Transcript: Cassandra LaPrarie (Wise) and Scott Davis (NPR) on Podcast Business Lunch

: Okay, Hi, I’m Scott Davis, I am the Senior Vice President for NPR sponsorship at National Public Media, and I am with Cassandra LaPrairie, a friend and client from Wise. Cassandra is the performance marketing lead for audio at Wise, and I’d be bearing the lead if I didn’t start by just saying, thank you for working with NPR. So along those lines, you all at Wise have been early adopters of podcasting, I’m sure you’ve learned a ton. You’ve considered measurement through a variety of lenses, and you’ve also mentioned in a recent talk that you gave, that success can be measured in a variety of different ways, a number of different outcomes can constitute success. And I found that to be super interesting, so I’m wondering if you can talk a little bit about how you measure it and what you consider to be a win.

Cassandra: Yeah, of course. Well, first, thank you very much for having me as well. It’s lovely working with your team, but also chatting every time we have the opportunity, so I appreciate it. Yes, Wise has been investing in podcast advertising since 2016, actually, and we’ve been subtly growing, this is a global marketing channel ever since really. Tracking, measurement, data and insights, these are all very, very important things to Wise. Certainly as a company, but especially as a marketing org and that’s really because of our company’s mission, money without borders, instant convenient, transparent and eventually free. That eventually free part is really important. So most companies understand, every decision we make about spending money comes with a trade-off. So each investment that we make in, let’s say an advertising campaign, in the immediate, that means that’s less money available for things like improving our product or dedicating more customer service or offering price reductions to our customers. We basically need to be very, very sure and confident that our marketing expenditures are helping Wise deliver impact for those customers, but ultimately get us closer to the mission that I just mentioned.

Cassandra: So for all of those reasons, efficiency and sustainability are always front of mind when we are measuring marketing activity. We care a lot about a variety of different cost metrics and things like payback window, so how long is it going to take us to recuperate the cost that we are spending on any marketing activity. For audio advertising specifically, we do use a number of different measurement tools to help us monitor all of those things. For example, we are integrated with a third party attribution tracking partner at Podsights to really help give us day-to-day views on how our individual podcast advertising campaigns are performing, both in absolute terms but also in relative terms. So we rely on tools like this to help us see how certain shows that we’re sponsoring are, let’s say, converting site visitors or converting new registrants, or maybe news and politics shows are outperforming society and culture. So this is really what we keep a close eye on to stay close to the pulse of our campaign, and it’s the tool we use to understand what optimizations we should be making back, or making day-to-day.



Cassandra: Additionally, we are very, very fortunate to have a small but mighty team of whip smart data scientists and Marketing Analysts. So they’ve internally built a database and also an attribution model, and that really acts as our main source of truth when it comes to understanding our customers, and therefore the efficacy of our marketing efforts. For podcast advertising, we actually pull in data from external parties like Podsights, and use that to help us further understand the actions and the behaviors that all of these newly acquired or hopefully newly acquired customers are going on to take once they’re in our universe. So for me, this helps me identify things like, for our new registrants who we know are exposed to our podcast advertising, how long does it usually take them to sign up? How long does it take them to go on and make their first transfer? Geographically, where are they registering their account from? And then what are the top five currency routes that they actually go on to send and receive money from?

Cassandra: Let’s say also, I happen to know as the planner and buyer that it’s much more expensive to buy podcast sponsorships for business content. Well, maybe that’s actually okay because I can go on to see based on the results from similar campaigns in the past that those customers acquired on shows that highlight business content actually go on to be much more valuable customers for Wise in the long run. So that justifies the additional investment that we make to acquire them.

Cassandra: Basically, this is the tool that I used to help make long-term investment decisions and to really understand if we’re hitting those cost-effective targets that I mentioned before. Finally and increasingly, why is this also leaning on preliminary studies or creative measurement studies? So even though we do treat audio advertising as a performance marketing channel at Wise, the insights and the learnings that we’ve uncovered through some of these more brand-focused research opportunities have helped us stay informed, especially when it comes to our messaging. I always say that as marketers and honestly as humans, we often think that we’re saying one thing when in fact the folks on the receiving end are hearing something completely different.

