In this episode, Lisa Spira, VP of Content Intelligence at Persado and host of the Motivation AI Matters podcast, connected with Linda Itskowitz, VP of Marketing at Quicken. Linda has extensive experience in marketing and leadership roles and as a consultant for brands across multiple industries. In her role at Quicken, she makes decisions around how to communicate. Much of these decisions surround language, understanding consumer psychology, and how to use words to connect with customers on an emotional level.
Since her days in product management, Linda has been interested in the psychology of consumer behavior. “I’m very interested in research and data and just using that research to understand what’s important to people and how you can impact what the consumer does based on how you express your offering to them. Those subtle changes make a huge difference and that is really fascinating to me,” said Linda.
Language plays a pivotal role in impacting and understanding consumer behavior. But, so much else goes into it such as pricing, research, product, and testing. Marketers also must take into account which channel they are reaching customers on. People on different channels are often focused on different benefits of the product. One example Linda shared is when reaching a younger audience on TikTok, Quicken might talk about saving money, while on Reddit the message is focused on investing. Knowing which messaging to use all comes down to data for today’s marketers.
But, it didn’t always used to be this way. Linda mentioned that when she started in marketing, they didn’t have the data and marketers sat around in a room and asked “what do you think people would want to hear?” Back then, marketers were making decisions based on their personal lived experience, not necessarily what will perform best in the market. Now, they measure every aspect of the funnel. Like many marketers, Linda is often surprised at what works and what doesn’t work. However, she finds that consistency is important in getting customers further down the funnel. For example, if a customer clicks on a message telling them to save money they are likely going to lose them if the next message is on how to invest better.
As the best-selling personal finance software in the US, Quicken is a trusted and established brand. One opportunity for growth that Linda explained is to increase brand awareness and market share among younger generations. Much of reaching different audiences is understanding what language resonates with them. Linda shared that while older customers want to control their finances often down to the penny, younger customers want to stay on top of their finances by accessing them quickly and conveniently. These changes in the language show different approaches to similar products based on the audience, similar to how language has to be adapted to each channel
Aside from a data-based approach, Linda also highlighted the importance of thought leadership in establishing trust and brand authority.
For more insights and to hear about Quicken’s study on how job loss could impact marriage, listen to the full episode.
Welcome to Motivation AI Matters, a podcast designed to help you channel the power of language to inspire action.
I’m Lisa Spira here to explore the language that drives business outcomes through the lens of what makes that language good because words matter.
Today’s guest is Linda Itskovitz, VP of Marketing at Quicken. Linda has extensive experience in marketing and leadership roles and as a consultant for brands across multiple industries.
In her role, she has to make decisions around how to communicate.
And I’m excited to learn more about how she thinks about language and words.
Hi. Thank you. I’m happy to be here.
It’s so great to have you here.
I think you have a wonderful perspective on language to share on this podcast.
To get started, I think I’ll just ask you about what drew you into marketing because I know that people who love language end up in marketing and marketing really relies a lot on language.
But for you, what was it, what brought you in?
I was in product management and I was finding that I was really interested in the psychology of consumer behavior and how you could impact it through how you express yourself.
So I’m very interested in research and data and just using that research to understand what’s important to people and how can you impact what the consumer does based on how you express your offering to them?
And those subtle changes make a huge difference.
And that is really fascinating to me when you’re studying consumer behavior.
Do you talk a lot about language?
What are the key pieces in consumer behavior?
Consumer behavior is language.
It’s creative, it’s how you express, you know, your pricing and everything.
So it’s a whole bunch of different elements and the combination when we do a lot of testing and when you get it, all right, you get strong performance and when your language is off, you won’t.
So it’s an important element.
So this is all combined with a whole bunch of, say, mathematical calculations as well about what product or what offer or things like that.
Yeah, it’s a combination of where are you reaching people and depending on the channel, what do you want to say to them?
Because your language should be different in one channel versus another.
And so we, we look at all of the different aspects of how we’re marketing and we measure everything and language is a huge element of it.
And you’ve said that you believe that data and metrics are really important to marketers.
So clearly measurement is a big piece here.
What type of data do you measure?
So we measure everything.
You know, it’s funny when I started in marketing, we didn’t have the data and we all sat around in a room and said, what do you think people would want to hear?
And we talked about different language and creative and it wasn’t as exciting then as far as I’m concerned.
But now we measure every aspect of the funnel.
