Betterment CMO Kim Rosenblum on Crafting Brand Love Via a Common Enemy
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Crafting Brand Love Via a Common Enemy
Today on The Future of Fandom, we craft brand love, find a common enemy and talk a little bit about Spongebob. We’re here today with Kim Rosenblum, Chief Marketing Officer of Betterment, an American financial advisory company that provides digital investment and cash management services.
Most people in their 20s and 30s will deeply appreciate Kim’s contributions as a leader at Viacom where she led creative for properties like Nickelodeon. That’s what makes her journey into fintech all the more fascinating. The perspective of a media style approach to building a community of investors is one not often seen, but many of its principles work incredibly well when it comes to influencing one’s financial choices.
As someone who’s had the pulse of the next generation since the ’90s, Kim is incredibly well-positioned to peer into the crystal ball and chat about what the leaders of this industry will need to do to stick.
Connect with Kim Rosenblum on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kimrosenblumnyc/
Read more about Betterment: https://www.betterment.com/
Full episode here:
FULL TRANSCRIPT BELOW
Adam Conner (00:09):
Today on The Future of Fandom, we craft brand love, find a common enemy and talk a little bit about SpongeBob. My name’s Adam Conner, I’m your host and together we’ll explore how Betterment is setting up the next generation with a long-term investing focus (and building a fandom regardless) with our guest, their Chief Marketing Officer, Kim Rosenblum.
Adam Conner (00:32):
Most folks in their 20s and 30s will deeply appreciate Kim’s contributions as a leader at Viacom where she led creative for properties like Nickelodeon. That’s what makes her journey into FinTech all the more fascinating. The perspective of a media style approach to building a community of investors is one not often seen, but I think you’ll agree that many of its principles work incredibly well when it comes to influencing your financial choices.
Adam Conner (00:58):
As someone who’s had the pulse of the next generation since the ’90s, Kim is in incredibly well-positioned to peer into the crystal ball and chat about what the leaders of this industry will need to do to stick. So let’s do that now as we predict the future with Betterment and Kim Rosenblum. Hey Kim, how are you? I’m so excited to have you on. Thank you for joining me.
Kim Rosenblum (01:21):
Thank you, Adam. It’s nice to be with you today.
Adam Conner (01:24):
I am lucky and listeners, you are lucky. You might not know it yet, but you are lucky to be listening to this voice for the reasons I’m about to lay out. Number one, we’re going to learn all about Betterment. We’re going to learn about how fandom applies to super long-term investing. I’ll get into all that, crafting brand love, having a common enemy. We’re going to talk about a couple of things that you might relate to.
Adam Conner (01:46):
But listeners who are, oh, let’s say in your mid to late 20s, early 30s might be the most nostalgic when we talk about some of the history that brought Kim to Betterment. So let me start there. Without giving too much away. Kim, can you tell us a little bit about you? Obviously we want to learn about what Betterment is, but sort of where you came from and why you came into this world after being a part of a quite different one just before.
Kim Rosenblum (02:14):
Sure. Thanks, Adam. I am CMO at Betterment, which is the largest independent digital investment advisor. We’re just over 10 years old and we are really a pioneer in FinTech, especially in the long-term investing category regarding FinTech. So a lot of people know Betterment as a founder company. Jon Stein founded the company and it’s now grown to 700K plus customers and over 33 billion said it’s under management. So it’s a significant FinTech. We’re still, like I said, independent, which we’re very, very proud of. We are driven by innovation and really making people’s lives better through financial planning and wellness.
Kim Rosenblum (03:00):
And it is unusual for me to be in a FinTech space since I spent the majority of my career, well over two decades in media. But Sarah Levy, the new CEO that Jon Stein appointed about 18 months ago had also been in media. And she was a former colleague at Viacom and she recruited me when she came over to Betterment. So it was an interesting leap for me. And I think I brought a lot of experience from media and a lot of experience from branding since I was lucky enough to work on some of the best media brands in the world.
