Huber Engineering's Most Innovative Campaigns
Laura Madden: Hey, everybody. Thank you for joining us for this episode of Level Up, the podcast for marketers by marketers, created by Lev, that distills best practices and strategies focused on helping marketers increase their experience, one up their strategy and grow personally and professionally. My name is Laura Madden, and I am the senior manager of marketing strategy and services here at Lev. And today we have a very special guest with us, Ms. Jenna Giles, associate principal digital designer. Hey there, Jenna.
Jenna Giles: Thanks, Laura. Happy to be here chatting with you guys. For those who don't know, I'm part of Lev's creative services team and I've been here for just about three years now. My background's in graphic design and marketing, so those are the two areas that I really tie together here at Lev. Our team generally gets pulled in on projects, any project that requires a creative eye. So we do a lot of email strategy, landing pages, digital ads, a little bit of UX design and basically if you're working with Lev on a digital deliverable and there's a visual component or a branded element, that's where we come in.
Laura Madden: Fantastic. And we're also joined by Jordan Kraus. Hey, Jordan.
Jordan Kraus: Hey, I am a client success partner, and have been supporting this client for the last year here. So happy to be here.
Laura Madden: Dream team. And Jordan and I can't make any promises that we won't make drag race references on this podcast. It might happen, and you just have to be okay with it. But our icebreaker is not about drag race, at least it's not intended to be. As we're talking about for this podcast, the most innovative campaigns and we're thinking about creative and how to level up, we wanted to start thinking about some innovations that we've seen out in the space that were successful or maybe not so successful. And when we were prepping for this podcast, the one that came to mind for everyone was clear Pepsi, we all said it at the same time, and I really don't know if we got to whether or not we thought it was successful or failed. I think it's just one of those things that pops in everybody's mind so maybe it was successful because it's on the tip of your tongue or it's on top of mind. So no publicity is bad publicity, I don't know. And then we just went down a food route. I don't know Jordan's like, " Yes, food."
Jordan Kraus: Well, the next one we were talking about there is Taco Bell and Domino's. I brought up Domino's because Domino's considers themselves to be a technology company. If you were to Google Domino's, they make large technology investments and one of those investments right now is self- driving cars to deliver pizzas. Taco Bell was coming up with a few new concepts. They have their cantinas that can sell alcoholic beverages along with their regular menu. And then they also have this new concept that they were piloting, which was a new delivery mechanism. And if you remember going to the bank and seeing those air tubes where when you would go through the drive- through, you would pull out the canister, put your money and information in it, and then it would be sucked up the tube over to your teller, who would do whatever business it was that is being done. Taco Bell had a very similar concept for how they were going to deliver all of their to go meals that you would pay and order through the menu as you usually would, but you would receive the food through the same air system. And so I just thought that for some reason that was the first thing that came to mind when we were thinking about cool innovation that we've seen.
Laura Madden: That's so wild.
Jenna Giles: It's kind of all designed to have us not ever talk to each other again because the Taco Bell closest to me, you already, you can't walk up to the counter and order. You have to use the little touchpad and order that way. So essentially the only part you're interacting with another human is when they're giving your food. So I guess if it's coming through a tube, you just never see another human again.
Jordan Kraus: Very efficient. Well, that leads to the last one that I had was top of mind was Pokemon Go. If you remember before the pandemic, when Pokemon Go first came out, it was a huge cultural social movement that people were reconnecting in new ways by using this virtual reality technology to catch Pokemon and meet up in person. And then Pokemon recently said that they were going to develop a sleep app where based on how good your sleep is, how your REM cycle is without interruptions that you would collect Pokemon. And so Morning Brew came out with an article that asked the question, " Is Pokemon a health company now?" They're getting us to exercise and they're rewarding our positive sleep. And so that was another innovative product concept that I was thinking of.
Jenna Giles: The original Pokemon kids have aged out of playing with the cars and stuff so now it's just like, " Are you okay?"
Laura Madden: We're old and cranky and go to bed at eight o'clock. And so they want to check on us.
Jordan Kraus: Pokemon blood pressures, Pokemon vitals. Yeah.
Laura Madden: Orthopedic shoes.
Jenna Giles: I feel like the only technology I can think of that used to be bad and then got good during the pandemic specifically was QR codes are useful now. And do you remember when they first came out and you had to have a specific reader for them and they were just posted in the weirdest spots like a billboard driving down the highway, please don't, don't do that. But then they got really useful for menus and stuff, so I actually interact with them all the time whereas back in the day I used to see one and just cringe, this is never going to take off. But then it kind of did-
Laura Madden: You're so right. You're so right.
