All Things Tested - Belly's Director of Words and Reputations, Jenny Beightol
As the AdBasis team continues the “All Things Tested” series, we move into the branding area of the marketing mix to begin asking questions. How do the pros collect their knowledge? What are they testing? What’s the difference between scientific approach and gut instinct? We had the opportunity to sit down with Jenny Beightol, Belly’s Director of Words and Reputations, to discuss the things she tests when approaching brand.
And just FYI, if laughter is the best medicine, then she's definitely not qualified to be a doctor but is comfortable identifying as an unlicensed healer. Jenny has worked in startups since 2010. Let’s see what she has to say:
AdBasis (AB): Tell us about the two sides of the Belly brand. Why do they have to be different and what is different about them?
Jenny Beightol (JB): Because Belly is both merchant and consumer facing, we've learned to tailor our messaging to the audience we're speaking to. Belly's voice is always authentic, conversational and packed with punch however the way in which we communicate is dependent on who we're addressing. When talking to our Members (consumers who have downloaded the Belly app or use the BellyCard at our partner businesses), our voice is definitely edgier with a touch of whimsy. We want our Members to be engaged with our product, not just because we're getting them free stuff at the businesses they go to, but also because there's a personality to our brand that they enjoy. When speaking to our Merchants (partner businesses using Belly), our voice is knowledgeable and empathetic. We want our businesses to know that they can trust us and that we're understanding of their needs. One thing to note - this clear cut differentiation between our "voices" wasn't always so. We realized that the edgier, more "out there" lines of copy we'd include in feature one-pagers or in emails to our Merchants weren't resonating with them. For many of our Merchants, English isn't their first language so our witty one-liners were unnoticed! Now we are much more direct and clear with any Merchant messaging but we're never robotic. We want our Merchants to know that behind every email, feature explanation, iPad install guide, etc, there are real life humans at Belly dedicated to helping them run their program (and yes, we all do have the voice of Morgan Freeman). One of our values is "We take our work seriously but not ourselves." So at the end of the day, if we can make our Members/Merchants/Media/Moms laugh or smile, then we're doing something right.
AB: How is your personality reflected in the Belly brand that you've developed?
JB: My personality is very much reflected in Belly's brand voice which is quite fortunate for me because I can basically do my job in my sleep and quite unfortunate for anyone else because they cannot do my job in their sleep. When I first began developing copy, I was working closely with Logan (our CEO) and another VP at the time and it was important to all of us that Belly's voice be uniquely distinct. We hadn't become the leader of the loyalty space yet so we needed to do something to differentiate ourselves and break through the noise. We wanted a brand that people could recognize as Belly even if there was no mention of loyalty or visibility of our logo. I found it easier to keep our voice consistent and true if I just injected myself into it. So I did. We even gave the dog in our logo a name and a voice of his own. "Flop" is much more in line with my personality and tone primarily because we both feel the same way about sriracha. The Belly voice is already quite distinguishable and "Flop" allows us to give this voice a body, a bark and a whole lotta snark.
AB: How has the Belly brand evolved since you've been working on it? What is different?
JB: Our brand voice has definitely matured over the past 4 years. As a startup, we are constantly growing and pivoting and needing to communicate our changing newness with the world - which means we've gone through a lot of words. At the beginning, we didn't really have a brand strategy. For me personally, I was a year out of college and my entire copywriting career could fit into a manilla folder. Our messaging was very reactive - here's what we want to say, make it sound better, and oh yea it needs to be emailed out to all of our Members by the end of the day. Lots of trial and error. But as our product became more established and our voice solidified (and myself more experienced), it made sense for us to question our messaging and ask "Is this the best way to describe this feature? Is this description on brand? Could there be any drawbacks to naming this new product 'Belly Bites'?" Our evolution prompted us to take a step back and more holistically consider all of our communication. I'd like to think that now we are much smarter and definitely more straight forward in our messaging.
AB: How do you evaluate if something is working on the consumer side? How do your messages reach people and how do you know if consumers are responding positively.
JB: The majority of our Member communication is through email. It's very easy for us to evaluate the effectiveness of our messaging based on whether or not our Members are taking the action we've emailed them to do. Whether we're running a one-off campaign, nationwide contest or offering a new reward at 7-Eleven, we're able to measure how our members' activity is affected, be it check-ins at our businesses, getting rewards or engaging with a new feature.
AB: At AdBasis, we are all about testing, what is the Belly version of trial and error when it comes to consumer messaging?
JB: Plain and simple: Engagement. We could run an awesome consumer promotion (like giving away Coachella festival tickets) and have an email open rate of 60% (which would be terrific!) but if our Members are not acting on what we're asking them to do in order to win this totally awesome thing, then it's a bust. Because we do have 5 million Members, it's very easy for us to segment our messaging and optimize for higher engagement.
AB: Are there any specific metrics that you concentrate on to know if what you're writing is successful?
JB: When speaking to our Members, we track email open rates, check-ins and point redemptions. For many of our 7-Eleven promotions, Members are encouraged to not only check in but to also redeem points for a reward tied to the offer. So it's interesting to see if the instructions were clear enough for our Members to understand and take action. Or an email might have a high open rate yet drive no activity. This shows that we wrote a compelling subject line but maybe the offer itself wasn't that great or it just wasn't explained well enough within the body of the email. When addressing our Merchants, we know our writing is successful when they activate new product features or elicit positive feedback to our team of Merchant Success Managers.
AB:You mentioned some promotional language testing for one of your main partnerships, 7-11. What sort of ideas have you tested and what has happened?
JB: Because we have so many Members in our 7-11 markets, it's very easy for us to test our emails and marketing efforts. Majority of testing for 7-11 is done through email subject lines. For any promotion we're running, we'll get much higher open rates when we include as many details as possible about the offer. We'll also segment our Members into very specific user groups and create messaging that's distinct to them - like blatantly calling out Members who didn't engage with the last email we sent about pizza and letting them know that they are the only people in the world who don't like pizza. Our brand voice allows us to get away with pushing the envelope but we're not being edgy or quirky just because we can; all of our messaging is done with intent and purpose.
AB: What advice do you have for people who are attempting to give a consumer brand a personality of its own?
JB: One of the first rules of writing is "Write what you know." Sure, your business might stand out if it's brand voice is that of a carrier pigeon with a cockney accent but can you sustain that? Don't try to force anything. Instead look at your product and develop the best way to deliver it to a consumer audience. Don't be afraid to make mistakes, sometimes that's the best (and only) way to really learn what's working. And don't get caught up trying to lock in the voice right away. As your brand grows, so will your voice. Be natural. Be smart. Be a resource. While we love the cynical side-commentary Flop gets away with saying, it's so much more important that our Merchants and Members understand our value as a product and service. If you can stick to that, your brand's voice will eventually find itself.
We hope you enjoyed this article! Check out the other articles in the All Things Tested series and see below for more great content.
For more information on Belly visit: www.bellycard.com
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