Cassandra: So it really is important for us to understand how our current efforts are impacting things like Awareness and Perception, consideration, etcetera, all of those things that we know require a fair bit of work and detention before we can ultimately achieve the result we’re after, which is a converted customer. So all of those measurement sources help us determine if a marketing campaign is working. And because of our focus on sustainability, that’s always the first lens that we use when we are trying to determine whether or not something was successful. If it’s not helping us, let’s say, meet that payback target that I mentioned, we’ll try to adjust, we’ll try to optimize, but it’s unlikely that we’re going to continue investing in that in the future or for the long run.



Scott: Got it. There’s a lot to… That’s a lot. And that’s great, thanks for talking through all that. And I’m not terribly surprised to hear that there are a ton of metrics that feed into ultimate decision making. There are a couple of things that really got my attention though. You mentioned content areas, so do you measure content areas by vertical or by publisher or kind of a combination of the two, when you feed into desired outcomes?

Cassandra: Any and all ways.

Scott: Okay. Got it.

Cassandra: That’s really the benefit of having all of these different measurement catch points is the broader the view, and actually the longer run that we can have them here for, that’s really where you start to notice trends. And again, I’d be lying if I was saying that it wasn’t because of all of our really fantastic analysts that help us dig into this each quarter, each week to help identify those trends, but really, it’s quite surprising actually, where you can find these things jump out and like, “Oh, I never thought to buy my media in that way or to plan to reach audiences in this fashion.” Yeah, it’s interesting what you can see really take a big step back.

Scott: Got it. So I kind of take one vertical and cross-reference it with publisher and see where the optimizations lie and then double down on that. That’s cool. Another thing that you mentioned, you mentioned the track ability with pod sites. And one of the things that they’ve encouraged us to look at, we’ve certainly done a lot of it on our side, as well as the return on ad spend. Is that what you’re talking about with the business vertical, where you definitely see a customer that pays out over the long term and has a higher return on the ad spend?

Cassandra: Yeah, definitely. For us at Wise, we talk about that metric as lifetime value, so internally, it’s more when they come into our universe and they take specific actions, they use specific products, they move a certain volume of money through our services, all of those influence ultimately over whatever time frame we’re measuring, let’s say it’s 12 months, that helps us understand exactly from a revenue perspective, exactly how much they’re going to bring back to the business. And so, yes. Slightly different metric that we call it by, but we’re essentially evaluating the same thing.

Scott: Got it. And the bigger follow-up question, I feel like you’ve covered that already, but just to make sure I ask the question. Does the measurement vary by publisher where you look at other areas of value that a publisher may bring to the table or it’s the same rule for every single publisher that you work with?

Cassandra: That’s a good question, and I’ll say it depends. So the truth is what I said across the long run, if we have a campaign that’s ultimately not achieving those payback targets that we set to us, that means it’s not sustainable. And just with our philosophy on how we invest, we’re never really going to make an exception. That said, that is the long-term view. So perhaps there are specific priorities that in the near term are very important, let’s say we’re trying to really focus on business customer acquisition. Let’s say we do have a new campaign that we have up and running, and although it’s not meeting those payback targets that we’re used to seeing across our wider activity, perhaps it is doing a really good job of acquiring a higher percentage of business customers. So in the near term, I think we would make an exception for that and say, “Okay, there’s something here, we still really need to figure out how to optimize and how to bring this back into a range that matches what we’ve said we’re comfortable with across the board. But for now, this is worth continued investment because it’s helping us do something specific that’s a priority.”

Scott: Got it, got it. So Cassie, referencing again, a recent talk that you gave, when I saw you on a panel, you talked about branding a bit and how that’s a relatively new priority for Wise, one that you’re attaching some measurement to. Walking through all of the different ways you quantify results for different publishers. That’s a particularly interesting area to discuss because it’s hard to put a value on that, it’s proven to be hard for a lot of folks. But you all have relaunched your brand, no longer TransferWise now Wise. So can you talk a little bit about brand building for a re-branded company, how you went about that, how you planned it, how you bought it, how you measured it?