Jenna Giles: ... in unfortunate circumstances, butnow they make sense.
Laura Madden: I remember working, I worked at a jewelry company and we still had catalogs. They still have them now, and it was when QR codes were starting to be interesting and they were starting to use them and again, not really the best place for it. If I'm reading a catalog, you can just go find what you need. I don't know. But they had QR codes for go to this specific page for rings or bracelets or whatever. And I remember there were some older people on their mailing list and someone interpreted that as I needed to cut out the QR code and she mailed it in, and I don't know what she thought-
Jenna Giles: Oh no.
Laura Madden: ...she was getting out of that. Maybe she thought it was entry into a sweepstakes or something, I don't know. But bless her heart, we got a QR code in the mail and we were like, " Okay, I don't know what to do with this." So maybe that lady now embraces the QR code. Who knows? Who knows?
Jordan Kraus: I'm with the boomers on QR codes. I want a physical menu. If I go to a restaurant and they hand me a physical menu, I'm like, wow, what a high scale restaurant. Fancy.
Jenna Giles: I don't want to touch the menus anymore. I'm like-
Laura Madden: There's that.
Jenna Giles: ...what is this? Especially if it's like a bar. I'm like what is this sticky mess you just handed me, give me the QR code?
Laura Madden: This is true. This is true. Yeah. All right. Well, clearly we could talk about innovations, specifically food related innovations all day, but we are not here to talk about that. We are here to talk about Huber, and I am so glad that I have Jordan and Jenna here because I really didn't know much about Huber and why they would be so innovative and why we want to talk about them for a whole podcast, but clearly they're awesome. So Jordan, can you just give us a elevator pitch on who Huber is?
Jordan Kraus: Yes, I can. So Huber Engineered Woods, they are in the construction industry. They create innovative specialty products for subflooring, subflooring adhesive. They also have some copyrighted technology for roof and wall sheathing for both residential and commercial builders. And ultimately their focus is improved performance of these products, easy installation, greater strength. And so what is really interesting about the story that we're telling today is how we're trying to bring their marketing communications up to meet how innovative the product offering is that they have.
Laura Madden: That sounds amazing. Sounds like you guys had a really great opportunity that you identified because of that relationship that you guys had. So I know Jordan, you kind of brought in the team. Can you talk to us about how Jenna came into the fold?
Jordan Kraus: Yeah, I think strategy recognized right away that Huber was not meeting the same innovation of their product and that's when we decided to pull in strategy. We had a marketing strategist involved at the time who saw an opportunity for some creative support. And I forget how this exactly came about. Jenna, I know you got pulled in from Susan. How did this opportunity come about and how did you recommend the change that you saw to Huber?
Jenna Giles: Yeah, so yeah, Susan on the marketing strategy team, she was already working with them. They were working on just some email journey strategy. So she was doing all of, working all her magic on their journeys, but she just recognized that there was an opportunity to not only enhance those journeys and figure out whose seeing what and when, but to actually just enhance the emails themselves. So their emails were filled with so much good content. Like you were saying, Huber has just so many good resources and fantastic content. And so as she was working on that, it just recognized that their emails were filled with great stuff, but no one was able to get the message. So it was just maybe not aligning with their brand. It was the messaging that was all over the place and things like that. So that's the kind of point in most projects when we'll have other teammates, we get a lot of projects that come to us like this. We'll have our other fantastic teammates will be on projects and they'll just recognize an area where either some creative polish could come in handy or some strategy or best practices. So she recognized that was a good opportunity for us, and she just brought us in that way. And so we were initially just going to, because she was working on I think the welcome journey. So we initially were just going to take a look at the welcome journey and just redesign, mock up some of those emails. And so we did a little mini creative audit, looked at what they were sending, how much content they were sending, who they were sending it to, what it looked like, where it linked to, things like that. So we redesigned that journey for them and it ended up just kind of, I don't know, snowballing from there. So we started out with that one project, and I think probably my favorite part of the project was early stages when our client saw the work we did with the welcome journeys, our redesign mock ups, and she was like, " Okay, well I love these so much." And she's like, " Now we can't send the rest of our emails because our welcome emails look so good, so we can't send our other emails looking the way they look now." So that just opened things up for us. So started out as a smaller project and then just like I said, snowballed from there. So we just recognized that there were more opportunities to make their emails match up with the caliber of content that they were sending. So then, let's see, we went from welcome journey to took a step back after that and decided let's not individually design every email that you have. Let's do what we refer to as an email template project, which is essentially a library of content blocks that you'll use to mix and match to put together any of your emails. So there'll be different headers you can use and just body copy and just different content blocks. So it'll be just a library, like I said, of content blocks that you can stack together and intermix to create honestly, an endless combination of designs for your emails. So that's what we put together for them and we ended up designing a ton of emails from it. We did some re- permission emails, we did some event things. We did a lot of drip campaigns for them, so for each of their products when you sign up and get a sample, so you get put into a drip campaign. So we helped them put those together, but all of it super easy and straightforward because we took that step back and created that foundation of the email template.
