Discover CMO on Taking a Collaborative Approach to its ‘Especially for Everyone’ Brand Platform

Posted on by Kaylee Hultgren

Before Discover launched its massively popular “Especially for Everyone” commercial and brand platform last month, featuring comedic darling Jennifer Coolidge, the company set out to verify precisely what consumers valued about the brand.

They had an idea, of course. They knew that the credit card’s cash rewards and no annual fee features were beloved, for instance. Nonetheless, verification through data and insights was critical to ensure the program’s success.

“The idea behind this campaign platform and brand platform, ‘Especially for Everyone,’ is everything begins with the customer,” said Jennifer Murillo, SVP and CMO at Discover Financial Services, at an Advertising Week panel in New York City last month. “We’ve known for a long time that Discover has a very special relationship with our customers. We see it in survey rankings. We’ve been ranked top of our category in the Brand Keys [survey] for the last 27 years… But we see it every day in the interactions that our customers have with agents and the comments that we get on social, in ratings and reviews.”

Some of the reasons for the strong brand affinity are core pieces of Discover’s business, from the 24/7 customer service line—with the same 1-800-DISCOVER phone number—to using rewards as cash to fraud protection. Moreover, Discover was the first mass market card to have rewards and no annual fee, according to the CMO.

But it was important to verify that through data and customer insights. “There are certain brand measures that we hold to be very important. But we took a minute and thought, okay, let’s just make sure we’re really right about this,” Murillo said. “And in looking forward from that point, we were able to make sure we had very tight correlations between our brand measures and what was actually showing up in terms of business results.”

Once the brand measures were identified, the team looked at the specific drivers that would affect them, which allowed them to focus on the four most meaningful ones and prioritize specific actions to take. “We wanted to be very purposeful and intentional in focusing the resources on what we thought was going to move the needle the most,” she said. “That was foundational work for us and helped us set up scorecards, our execution plans and the way that we’re measuring.”

Connecting Brand to Demand

Discover took a full-funnel approach to demand generation to reach the consumer along their journeys. Product teams pinpointed where brand measures tied to the business, allowing them to chart a path through the funnel. “And then we have scorecards and measurements set up and integrated between the product team and the brand team to understand how that is working. We’ve got all our hypotheses set up on the front end and plans built, but we’re watching it closely,” she said. As results come in, the team optimizes the campaign through reallocating message or media, remaining flexible within the plan’s parameters.

A Spirit of Collaboration

Part of the campaign’s success can be attributed to its collaborative approach, Murillo claims, which involved not only multiple agency partners but also internal brand, product, measurement and analytics—and even the finance team. In fact, the first two stakeholders in the process were the data/analytics and the finance teams.

“Having their hands-on participation in the foundational early days of this, and getting those folks who typically wouldn’t have a voice in some of the marketing strategies, made a tremendous difference,” Murillo said. “It made us smarter. It brought us a different perspective and gave them a sense of ownership and buy-in into what we were doing.”

There are particular advantages to involving finance at the outset, Murillo attests. In this case, the finance team itself put together reporting to share with the group—rather than the other way around. “If you’re in a position where you feel like you’ve got your plans and you need to put your reporting together to show finance and prove it to them… it puts you on different sides of the table. And I think it’s more important to sit on the same side of the table,” she said.

The marketing chief intends to set a precedent with this campaign and take a similar collective approach moving forward. “Finance is looking for the best outcomes for the company. And so is marketing. So, as we’re looking at the measurement to truly do this right, and to be able to see through the funnel and understand these outcomes, I don’t really know how you could do it without your finance partner being not just at the table, but being one of the architects of this.”

The team even collaborates fairly often on scorecards, an exercise typically reserved for finance. “We’re all eager to hear what we’re learning. And it’s made the conversation very different, as we have ideas,” she said. “We see opportunities to do things maybe we hadn’t originally thought of. We don’t always agree on everything, but everybody is invested in it.”


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