Adam Conner (03:34):
Well, listeners, I told you. Now, in case I haven’t laid this out clearly. We haven’t laid this out clearly enough, those 20 years at Viacom included sometime at every American’s favorite network for cartoons. I say it that way. Nickelodeon, of course. So we talk about media, man, such a passionate follower base there and it immediately makes me wonder how we’re applying some of the principles that you applied to growing those various audiences, because it wasn’t just Nickelodeon. It was the various properties that Viacom had in that world to this world.
Adam Conner (04:09):
And so I wonder like what was the first hurdle like once you joined Betterment that you foresaw and then we’ll talk about how you crafted love to get over that?
Kim Rosenblum (04:22):
Sure. Well like a word on my experience at Nickelodeon, I was incredibly lucky to walk into Nickelodeon in the 1990s, which you Adam and probably many listeners were actually at home watching Nickelodeon while I was sitting in a cubicle making Nickelodeon. I mean, it was like the startup before the word startup existed. We were just making it up frankly and growing really quickly. And it was really exciting because it was a brand-driven concept. Nickelodeon was actually acquired by MTV right before I got there. Comedy Central was a sister channel.
Kim Rosenblum (05:04):
So this idea of creating a brand, a concept, targeting a specific audience and then the product, or in this case, the programming fulfilled that brand mission and spoke specifically to an audience in a passionate way. That was like a very new concept. And so we really were inventing it and it worked. It was great. I have a ton of fond memories. I would say my proudest, funnest one is that I was in the room when we watched the SpongeBob pilot. And I can tell you that no one was like, “This is change the world.” Everyone was like, “Yeah, that’s funny. Let’s try it.” We actually were in the room, decided to put our marketing effort behind another show called CatDog, which is a great cartoon, but no SpongeBob.
Adam Conner (05:54):
Well, in the world with a little CatDog I didn’t feel that way.
Kim Rosenblum (05:57):
So I actually did like a big marketing launch campaign for CatDog. I did a lot of like business to business also with ad sales marketing and affiliate sales marketing. I worked a lot on Nick at Nite and the spinoff channel TV Land. So yeah, I just learned a lot there. And it was, like I said, a startup culture that very quickly became a media BMF.
Kim Rosenblum (06:18):
So taking all of that learning was really interesting coming to Betterment, which is also moving past startup to growth stage and also building a brand that’s based on a particular audience with products, in this case, FinTech products that really serve a specific audience and trying to generate love around that. Not just being transactional, but actually a relationship between a financial brand and a customer.
Adam Conner (06:45):
Yeah, let me go right there because I have had the privilege of talking with a few players in the broad FinTech spectrum on this podcast. Now, when I have that it has been around a specific offering or asset class, but the point for the most part has been the novelty of the product that you can invest as part of the business. Now, I am sure though we haven’t quite gotten there that there is an avatar. I mean, that’s what we would call in the podcast game like a person that you are specifically going after, an audience.
Adam Conner (07:22):
That side very, very well because, well, you targeted that as part of every episode of SpongeBob targeting a specific type of person. And sure there was a product there, but it was searching for a person first. I’d like to get your perspective on the industry because you probably know more about it than me or you definitely do with regard to where do you see that development falling? Is it in finding a specific person or is it finding that specific product and regardless what are you trying to do with Betterment?
Kim Rosenblum (07:54):
Yeah. Honestly, Adam, I feel like it can come in both directions. I don’t know that I would say it’s definitely product first or audience first. I do know that those two things have to fit really well together. And we like to say product market fit. But like if you unpack what product market fit means, it really just means that you really understand what your audience, your customer really wants and that you design a product that fits need.
Kim Rosenblum (08:20):
So that might be for us as we’re developing crypto investing portfolios, which will be launching later this year. That isn’t just about a crypto product. It’s about saying, “Okay, our customer is a long-term hold, managed, diversified investor.” So how does crypto and portfolios and what is the experience around that product mean to that customer? So for us that might mean just the way we develop the product, the way that you onboard onto it.
Kim Rosenblum (08:52):
We are there for the long-term, we there to help you make you feel comfortable. We’re there to like bring forward like our core values of trust, safety, security long-term. So I think the product like we’re developing a great product, but we’re developing it with the brand tenet and the customer in mind. So I think they go together. I would say the difference between when I was doing it early days Nickelodeon and now at Betterment is obviously it’s a much more fragmented world. There’s way more competition in every sphere. And I think what’s happening, especially in FinTech, is that in the beginning even for Betterment 10 years ago, it was a little bit of like a digital marketing play and you sort of went out and you acquired customers.