Laura Madden: Jenna, that all sounds so amazing, and I've seen some of the work. I know that it's featured on the Lev blog that I think we'll link with this podcast, but some of that does feel like just our standard awesomeness that we deliver for all of our clients from a creative perspective. But I know that this really felt innovative to you, to the client. Can you talk a little bit about why this feels so innovative to you as a project and as a whole?
Jenna Giles: Yeah, no, you're right. Essentially what we gave them were nice emails, but honestly what was innovative about it was Huber themselves. So really our whole goal was to take their super innovative products and just their whole business model in general and just get that in front of people. So just the fact that, like I said, they had so much good content when we first started learning about them. I learned so much about their business and their industry, a lot of it through copywriting and just designing their emails, but they're truly redefining their industry. They've got... They're out there making products that are, they're like invented a product that one product will replace three other products and it instantly becomes industry standard. So they're already just doing innovative stuff. So they really didn't need us to do anything wild and crazy. We just needed to get them a system that was simple, clean, easy to use, that got those innovative ideas in front of their audience because honestly, they're not like... They're really not what you would expect from a company in the construction industry, or at least not what I would've expected. They're very cutting edge. I don't know if you guys saw the video I sent you of one of their products, but their videos are super intense and fantastic. They're honestly... They're like construction Marvel trailers with all the special effects and stuff that's going into them, but they're like real serious stuff going on over there. So we just saw all of that and we're looking at their emails and we're like, "These are just not matching up. The caliber of work that you do in your products and then you're sending out these emails that are super basic. They're not mobile responsive, they're hard to navigate. The message isn't super clear. There's no fun areas for all of your video content and all of your fantastic blog content with industry experts and personal stories of projects that they've used things on. So yeah, we did design this template specifically with all their really innovative content in mind. So honestly what we put together was really just a shell for them. So they were really the ones bringing the innovation there and we just found the best solution for how to show that off.
Laura Madden: Yeah, sounds like you guys were really able to again, give them that foundation to flourish on their own and be able to do that. And I know that that's what we end up doing a lot with those template systems and those iterative email systems is to allow them to be versatile and not have to do all of that manual work. And I know that there's just so many different benefits to that in terms of just the basics, minimizing the risk of design mistakes, or you're just going fast and loose with things and building a custom whereas if you have that system, it's a lot more plug and play. It can prevent those rendering issues that you can see across mobile and desktop, make sure that they're all mobile responsive. So there's just so many great benefits to that. Increased efficiency, better inbox placement, the list just keeps going on and on. So that in and of itself, I feel like helps them be a lot more innovative and to do their thing without having to worry about all of those basic elements that you might get caught up in. So I think that's just super cool.
Jenna Giles: Yeah, for all those reasons that you just said, If anyone's been on a project with me, you'll know I will scream from the rooftops the benefits of starting from a template with your emails rather than starting from scratch each time. But for all the reasons you said, it's so much easier. It's so much more efficient. It's a little bit more work on the front end because obviously, it takes some time to get. We're not just handing out generic email template systems. They're always very much tailored to the client and what their content is and what their audience is, how often they're sending things like that. So we put a lot of research and work into them when we put them together, but at the end of the day, it makes it so more people on your team can create emails, they're not reliant on someone being able to hand code everything. So yeah, just super versatile, efficient, and scalable. They keep your branding from, you know... You never want to have any of those human errors where someone's gotten a color code wrong or size something incorrectly. So they just prevent a lot of that. And I know a lot of people hear the word template and they think, "Oh, okay. That's probably super boring or it's too following a grid or doesn't allow enough room for design elements." But we always design them in a way where depending on how you combine those different content blocks, you can actually do some really creative stuff there and you can almost break the template almost where visually you would never guess that what you were looking at in your inbox is actually coming from a pretty standard looking template, but there's some really creative stuff that you can do with them. So while it's in a sense like we're putting parameters on it almost gives you more possibilities there because there's just so many different ways that you can combine those things. So yeah, we super pro template around here.
