. And what I learned at PayPal was the importance of performance marketing. When I joined, I was running consumer marketing there we had relationships with over 300 million consumers around the world. And so thinking about the importance of lifecycle marketing, the importance of CO marketing and how we promoted the merchants that were in our network. And in driving new client growth and what it would take to unlock affinity that loyal Pay Pal customers had for the brand to launch referral type programs to you know, refer a friend into PayPal. So what I learned at PayPal was marketing on a really unprecedented scale. And so bringing what I what I know and love about brands and brand strategy, together with what I learned about the things I talked about, like optimization and really understanding the data of are you doing marketing that is driving results on a daily basis? Are you getting existing clients and prospects to choose Pay Pal to choose Pay Pal at checkout, understanding the role of things like the app to drive engagement and what that means as an owned channel asset. I think very differently about channel mix now as a result of working at PayPal, because they have so many of their own surfaces, which allowed us to to do marketing and in really innovative and effective ways. I also had Venmo as part of my portfolio and you think about how engaged then mo users are in their app and what it represented for a long time, which was a social network and experience that was there as a backdrop for facilitating payments. And so I bring a lot of that to how we think about our own channels. How can we disrupt what we do in our retail offices, what is the role of the H&R Block and not only facil militating the functional element of the tax return but providing useful tips and content and a safe place to store your documents. So anyway, it's I learned quite a bit there about scale and digital first marketing.

Ben Kaplan  35:16

Finally want to end on the one you reference. But just the one that stands out a bit in the mix of your background, which is National Geographic, you are Chief Marketing and Communications Officer. What do you take from a brand like National Geographic, totally different space, maybe totally different positioning, and what do you use and applying that to work for H&R Block now,

Jill Cress - H&R Block  35:38

when I joined National Geographic, they were deep in transformation, H&R Block is also transforming its brand to be more relevant. When I joined National Geographic, it was a joint venture between the original not for profit, National Geographic Society, and 21st Century Fox. So I was an employee of Fox. And that was this great ambition of purpose meets growth and profit. And it was such a fascinating time to understand how you could take content and build an audience across digital platforms, you talked a lot about channel planning, and reach of customers, it was fascinating to think about how we could take our print and video contents that were, you know, video content that was on our television channel or print content that had historically lived in our print publication and bring it to audiences and platform specific ways. We were a real pioneer on Instagram and snap, we were in the pilot for the first Instagram story. So it was really fun to say we've got this long form content, how can we reach younger, new audiences in culturally relevant ways. And it was an exciting time to test learn, optimize and so much of what I love about content and platform specificity, reaching different audiences, thinking about how do you transform a brand and change perceptions I learned at National Geographic and I'm carrying some of those through to how we think about re energizing the H&R Block brand and bringing our purpose and content to life through telling stories to new audiences. And so I feel like all of those experiences come together in a really unique way to do the the exciting work that we're doing at H&R Block today.

Ben Kaplan  37:37

There you go MasterCard, marketing the human side of finance and money. National Geographic reinventing reimagining re energizing content and using it to be more culturally relevant to new audiences, Pay Pal driving lifecycle performance marketing, doing things like CO marketing with merchants and having a really kind of laser focus on how you kind of drive performance. And Joe Cress all of that comes together at H&R Block, as you reinvent, reposition, re energize, tell stories, drive performance, be seasonal reach new audiences shore up existing audiences, compete with tough competitors. Wow, that's exciting. And that's exhausting.

Jill Cress - H&R Block  38:26

It's more exciting than than exhausting. It's been it's been great. And I'm looking forward to all of that coming together in my second tax season.

Ben Kaplan  38:38

According to Jill Cress, understanding the seasonal aspect of your marketing plan is essential. What are the most critical 100 days for your customers? Is there one peak or multiple peaks when they can experience your value? Jill says her time at PayPal taught her the importance of optimization and truly understanding data. It's not just about marketing. It's about ensuring that marketing drives tangible results. So does your marketing plan help your customer through critical moments? Jill says recognizing and messaging these moments can create deeper relationships with your audience. Whether you're helping your customer deal with a necessary but burdensome task like tax preparation at H&R Block for helping them explore the world, like National Geographic, reaching diverse audiences is a matter of creating diverse storytelling. So what other insights Did you glean from this episode? We'd love to hear from you. Let us know by emailing us at podcasts@TOPThoughtLeader.com. Again, that's podcast with an s @ TOPThoughtLeader.com for TOP CMO, I’m Ben Kaplan. This was brought to you by TOP Thought Leader. Find out more at TOPThoughtLeader.com

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