Kim Rosenblum (09:34):
Now it’s not just about acquiring customers. It’s too competitive to think about that way. And if you’re not just acquiring customers through a product, what value are you bringing to them? What’s differentiated about you? Why would you pick Betterment over one of our competitive brands? Whether that’s a smaller player like a Wealthfront or a legacy like a Marcus. And so we have to provide a point of difference and it has to have value. So to me the idea that brand or product, I wouldn’t say one comes before the other. I think they have to work together.
Kim Rosenblum (10:06):
And brand, by the way, is like a 365/24/7. And so is the product. Like our product is there for you for the long-term. So they go really nicely together. Transactional brands, which might be more in sort of like FinTech banking categories probably have different goals. So this doesn’t apply to everyone. This is where we’re coming from.
Adam Conner (10:30):
Sure. And you’re right. I mean, with regard to brand being 24/7/365 and I have found just via my conversations with CMOs just like you just how omnipresent and important it is. And to me what that signals is like, well, it’s hard not to go after that type of person in that audience first. But Hey, in an increasingly competitive space. Yeah, now there has to be that balance from both ends, as you said, the product and the person.
“I think one of the things that’s really important in branding is not just knowing who you’re talking to and what your value proposition is to them, but to know like what else they offer they have out there and what’s your point of difference? I’ll go back to my Nickelodeon days. It’s not like at Nickelodeon we didn’t know that Disney or Cartoon Network existed. Of course, you did. And it wasn’t like you’re all in or you’re nothing. It wasn’t like you could so easily, it’s so easy to just pick up the remote and flip around.”
— Kim Rosenblum (11:00)
Kim Rosenblum (11:32):
So you have to understand that like you serve a specific difference between those competitors. I think one of the things that’s interesting for Betterment is just looking at some of our data, like the other apps that our Betterment customers have on their phone include things like Coinbase and Robinhood and Acorns. Like I get that. We’re not all things. Our customer has other brands that they have a relationship with and that’s awesome and they should. We just need to have a clear point of difference and a clear value proposition.
Adam Conner (12:02):
Sure. And because it’s hard to nail down like a specific person when you’re building something, obviously you have an ideal customer in mind. But really what this triggers to me is like, well there’s a broader set of behaviors. There’s a persona that you’re that you’re going after as well. And I’ll tell you why it’s really hard to nail that at least from my perspective, because my beliefs on investing in my relative risk aversion or hunger they’re in has swung wildly, even in the last few years as you get hooked by the craze of crypto and even things like the meme stocks of early ’21.
Adam Conner (12:44):
Now, obviously I know that through something like Betterment you’re looking at it in a slightly different way, but regardless like I have swung wildly between keeping my emotions in check and chasing a check. And for you, I’m curious what the relative importances of each of these are. A persona that focuses on like just the money side and the persona that focuses on the emotions of investing. And given the fact that obviously you’re leading FinTech forward, how do you think that your leaders of this world will prioritize between them or do you think they will?
Kim Rosenblum (13:20):
Yeah. I understand. I can be the same way I can have a reactive day and I can also be a long-term strategist. Like I think that’s human. I think what’s happened is it’s on our fingertips. There’s apps that allow us to access things quickly. So impulsive behavior is possible, whereas that wasn’t true before the proliferation of FinTech apps and brands. So I think like what you’re saying, Adam, is totally normal, but honestly what we stand for at Betterment is long-term and diversified and we manage it for you.
Kim Rosenblum (13:52):
So the people that like Betterment are people who want to have like that in their life. It doesn’t have to be the only thing in their life, but they value that. And they also value … so for us, it’s not like, okay, it’s this person this age, this demographic. Like those things are helpful, but the mindset to me is more important. And these are people that and maybe you’re one of them, Adam, that like you get that there’s some fun in transactional and some hype that you want to be a part of. But you also need and know that you want to have a long-term solution.