Cassandra: Yeah, sure. So to go back to something that you said when you entered this question, I do think that in some ways, branding is a new-ish priority for Wise, and that’s really referring to branding and the way that you and I are talking about it right now, so brand marketing, packaging up things like our brand voice, our identity, our promises, our values, our tone, and then sharing that with perspective customers. So just using our brand to subtly urge people really into that customer acquisition funnel. That is definitely something that was part of the rebrand or the rename. But the other core parts of Wise’s brand are certainly not new, and they’ve always been prioritized. Things like customer service, pricing, user experience, product quality advocacy. Wise is actually pretty good and experienced at brand building from that perspective. It’s something we’ve been doing for a long time, and it’s why we have over 13 million customers. When Wise changed its name from TransferWise to Wise last year, it was talked about as a rebrand, especially externally, but there are lots of people internally who would argue it truly was just a reading. For some time Wise had actually been helping its customers do a lot more than just money transfers, we had grown to offer a multi-currency account with a debit card. We launched Wise for business, the Wise platform. The change from TransferWise to Wise.

Scott: Was simply a change in the wording that helped our name sort of better reflect what we were already helping customers do, all the core parts of our brand that I mentioned earlier were unchanged, so for that reason, that didn’t actually drastically impact our media planning and buying for a few months, we of course, added things like Wise, formerly TransferWise to the beginning of some of our podcasts advertisements, for example. But purposefully, there wasn’t some big story about the new Wise because that wasn’t accurate, we were still supporting our customers in the same way that we had been, just now, with a slightly more appropriate name. I would say though, that the most significant change relate to our auto advertising program, specifically because of the rename had to do with creative. We needed to better communicate the full range of international banking needs that we could offer solutions for and that ended up being harder than we had anticipated. It was actually a few brand-led studies that we did with your team, Scott at NPM that helped us dig at this a little bit, because we had been sponsoring NPR programming so consistently for so long.

Cassandra: We were actually able to start to see how the efficacy of our messaging was changing, as did things like overall awareness. So at first, early on, we were doing a pretty good job of building awareness with the NPR audience as we found out through these quarterly surveys that we were doing with you. As we continued and we got to the point where we needed to think about moving things now like consideration and intent, we realized that same messaging was not doing a great job at actually communicating what Wise did even if folks were remembering our name. So the advice we received was to be clear and to be a bit more focused with how we talked about our actual service. This became a little extra challenging, while at the same time we had our internal team saying, “Oh, we really need to communicate the breadth of services we now offer.” But it was fair feedback in an important meeting or important learning, especially for this medium, so it did not make our assignment easier, but we did understand the task at hand better. And that has really informed, especially our creative approach going forward, if that answers your question at all.

Scott: It does… Yeah. To go back to how you started, we are talking about the same thing, kind of a brand equity, brand retention, brand relationship kind of thing, but then brand relationship is really what you all do internally with your customers, and that matters to the brand equity that you’re building with an existing client base clearly matters a lot. And on the marketing side of things, brand building is not… Again, to your point, is not something that just exists in a lofty sense, it’s meant to drive results. And so the more specific that all of us can be about not communicating the particular services that you all offer that other clients offered. The better off will be, while still trying to elevate that brand and its reputation and fondness, but all leading to consideration and ultimately intent.

Cassandra: Exactly.

Scott: Yeah. Alright. So on to the next question, and related to brand is trust. So the brand equity, how that translates into something actionable, specifically with financial products that said, trust is a key piece of the equation. So we talked a little bit about, with some other folks about, how corporate social responsibility can enhance trust. And you’ve spoken a little bit about how your relationship with your clients is one of the key things that enhances trust. But I wanna touch on CSR a little bit, and would love to know from Wise’s perspective, are there efforts on that front that you look to leverage to deepen trust and create a more meaningful relationship with customers? How do you all go about that aspect of the business?

Cassandra: Yeah. Well, you’re right. Wise doesn’t have specific CSR initiatives or specific CSR initiatives that we especially promote through our marketing activity. If you think about it, actually, Wise’s entire business is kind of like that. Everything we do is trying to call attention to great transparency, financial fairness, that’s really what we’re fighting for every day with our business. Yes, I see a comparison there. Actually many of our marketing campaigns and advertising campaigns, kind of sounds like they are a CSR-focused campaign. Trust, yes, trust is a difficult thing to inspire for sure, and you’re right, because Wise deals with people’s money. Establishing trust is mandatory for getting customers to try us in the first place.

