Ally Paid-Search Lead Says Customer-Centric Means Being 'Curious,' 'Intimate' With Data

Google doesn’t have a crystal ball, but it does have the data and technology to predict changes in consumer behavior. Nina Hassing learned this after joining Trade King as director.

She was hired to bring paid media in-house from an agency, and she stayed when Ally Financial acquired Trade King in April 2016. Then she was asked to do the same -- bring paid media in-house for Ally. Despite her success, some of her requests were eventually met with opposition. 

"When I joined Ally everything was no," she smiled, and then shared some experiences at the recent MediaPost Search & Performance Insider Summit. "You can't do that. You won't get that approved. And I was like, challenge accepted." 

Hassing, who is now director of search engine and affiliate marketing at Ally, made friends with the members of the legal team, and began asking questions. She did research and created other ways to communicate in ads and copy that were not thought of in the past.



Her persistence and curiosity supported the move not only to see success in paid search and affiliate marketing in-house, but social and programmatic channels as well.

It also increased the company's focus on data. “We have to remind ourselves there are people behind those numbers," said Hassing, adding that being more intimate with the numbers helps marketers question why something works or doesn't. “It’s about the bottom line. But just because the numbers do something, it’s not necessarily what we want them to do.”

Hassing said Ally adopted a strong consumer-centric approach, but it relies on marketers to understand the numbers by being curious and intimate with the data.

Paid search continues to evolve. “In the past two year, Google made more changes than in the previous five,” she said. “We all got really comfortable. Knew how the machine worked. Loved our account structure. We knew how to test standard text ads.”

That changed when Google brought close variance to exact match. The end of the broad match modifier really hurt, she said, equating it to feeling like “someone stole something” from her. Despite her reluctance to adapt,

Google’s change was the only way she could bring paid search to eight businesses across Ally as consumer behavior changes.

Google seems to know how consumer behavior will change before marketers, she said, despite the search engine’s learning curve to make adjustments to its platforms and technology.

There are three ways that people search differently today, Hassing said, citing Google from another presentation at Think Finance a couple of months ago.

Search behavior trends include:

1)      Variety – people search a different way
2)      Velocity – consumers are far more in touch and quicker to respond to change
3)      Value Seeking – consumers spend more time discovering other brands

Ally wants a relationship with consumers. Social and awareness channels allow the company to meet that goal through video, visuals, voice, music and tone make search more powerful.

“We’ve seen a lot of success with Reddit and TikTok, but I would have bet money against that,” she said. “That’s what I love so much about data.”

She doesn’t mind being proven wrong, and enjoys it sometimes when she leans something new.

Rather than target a specific audience, Ally looks for people who value what it values like savings tools and spending buckets.

The target audience has become those wanting to take control of their financial goals with help from Ally, no matter the age or financial status.  

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