“In some ways, FOMO, the fear of missing out on a GameStop or whatever is almost like our perfect villain, because what we want to do is say, “That’s fine. You’re going to have those impulsive behaviors, but we’re here for the flip side of that.” We’re the other side of the coin. We’re here to be your long-term partner so that when you have those moments, go ahead, you can have that fun money. You have that try some stuff, chase the check, because we got your back in terms of the long-term.”
— Kim Rosenblum (14:23)
Kim Rosenblum (14:52):
So I think that’s like where we fit in our sort of anti-FOMO brand. It’s a weird thing because it’s anti-FOMO, but that doesn’t mean we’re not in the conversation. We can just be in the conversation from that point of view.
Adam Conner (15:06):
The use of the word villain even makes me under or stand a little better how you’re thinking about this and of course where you came from. I mean, this to me is the root of anybody’s fandom of a television program when they’re a kid. You unite around what you want to see quelled if it’s plankton or whether it’s, well, it’s this FOMO.
Adam Conner (15:32):
You’ve as a result then between Betterment and that time have had long tenures of building brands around these sorts of villains. Is that fair to say? I mean, is there an element of the FinTech world that is just as much in the ease of investing as it is in the thwarting of some common enemy? I’m curious about that from your perspective.
“Listen, Nickelodeon, I can tell you because I was there in the ’90s, it was all about us versus them. Us was the kids, them was the world. So it was kids versus the world. And that’s because kids didn’t feel at the time that they had any rights or any respect. And that was sort of coming off of a certain type of parenting, sort of like this passive parenting and kids were like, “I want to have a seat at the table and no one listens to me and I’m marginalized.” So we got the advantage of sort of like rallying around this idea that kids should be empowered and kids should be listened to.”
— Kim Rosenblum (15:56)
Kim Rosenblum (16:32):
By the way, it worked because now kids and I think many parents, millennial parents who are raising these kids they grew up with that feeling and they empower their kids. And by the way, now kids are like driving major purchase decisions. They are absolutely responsible for what car the family buys, what vacation the family goes on. Parents and kids have this incredible connection. There’s a lot of family time now. So what was the enemy then is not the enemy now, but what happened was that millennial mindset kind of came forward, I think into finances as millennials became adults and started earning real income and thinking about what’s going to work for them.
Kim Rosenblum (17:12):
They did not have confidence in the institutions and why should they have? Many millennials, come out into the 2008 housing bubble pop and didn’t have jobs and had student debt, and didn’t really like get a sense that the government was there to actually figure it out for them. And once again, they found themselves sort of like me versus the world.
Kim Rosenblum (17:34):
And so out of like that, I think the FinTech and then of course the tech revolution happening at the same time was kind of a perfect moment for finance and tech to collide and address this group of people who were looking for something that was like spoke to them, that they could feel confident in that it was personalized. And that wasn’t coming from like a giant institution with whom they had little reason to trust or little confidence in a benevolent relationship.
Adam Conner (18:03):
Right. Yeah, because when I think of the FinTech world in term of somebody to look like, “Oh, I’m not like them or it’s them against me.” I’m not necessarily at least at first I wasn’t thinking about FOMO over any of this. I was thinking about some hungry banker taking away a percentage of my money just because they were there to claim it. And so it’s very interesting how these things have developed.
Kim Rosenblum (18:26):
Yeah. And I think the other thing that like Betterment was absolutely founded on was accessibility. And it’s still happening, but there was so many decades of exclusivity. And that was another piece that I think that the intersection of finance and tech allowed was for people to say, “You know what? I don’t need to be welcomed in. I don’t need to be invited in by and advisor or have my parents introduce me to their financial advisor. I can actually take control of this and drive this for myself.”
“That’s been like a real game changer and I think you’ve seen all of the legacy institutions launch FinTech brands or trying to figure out their relevance. And I think there’s no putting that genie back in the bottom and there shouldn’t be. And I think the next generation is Gen Z who’s starting to come of age and graduating college and getting jobs, they’re looking for people to advise them where they’re at. So the rise of financial influencers or the fin talk makes perfect sense to me.”