So we measure how many people are aware of our product.
And then of those who are aware, how many consider it and of those who are considering it, how many purchase and all of those things.
When you think about it, you think about a website, for example, how many people clicked on a page of the people who came to the page and of those people who clicked, how many people entered the cart and how many people put their credit card in and how many people ended up purchasing.
So there’s drop up all along the way.
That makes a lot of sense.
And then of course, your goal then is to get all of those people to go all the way through by any means possible.
Have you ever made any changes to the marketing that surprised you in their impact to take everybody through that funnel?
Maybe you tried something strange and then it worked, you know, we always bet on what we think will work.
And so it’s very interesting because oftentimes you know, your hypothesis upfront is very different from what will happen.
I’m always surprised at what works and what doesn’t work.
So there’s no specific answer to that all the time.
I think back to you saying before there was data, it was just in a boardroom and I would assume that back in those days, there were a lot of surprises because everybody was making decisions based on their personal lived experience.
Which might not be the same experience as other people.
But if you have data, I mean, ideally you have less surprises.
And once you have the data, people don’t argue, you know, it is what it is and people go with it and the data is great because it can help us predict, you know, when we forecast, it can help us figure out what we should be forecasting and how much we’re going to sell one product versus another, et cetera.
So data really helps us in our business.
If we zero in on choosing words, what kind of data do you look at to make decisions specifically about language, as opposed to say, product forecasting?
Well, for example, we might just in terms of how we look at the words, we might test headlines or subheads or we might test copy in a text ad. So we might test one set of copy versus another set of copy and we do an AB test and then we look at how many people clicked on that copy.
And then we look at how many people went all the way through the funnel.
So you might attract people at the highest level, but it’s not really what you’re selling.
And so you’re going to lose them if you don’t have a connection from the first language to the end language.
So if I start out and I say to people, you know, you’re going to save more money and then the next page says to them, you’re going to invest better, those aren’t really related.
And so you’re going to lose people.
When you start with, save money, you have to complete the whole thought on save money and drive them through the funnel.
And when you start on investing better, that’s why they came in.
So you have to be consistent in your language.
So when you’re thinking about choosing words, you could be testing different ideas in different words.
So say save money versus invest better or you could be testing very specifically into that save money idea using different words like maybe get a discount or spend less.
Which of those types of testing do you do?
We do both, we do everything, we test how we talk about saving money.
So we might say save more money or save twice as much or cover your pay for the product.
And so it’s basically free by saving money.
So there they are all different ways to talk about saving money and they are all different ways to talk about investing and we test those as well and then we test the two against each other.
And we also think about the language and the benefit that we’re offering in different channels.
So if we’re marketing and perhaps a tiktok channel where people are younger, we might talk about saving money and test language about saving money in that channel.
Whereas we might focus more on investments in a reddit channel and test different ways of talking about that because people are focused on investing in that channel.
Yeah, that’s a great call out that people in different channels are different types of audiences who might be focused on different benefits of the products.
Do you find that for Tik Tok specifically?
Because it’s a video, there are different ways to change the language, say to reach an audience there.
Interesting question, I would say that video is a different expression of language than words on a page.
So some people are visual learners.
And so you know, you want to put keywords on the video for when they’re digesting it and listening, you can also see it and it it hits harder and when you do in video, when you are using words, you can’t use really long sentences and in text ads, you can’t necessarily use really long sentences.
But on landing pages, you can so you have to think about how you tighten your language and say things very quickly on a video screen versus on a page.
You just have less time to get your message across.
So Quicken is a best selling personal finance software in the US.
It is the best selling personal finance software.
It’s a household name.
What advantages does that give you when finding the right language to communicate about it?
We don’t have to use as many words. When people know us, we can use our logo, we can use endorsements, but we don’t have to say as much.
And people will often just buy based on these external endorsements or just seeing that it’s quickened.
That’s a really nice advantage.
That’s a huge advantage.
What about disadvantages?
So the disadvantages, we do have a lot of customers, we have millions of customers with millions of points of views on what we say and they interpret what we say.
So we have to be really careful and think about how various consumers might read into things we have to think about, not just our prospects but our customers in the language we choose.
So that’s perhaps a disadvantage.
So if you try to come up with some real novel campaign, it could alienate existing customers who feel like they understand the brand very well and are looking for something specific from it.
