Nerdwallet Insider Says Marketing, Content Teams During A Crisis Take Data

Kelly Gillease, CMO at Nerdwallet, based in San Francisco, opened the first virtual Search & Performance Insider Summit on Monday, and it couldn’t have seemed any more insider-like or personal.

The live summit, streamed on Zoom, gave attendees the ability to learn more about the person and her marketing team who work with the “content team of Nerds,” as attendees from across the United States got a glimpse into her husband’s enormous vinyl record collection, which provided the background for her virtual keynote.

The real personal touch came as Gillease described leading her marketing team through the onset of COVID-19 and how they worked with those who determine the type of content to provide. The marketing team relies on internal data, return on advertising spend, and data from Google on the most-searched terms.

"We all turn to the nerds," according to the company's latest content video found on YouTube.



COVID-19 began as a health crisis, but it turned into a financial health crisis as well. A month into the pandemic, around April, "Google shared data that showed searches for financial health had gone up 200%," Gillease said, sounding like “a bat signal for us to come in and help people.”

The in-house 80-something-person team responded with content, focusing on updating outdated articles and adding new content with information on the CARES Act, distilling it into simple language that everyone can understand. The group also focused on a COVID-19 Finance Hub, where searchers can find content that details information on relief checks and other important data.

The company, which is clearly grounded in performance, has pivoted into what some might call a media company to keep up with traffic on the website and search signals. People want information on gaining financial stability.

Branding this year became a big part of Nerdwallet’s strategy. The company launched its first national brand campaign in Q1, spanning out-of-home, digital and more. Gillease and team thought the brand campaign helped with awareness to become the brand of choice in the financial space.

The national campaign, Money Questions, features answers to questions that people ask about finances. A 30-second cinematic spot runs snippets on appropriate content, relatable to the current situation, from investing to insurance, and delete those that no longer apply.

The company did increase its performance budget to capture actionable demand. The biggest changes were in the areas of CRM, social and email push notifications. Content changed from business as usual to COVID-19-related.

Branding campaigns were tied back into performance through metrics such as ROAS and impact on the business.

Where will the impact show up? A year of testing proved success. “Is it going to show up in brand search volume?” she said. “Will it show up in higher conversions rates, because people trust us more than they did before?”

The ads were run in some markets and not others, so marketers could see where the campaign moved the needle. They also used media-mix models that looked at the baseline and all incrementally. “We want to see a 50% payback,” she said.

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