With over $200 million personally managed on Facebook and Instagram ads, Zach Beatty, former Director of Growth at HelloFresh and current VP of Marketing at Aaptiv, sat down with our very own Eric Lam, CEO of AspireIQ, to discuss how he was able to build brands in the most hyper-competitive markets and form stronger brand relationships with his audiences by focusing on volume, velocity and variety of creative.
Check out the video for an overview of their question and answer session, or keep reading for the full interview.
Eric: Your background is in performance marketing - but even direct-to-consumer brands like HelloFresh are running TV ads and more traditional brand advertising to get broader awareness. How do you think about brand in today’s direct-to-consumer world?
Zach: Both spaces are incredibly competitive to acquire customers. In both cases, the biggest barrier to entry for these two industries is being able to influence behavior. To remain competitive, companies needs to build a brand that resonate with customers. So, when they think about fitness, they think about Aaptiv. Or when they think about meal kits, they think about HelloFresh.
Taking this a step further, brands need to not only build brand recall, but also need to go back to the fundamentals of direct marketing and understand what drives the customer to the product. They need to understand what pain points are being solved and ensure they are making those apparent to their customers. To take the meal kit industry for example, there are a ton of competitors in the space and over time they have all evolved from having to explain to a customer “this is what we do” to being able to say this is why you should choose us. The brand that these companies have built impacts how approachable they seem to prospective customers.
E: Reminds me of my mobile gaming days – executives used to talk about those TV ads with Arnold Schwarzenegger in them as just the greasing the wheels for hitting people with direct response.
Since we’re at YMS - talk to me about younger audiences – the conventional wisdom is young people today have a different set of expectations and a different relationship with brands. Ad blindness is on the rise with ordinary advertising as a result. How has this changed the way you’ve built relationships with younger audiences?
Z: Both community and creative are foundational to a brand. Younger audiences are more connected on various social platforms meaning that we need to communicate with them using different mediums. For both Aaptiv and HelloFresh, user generated content and influencer generated content show unpolished experiences. This content resonates with our younger audience and therefore performs better. But unlike traditional channels like television, with these emerging media channels there’s an expectation of personalization.
E: Personalization is a hot topic right now - in the past, you could run a single, massive TV spot and know that their message would be seen. But today it’s much harder to break through to consumers and create a lasting impression. How have you used personalization at Aaptiv and HelloFresh to resonate with young consumers?
Z: Absolutely. Personalization comes in many different levels, and consumers expect it to some extent. When used to different degrees, in different stages of the funnel, personalization or the perception of having a personalized experience can make a huge difference.
Think about the top of the funnel, you are prospecting to hopefully net new customers who have limited awareness of your brand or product. In Aaptiv’s case, as is with many industry disruptors, even the concept might be new to users. They may be unaware audio fitness training is something that even exists. So to engage a consumer at this point, the experience needs to be personalized to the extent of speaking to a broader pain point they have, and presenting a solution for it. Maybe you feel intimidated at the gym and you need inspiration or the confidential confidence that having a trainer in your ear can provide; or maybe you’re struggling to find a routine and need direction.
E: I love how you’re addressing really specific consumer pain points and coming up with unique storytelling for each that resonates with each audience on different channels. Why don’t more brands do this? What have you found to be the biggest challenge in delivering these types of personalized touchpoints?
Z: One of the biggests hurdles to being able to provide that deep level of personalization is having the necessary creative volume. Consumers expect the experience to change and evolve and there to be variety -- with relevance. At Aaptiv, we know that once a member signs up for a trial and gets the app, we need to speak differently to them. We shouldn’t just reiterate what Aaptiv is, but instead we need to inspire them to engage with the app. We do this in a number of ways and one of the most notable is through using influencer content to drive app usage. We’re experimenting in areas like Instagram Stories, where the medium is a better for influencer content and UGC style content in general.
E: There’s obviously an inherent cost benefit to working with influencers to produce content instead of spending a ton on professional photoshoots – but the type of content you get back is obviously different in terms of polish and style– what have you seen as the benefits of using “organic” content?
Z: Well for starters it’s more authentic. If you’re scrolling down your feed, you’re going to stop and look at things that catch your eye or that resonate with you. That’s what we want. Organic content fits in with what every day people are posting on social media and it gives brands a way to reach their audience and avoid banner blindness.
At Aaptiv, there are a few different types of people we’re targeting. One being the person who knows they want to get into shape but don’t know how. So instead of targeting these people with people who might already be deep into their fitness journey, we use influencer content from real people in the same situation to show what the experience could be. This content is still aspirational but it shows what real people have experienced and it outperforms most of our more polished content.
E: I think that’s a great point, because at the end of the day, the best marketing is storytelling. And everyone’s going to have their own personal story that shouldn’t be overly restricted to make it authentic.
Let’s end it with this: we keep talking about the word “community” and I think it’s a really important term for the next decade of building brands online. You’ve seen brands like Glossier and Ipsy build massively successful communities of customers. At HelloFresh you had a strong community of influencers and celebrities and at Aaptiv you have a growing trainer community that’s key to your marketplace. How should marketers think about building communities today - whether they be communities of influencers, customers, creatives, professionals or otherwise?
Z: Well, there’s two types of communities: 1) experts/influencers and 2) customers.
At Hello Fresh - we worked with hundreds of influencers and celebrities, not just for the connections they had with their own audiences, but also the fact that they really brought their own personal stories and experiences to the video content that powered almost all of the advertising we did on paid social.
At Aaptiv, as you alluded to, we’ve built some really interesting communities among both our customers and the trainers they work with. There’s this amazing Facebook group of Aaptiv customers where people post their own inspiring stories about the milestones they’ve achieved and life goals they’ve met as a result of using the app - which are just incredible. But they are also some of the best content you can find because they are the most genuine images and videos that you could ever use in your marketing.
Overall, it’s critical to have people around the world sharing your stories and bringing your brand to life in ways you would have never thought of as a lean marketing team. And in today’s world, where digital and social channels are infinitely dynamic and targeted to specific people - you need thousands of stories from whatever community makes sense for your brand in order to be relevant.