Yeah, I mean that could happen and we have to think about the language we use for new customers versus existing customers because what if we’re discounting for new customers but not for existing because we’re trying to bring new customers in.
So how do we explain why we’re discounting for new customers and not for the existing customers?
So you have to walk a bit of a fine line in some of those things.
You don’t want people to say I will unsubscribe and resubscribe as a new me.
We talked about Tik Tok before.
Do you think that brand awareness and brand cachet extends to the younger audience using that platform?
So our brand you’re talking about?
Yeah, we’re not as big a brand with the younger audiences and we have been moving into the younger audiences and our awareness has growing significantly in the younger audiences, but we have been used a lot by people in their fifties and sixties.
And now we have a new product simplified by Quicken, which we just rebranded quick and simplify and that’s really attracting the younger audiences.
So we are growing that side of our business, for sure.
And it’s great to be able to reach cross generational a with the same or similar products when Quicken launched Simplify in 2020 which was targeted at younger audiences.
What language challenges did your team face in communicating about this new product?
Yeah, great question.
We just needed to rethink our brand and we have recently redone our brand and one of the goals is how do we speak to a younger audience or a younger crowd, they have different goals.
So the older crowd wants to take control their finances.
Whereas the younger crowd wants to stay on top of their finances, they want convenient access to their finances, but they don’t want to control their finances in the same way that the older generation does.
So there’s subtle ways that we talk about it that attract the younger audience.
We also want to be a little more hip with them, but we still need to be true to who we are and what we stand for, which is stability and trust, that’s very important.
So we have to make sure we are trusted and we’re credible.
But at the same time, we don’t want to be stodgy.
Yeah, I love that difference between control and also awareness and accessibility because in a way, you know, you’re giving the audience exactly the same thing but how they perceive it and what they’re looking for means that the words that you choose in these campaigns have to change.
That’s exactly right.
The older generation often wants to manage their finances to the penny and the younger generation wants to just know what their finances are.
And they want to just open that app and say that seems good.
That’s an interesting challenge.
So also I noticed that in April, Quicken studied how job loss could impact marriage, which is really interesting from a financial type of business.
And interestingly enough, I never saw the word divorce mentioned when any of the data was presented.
So I’m curious, what were the goals of this campaign and what were the communication landmines?
The goals were real thought leadership.
So every quarter, we do research to try and uncover interesting nuggets and put it out as press release and try to get coverage and it’s to build our brand and to build ourselves as the leader in the brand.
So in this case, we were trying to understand, you know how the challenging economic conditions were affecting people and all the layoffs which were happening at the time.
And we want to know how layoffs were affecting their relationships.
And we found a great nugget, which was that folks who were married were considering leaving their spouses if they got laid off and we didn’t as you point out use the term divorce and divorce is loaded.
It’s a loaded word.
So we didn’t want to use that loaded word.
I would say that in our press releases actually, sometimes we do want to use loaded terms because we want to get people’s attention.
Like we have a press release coming out next week and we have used loaded terms in this one.
We want to attract people but loaded terms sometimes are negative, sometimes they’re positive and sometimes they’re just loaded and they get attention and divorce is one that has a bit of a negative connotation.
So we don’t use that one.
That’s not to say we don’t use loaded terms.
That’s interesting because if I can summarize this using a loaded term is a calculated decision probably based on some of the data that you have.
Because when you use a loaded term, people will take notice.
And if people take notice, maybe there are new people, maybe there are people who don’t necessarily follow your brand all the time, but it could have positive or negative implications when you’re using such a loaded term that people have opinions about.
Yeah, we have a press release coming out and we’re talking about people’s struggles and struggles is a loaded term.
But we want to attract people to our brand and talk about, you know, the struggles and we can help you with these struggles.
So there are times to use loaded terms and with the campaign that didn’t mention divorce but implied it when thinking about leaving spouses or partners at a time of job loss and struggle.
How does this relate to a financial software business?
So finances spill into so many aspects of our lives.
Finances spill into our relationships, finances spill into our mental health.
Finances spill into our overall well being in so many ways.
I mean, we even found out, for example, we did a study one Valentine’s Day and found that people with stronger finances, it’s easier for them to attract a or a boyfriend, girlfriend, whatever it be, finances are a big part of our lives.
And so in this particular study, when job loss was such a big thing going on, we wanted to understand if this was spilling into other aspects of people’s lives, their relationships.