— Kim Rosenblum (18:57)
Kim Rosenblum (19:30):
I know there are some people who feel like, “Well, I can’t believe people are getting their financial advice from a TikTok.” But that’s where the audience is and that’s where they’re seeking information. So not being there doesn’t make any sense to me or being offended by that or being sort of like snobby about that. It just means you don’t really understand that audience.
Adam Conner (19:49):
Sure. And I mean, assuming that you can get through probably what … Quite a bit of is probably not great advice if it is coming from somebody who’s a young investor who hasn’t just been there very long, it can be incredibly valuable. I’ve I’ve been there as well, plus there is that added bonus of it being always on, always there, always fresh. You can swipe, swipe, swipe and assuming that you’re still in that community, you get new things.
Adam Conner (20:14):
To me, it serves as a great compliment to something like what Betterment provides. It’s the short term content to answer to the long-term vision of what making an investment in Betterment offerings is like. And that’s actually where I want to ask you a question about this because it’s a privilege to be able to chat with you as a leader of building this community of people who are focused on that long-term.
Adam Conner (20:44):
And like others who I’ve talked to who have been specialized in certain assets where maybe you can’t track a ticker every day so too does it become less relevant to be checking in constantly, frequently if you are aligned with a long-term goal. This may mean in my mind that maybe one of your customers, one of your 750,000, you say 700,000 logs in once every couple weeks, once a month assuming they’ve made the initial investment in. And I assume that’s okay for you all, but how do you build a fan strategy within that? I say fans just because we like to focus I’m fandom here. I’m curious to get your thoughts on that.
Kim Rosenblum (21:29):
It is a little tricky because the best behavior, especially like we’re talking right now 2022, it’s been a wild couple months. That we went from what was a pretty boom boom 2021 to like a very volatile 2022. And the thing that I’m really heartened by with our customer base is that they’re not making a lot of moves right now. They’re actually sitting back and like riding it out, which is exactly what we’ve been advising and will continue to advise.
“Part of fandom doesn’t have to just be about likes and that kind of measuring engagement by daily interaction. It can also be about did we give a useful message and was it helpful and useful to you? So I think people are fans of a brand because it serves their life. Not necessarily because it just pops up in their feed. So I think it’s okay to sit back. We need to constantly reinforce that value and that long-term aspect. And we do that through the normal means through paid marketing, through organic social, but also in product through our content.”
— Kim Rosenblum (21:59)
Kim Rosenblum (22:40):
We have put out a little bit of content around the volatility right now and the message is stay the course. The message is don’t get distracted, don’t be impulsive. We have a behavioral economist on our staff and he calls it going on an information diet that he advises that in these crazy times it’s actually better to get a little less information.
Kim Rosenblum (23:03):
Don’t go like too hardcore, maybe half hour of news morning, in the evening, not before bed. Because it doesn’t feed your best instincts. It doesn’t serve your best instincts to be just constantly checking your feed and wondering what’s going to happen next when things are out of your control. And everyone likes to be in control of things. It’s hard, but I don’t think fandom and daily engagement are synonymous at all.
Adam Conner (23:30):
And do you see other places in the world? We’re going to exit the world of maybe FinTech right now or maybe just a general brand circumstance. Like when specifically that engagement or that metric shouldn’t be your number one. I mean, obviously in areas where it’s a long-term considered purchase or investment like here, I get it because my guess is that what does a business focus on? Well, it focuses on assets under management, focused on having that bottom line. You don’t need, “Oh, but look at all these views I got. Well, it’s great. But it’s more of a pulse check than a business line. When else or is there, I’m sure there, are circumstances when engagement probably shouldn’t be at the top?
Kim Rosenblum (24:11):
Yeah, that’s a good question. I mean, one of the things I think is really fascinating is we have a sustainable investing portfolio of products, a portfolio of climate impact portfolio, broad impact and social impact. And to me that’s a really good example because we did actually ask for people’s participation. We brought in a partnership with Engine No.1, which is the activist investors that are taking on board seats. They took over board seats on mobile to cause change from within. So we are actively with things that are activist investing.