Cassandra: The flip side of that though, is that trust actually becomes a little bit easier to measure because it is so conditional for continued use of our services… Because radical transparency is one of the foundational pillars of Wise’s entire existence, trust typically comes pretty easy and pretty quickly once we get customers to use Wise for the first time. And then trust can actually be measured in a lot of different ways; in the number of customers that chose to make their first transfer, the number of customers we retain over time, the rate at which they’re willing to adopt new products and features as we make them available, even the number of family and friends they refer to Wise. So if they don’t trust us, none of those things are happening, the real challenge is inspiring trust in people before we have the chance to bring them into our world. People, rightfully so, are inherently skeptical of financial institutions, and really businesses that claim they had anything to do with making people’s money work faster, easier, more transparently, folks have heard that before.

Cassandra: We actually did a little competitive landscaping exercise not too long ago, and we were checking out the home pages, or Wise’s top hand full of competitors. And the intro language, included on this page is, so likely the very first thing that people want to encounter when they visit, word-for-word we’re almost identical across five, six, seven different competitors, and Wise included. I will admit that this really made us think about our copy on our home page. But just imagine if you are someone trying to navigate cross-border payments for the first time, how do you begin to compare your options when they all tell you they do the exact same thing even when they don’t? I’ll highlight. So this is a challenge that, something like the media can help us tackle, and it’s one of the main reasons that Wise has been such a long time sponsor of NPR. Just being able to reach… Two things, actually. Being able to reach that informed and savvy, thoughtful audience at scale, that’s huge.

Cassandra: Combine that with the opportunity to position ourselves within that halo of trust, affinity, favor that NPR has with listeners. Oftentimes, that’s the exact thing… That’s the exact boost, or the extra bit of spotlight, that we need to get listeners to consider us for just a few seconds longer. And that’s not actually something we have a lot of control over outside of these partnerships that we may tap into with organizations like NPR. Because like I said, it’s tough going to try and differentiate yourself in a very similar and saturated market.

Scott: Well, thanks for the shout-out, Cassie, that’s awful nice to hear.

Cassandra: [0:21:15.0] ____, I promise.


Scott: That’s right. One of the things that we’ve learned, and certainly in working with you all and other folks, is that value-space purchase decisions are just increasingly part of people’s consideration set. They don’t… And especially where finances are concerned, and especially where cross-border finances are concerned, that just the words themselves make me a little nervous, and they probably make a lot of people nervous, so that relationship of trust that you all are building, is obviously critical. And the phrase, radical transparency, Cassie, that’s a perfect one. That means a ton. In surveying your customers or their anecdotes, cool things that you’re able to share. I’m sure a lot of that’s confidential, but if folks are saying, “Radical transparency” man, that’s an awesome piece of feedback.

Cassandra: [laughter] That might be a little bit of our copywriters being good, but all for it.

Scott: [laughter] I love it.

Cassandra: [laughter] No. But certainly, transparency is one of the things that our customers demand, and that’s one of the reasons that they continue to work with Wise.

Scott: That’s awesome. Another thing you said at the beginning that jumped out to me, and we mentioned it when you and I spoke about a year ago in a different setting, it’s money without borders. We’re all hoping for that. Are customers traveling or people getting out there and spending a little bit more time out and about?

Cassandra: I think so. This has been interesting for Wise, and actually, if anything, this entire pandemic has highlighted the variety of use cases that our customers have. So it actually wasn’t the case that this happened and because people started traveling a lot less, everything crashed. For people who truly have to have their monies work beyond borders… Money work beyond boarders. People actually continued doing that, even if they physically weren’t doing that. So yes. I would say, I do think that our customers are getting back out there, but really their lives did not stop just because the way we were used to doing things did. That was an interesting tidbit of information that we realized throughout this. But yeah, I do think that normalcy, whatever that means now, is becoming a little bit… Is returning a bit.

Scott: Fair point, fair point. And that makes total sense. Cross-border currency transfers aren’t just limited to physical travel, there are other reasons. Well, Cassie, thank you so much for your time. It’s always a pleasure to chat with you. Thank you again for your work with NPR, for being such a committed partner to many publishers in podcasting, and for sharing your thoughts today. Cassandra LaPrairie is the Performance Marketing Lead for Audio at Wise. And I’m Scott Davis, the Senior Vice President for NPR sponsorship at National Public Media. Thank you very much.

Cassandra: Thanks Scott.


Brad Hill