And actually, this was a surprise to us because we thought that people who were married lose a job until death do you part.
That’s not a reason to leave a partner.
But sure enough, there are implications when people lose jobs, maybe they get more depressed or other things happen and obviously the income of the household goes down and maybe that causes fights, et cetera.
So sure enough, when somebody loses a job, somebody else might consider leaving them.
One thing I think about with this type of thought leadership and with this type of studying campaign is the emotional impact of the messaging persad.
We think a lot about how language is emotional and that’s really what drives people to engage with it and to click or convert or whatever.
But sometimes just read the thing and touching on emotional topics, I think is another way for marketing language to resonate and to be human.
So I wanted to also ask you in your leadership roles in marketing, you don’t necessarily always communicate about products to potential customers or existing customers.
What is the communication challenge when communicating to say a board or investors or a C-suite?
What other types of language techniques do you have to employ so with a border investors, we’re selling something a little bit different with customers.
We’re selling promises of what we can give you today and we have to make sure that we can deliver on those promises with investors.
We’re selling futures.
The language is about numbers and where we might see the numbers going and its ranges and that kind of thing.
And obviously we want to deliver on everything we say to investors and sometimes we beat it and do amazing.
But we are selling a little bit something different that has different language associated with it.
Would it be fair to say that the language to investors is more straightforward, direct and by the book than necessarily the language to consumers?
In terms of when we are presenting on how we’ve done, it’s very factual.
It’s, we grew 18% the cost grew 12%.
You can’t question the data from that perspective.
And for consumers, it’s much less about the numbers.
It’s about the vision, it’s about the benefits, it’s about striking and I’m just guessing here, but it’s about striking an emotional connection with them and making them think about something that they need in their lives and what it might get them correct.
It’s about the benefit and people say sell benefits, not features because features don’t tell you what you’re going to get from it.
A feature is just a feature.
And so you have to think about like if the feature is, you can track your finances, the benefit is you’ll always know where your money goes and because you’ll be able to make changes and that’s going to make you more financially sound.
So we think about the benefit that makes so much sense to me.
And then to further that thought, if the benefit is, you’ll always know where your money goes, then the conversation is you’re in control of where your money is because you have this knowledge or it’s about something else, you have access to your money easily because you have this knowledge and thinking about how different audiences might interpret that message.
Yeah, makes sense.
I want to just pivot a little bit to talk about brand voice because this is a conversation that comes up at perso all the time.
We have an AI tool that writes marketing copy and everybody asks us, well, how can it possibly sound like me?
So as someone who is living in brand marketing, how would you describe what is brand voice?
Brand voice is the personality that you’re presenting to the world and it needs to run across all your community.
So it’s, you know, who is your character?
Are you a Honda or are you a Porsche?
Are you high end or are you inexpensive?
Are you hard hitting?
Are you sweet?
You know, it’s what do you stand for?
Who is your character?
And that’s what brand voices and what challenges have you encountered when either creating a brand voice or adhering to a brand voice?
I think that with a brand voice, you morph over time.
And so for example, now we have quick and simplify and we are appealing to a bit younger audience.
And so we have to change a little bit what our brand voices, that’s not to say that we’re not changing our overall character.
It’s just we’re changing a little bit the way that we’re talking to people.
And so the key is with a brand voice,
Sometimes you have to balance different objectives and you have to figure out your tone and all of the different aspects of brand voice that you’re going to use to balance your objectives is brand voice.
Something that people argue about because tone is such a subjective thing.
Yeah, because we have a brand document that describes what our brand should be and it is subjective and I would say yes, people don’t always agree with how we express ourselves within our teams and we have conversations about that.
So it is not a mathematical equation where you can say yes, you hit it and no, you didn’t.
It’s a little bit of people’s point of views of what they think.
Is there any way that metrics plays in to putting an end to some debate on this?
The way that you can do it is you can do research with customers and say how much.
Did this sound like we are X or we are Y?
So let’s say you have eight characteristics that you want to stand for and you can give them something and say how much are we standing for X or Y or Z?
And you can see what they’re perceiving because it’s their perception as well.
A group of 25 year versus a group of 50 year olds might have a different opinion in terms of how you express yourself and whether or not you were meeting your brand objectives.
So you have to determine who your customer is and then what your brand objectives are and then you can test with them and see if you’ve achieved it through your various marketing vehicles.
And I, I think this is a great segue into how AI comes into the equation because AI can be a testing tool or a writing tool.