Kim Rosenblum (24:48):
So I kind of speak out of both sides of my mouth, but to me what’s really interesting is that’s an example of like actively engage and put your money into companies that support your values and coming from Engine No.1 that can represent you in the boardroom and do that in a way that means putting my money and I’m leaving it there because that kind of change takes time.
Kim Rosenblum (25:11):
So I think the other thing to your question about like when is it okay not to engage is long-term change. If you’re trying to affect long-term change, like reversing the climate damage, enforcing companies that are using fossil fuel to review that and reduce their dependence on them. That’s not going to happen in a short-term. You’ve got to be committed to that for the long run. So in some ways being an activist is actually a moment to also say maybe engagement and daily engagement isn’t the point. Maybe it’s about long-term commitment.
Adam Conner (25:45):
Yeah. That’s very interesting. I appreciate you speculating with me there for a moment. And I’ll ask you to indulge once more and as we start round out here, because we also focus on the future, which is speculation by definition. And since you are currently at the cutting edge of the next gen FinTech experience, especially one focused on the long-term, I’m interested in what you foresee for the future of those best-in-class digital. Let’s stick with digital experiences within finance.
Adam Conner (26:17):
What do you think people are going to want? I mean, you talk about Gen Z, they’re just coming into their own right now. They’re just starting to see their first sources of income. They’re starting to make these decisions. What are you currently see as what they want and do you anticipate they or people will want going forward?
Kim Rosenblum (26:33):
Yeah. Obviously crypto is very topical, but I actually think the bigger picture here and what people will want long-term is access to the way we are going to do business in the future. It isn’t so much about like a particular coin or a token. I think what we’re going to see is people really interested in the future of business, which is the crypto economy. So for us, as I mentioned before, we’ll be doing long-term diversified portfolio management with crypto assets. That’s alongside, that’s not mixed in just to be super clear. We’re offering that as a separate investment strategy because that’s what we think people want too.
Kim Rosenblum (27:13):
They don’t want it just sort of mixed in. It’s volatile. They understand that, but it’s going to even out and it’s going to be here for the long-term so we want to provide a product, back to that product market fit that they’re looking for. But I do think the future is going to be about that decentralized finance and that’s the way business is going to be done. So that’s how I think people will want to get into it. Not necessarily just sort of like chasing whatever is popping right now in terms of like an individual coin or cryptocurrency.
Kim Rosenblum (27:45):
So that’s like one speculation on my part and obviously we’re launching a product around that so I believe in it deeply. I also think I don’t think it’s going backwards. I think it’s only going forwards and the more access people have to be able to use digital payment I think you’ll see that really integrated. The idea of banking as a service integrated into experiences, whether that’s travel, moving money like within a consumer and retail experience I think will be commonplace. Yeah, so those are some of my sort of crystal ball predictions.
Adam Conner (28:22):
Well, I appreciate getting to peer into that crystal ball with you. And for learning all about this it’s, first of all, it’s a pleasure to talk with you just because of the tenure lead not to Betterment, but now like the ability to apply these sorts of principles to a world that I … Of course, this app-based trading and investing didn’t really, I don’t really think it existed until like seven, eight years ago really, at least in a prevalent manner to be able to apply some of these tried and true fan building, audience building, common enemy philosophies towards this world that really hasn’t had it is a treat to hear about in practice.
Adam Conner (29:00):
Because I could think about it all day. “You know, that makes sense.” But to know that there’s somebody out there doing it is really something cool. So personally, thank you for that. And for our audience, thank you so much for joining us and, well, telling the future with us.
Kim Rosenblum (29:13):
All right. Thanks Adam. It was a pleasure talking to you. I appreciate it.
Adam Conner (29:19):
Thanks so much to Kim Rosenblum from Betterment for joining us. I truly, truly appreciate what you’re doing now for the next generation just as you did for mine. And thanks to you the listener, of course, for exploring The Future of Fandom with us. I’d encourage you to stay tuned to this channel. So subscribe to The Future of Fandom wherever you listen. And you can also find our content at livelike.com/podcast and across socials. We’re also on LinkedIn @LiveLike and Twitter @LiveLikeInc.
Adam Conner (29:51):
I look forward to predicting the future with you again real soon. And until then, I’m Adam Conner saying so long and thanks for being a fan.
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