Now, given the last year of innovation in the space.
So first, I’m just wondering, do you use AI to help you either measure or communicate?
We are not using AI to measure or communicate right now at work.
Is it on the road map?
We’re working on AI in our products and other kinds of things.
So we are working on a number of things but not specifically in our marketing team right now.
I know that you’re not using AI in your marketing team right now, but I guess my question is, do you see an opportunity for it?
And actually might I say that some of our vendors use AI?
And so in as much as we’re using vendors who are using AI, we are using AI, but there are a lot of opportunities for AI.
There are obviously content generation is a huge one.
AI could also help us to analyze user behavior and the data that comes with that.
And then to help us generate marketing pieces based on that and personalized content for every situation of every kind of customer, et cetera.
I think I read somewhere that by like 2025, 30% of outbound marketing messages from large companies would be AI generated.
So I think there’s a huge opportunity and I expect us to be jumping into that as well.
One of the things I think is so interesting about it is I think that as an opportunity AI helped solve the boardroom problem that we talked about earlier.
Yes, it’s not necessarily the most creative, but all of us in our brainstorming sessions are creative with our own lived experience and with AI that has been able to train on multiple people’s lived experience, thousands, millions of people written about or lived experience.
Then I do think that we’re seeing the forefront of creativity there.
Of course, that doesn’t solve every challenge under the sun.
Then it might make up something that doesn’t make sense.
But to me that’s a really exciting opportunity.
Yeah, I definitely think that for the factual, very direct communications, AI could be extremely helpful and there’s the whole aspect of marketing that has to do with finance and all of that side of marketing, you could see AI playing a big role.
In addition to roles as marketing leadership within an organization, you’ve had a lot of experience as a marketing consultant, as a consultant.
What are the language challenges you encounter?
Yeah, good question.
As a consultant, you are brought in to improve things to institute change, not to keep the status quo.
So often you’re working with people who have built whatever it is you’re coming on to change and they’re a little bit suspicious and they felt ownership over what they have done and here you are and you’re supposed to just change everything.
And so when you’re working with them, you know, you really need to collaborate and bring them into the solution.
And so you use your words, you say to them, have you considered this or maybe we should think about this as opposed to this is better, we should do this et cetera.
And so you need to really step lightly.
It’s all about positioning and how you position your ideas and how you bring them into the fold to implement the change that you’re there to do.
Is there one way that you found is your go to positioning.
I wouldn’t say there’s one way because you’re dealing with different types of people in different situations.
But I think that, you know, you really have to understand just like in marketing, you have to understand in your audience and then you have to adapt to that audience and figure out how to bring them in as part of the solution and make them feel good and they’re going to help you be successful.
So how can you team up and be successful?
And how do you use words to work with them and even presenting the ideas, how do you bring them in and use words when you’re presenting your ideas to others and bring them into to that whole thing?
Like we’ve come up with this idea as opposed to I’ve come up with this idea.
So now that person is a hero as well.
And so it’s all about words to collaborate with others in a positive way.
Is there anything that you’ve learned from this type of collaboration from maybe putting this collaborative we forward?
Is there anything that you’ve learned that can be applicable back to just your typical brand marketing to the consumer?
I think that in your marketing to consumers, I mean, you, at least in what we’re selling, we’re partnering with the consumer, we both have to put in some work for them to be successful.
And so I think if you presented as a partnership to the consumer, then they’re going to be more successful because anyone using a personal finance app, they’re not going to be successful if they don’t put in some of the time and if they don’t look at the data you’re presenting to them, hey, we’ve got this partnership together, we’re going to help you make your finances better as opposed to, you know, just plug it in and it did it for you because that isn’t how it works.
What I take away from this is that all of these communications are connected.
You always need to know who you’re speaking to and you always need to be a partner with the person you’re speaking with and what their goals are.
But you can make subtle changes to your language in order to do that.
Thank you so much Linda for coming on to this podcast and talking with me about language, about marketing and about your experience reaching consumers.
I think that you’ve zeroed in on a lot of what’s really important in communication.
And so it’s been a really fun language conversation.
It’s been fun talking to you today, Lisa.
Thanks for joining us.
We’ll catch you next time here on Motivation AI Matters. Until then, make sure you’re subscribed and learn more about how to find the right language to motivate your customers and how Generative AI makes this possible by checking out the resource library at persado.com.