Jordan Kraus: I think all the benefits you laid out are things I've heard a hundred times-
Jenna Giles: Yeah, probably from me.
Jordan Kraus: Probably from you. Yeah, probably from you. The peace of mind of having Q8 components already for you, the ability to drag and drop content and put it together. And I hear too what you're saying about there's still a lot of creativity that can be unlocked with the template system, but I think it's still important that we simplify emails for our customers so they know what the email looks like typically from this brand, how it's structured, that it's easy to read with just enough information. So I feel like even though it might feel like you're putting some boundaries around your email, that could also create a really good relationship with your customer to have an understanding of what they might expect to see from you.
Jenna Giles: Yeah, yeah, and we didn't have to do this with Huber, but a lot of the clients who really benefit from the template projects are ones where they're doing image-only emails, and that's like absolutely the biggest no-no. It's 2023. Everyone's looking at their emails on their phone. If they're not looking at them on their phone, they're going to be very soon, so let's get ready for that. And image-only emails just don't work that well. They're not mobile responsive; They're not accessible; They're just so many problems with them. And coming from... When I started my career, most of what I was doing was in print so I understand why we want everything to look exactly the way we want it to look at all times. With print, you know, you made a design, you printed it, and that's what it looks like. It's never going to change. You're going to be seeing it always in the same format. But when it's digital and you're thinking of what of the many, many devices is somebody going to see this on. We'll have to have those conversations. There's sometimes hard conversations with clients where we're trying to steer them away from those image-based emails and letting them know this could look. This could be the most beautiful thing in the world, but if it's not easy to use. If the message can't get across, if your audience is not seeing it, if it's too small or if they have images turned off or whatever, then it doesn't matter how beautiful it is. We've got to take a couple of steps towards thinking of how people are going to interact with it and making sure we're getting our message across. So I always try to empathize with people who are struggling to let that go and be like, "Listen, as a graphic designer myself, I understand that part, but we've got to find a way to do just as beautiful designs, but in a way where they're scalable and they're accessible and they just can be viewed beautifully on no matter what device we're looking at."
Jordan Kraus: For folks who are not in email marketing day-to-day, when they hear image-based email, they might think an email that has heavy images, that has a lot of images. Can you explain what an image-based email is and why it's not best practice?
Jenna Giles: Yeah, yeah, so obviously we want images in emails for sure. It's rare unless it's a transactional email or something that where we're like, don't put any images here. So it's not that. It's when you are taking your entire email and it's almost like one poster. So it's all the text is embedded within the image, it's backgrounds, it's images, it's text, it's CTAs, it's fine print, it's all of these things and they're all embedded in single flat images, which sounds great. Honestly, if you were to always view them on a desktop, then they're going to look nice. But as I said, if someone has images turned off, you'd be surprised by how many people still have images turned off in their emails. The numbers are still just shockingly high, especially for people who use Outlook. There's a lot of people who just have images turned off because they're opening them in their work emails. I think even we have images turned off in our Outlook emails by default so you would have to choose to turn them on. And a lot of people just don't do that. Depending on the age group of your audience, there's just a huge, huge percentage of people that's not going to see images. So while we want you to use them, we want them to complement the content instead of housing it all within them. So we'll recommend that people pull out important headlines and use live HTML texts for that. Calls to action not be embedded within emails because then we're going to make sure that even if your images are turned off, the message is still coming across.
Jordan Kraus: I think this is a great example, and it also reminds me of some of the things we talked about in our very first podcast about, I think it was Laura, your quote about email being a revenue driver. And so I think that when we think about image-based emails, I get some of these myself where the entire email is a picture and the picture is all left justified on my phone and the text is so tiny I can try to zoom into it. But again, the entire email is a picture. So we're, as marketers, we're not able to see what links they're engaging with on that image. It's not mobile-responsive. We're not able to understand what are the highest ranking components of this email, and therefore your strategy is very limited when in reality your email instead of just blasting out communication to all of your audience really should be a two-way conversation where you're giving them the information you think they need, they're engaging in the information they're interested in, and now you have a little bit of data on your user to help inform a more personalized experience. And this personally is why I love our strategy and creative team. I think that what our strategy and creative teams bring are different. It is our competitive edge because we do so much more than just implementing Marketing Cloud. We actually... Or implementing any software. We're actually able to take your goals and tie them into the work itself. So I guess, Jenna, in your own words, aside from my client success, Lev for a strategy because I feel like it helps bring these ideas to life, what do you think makes our creative team and strategy team so special? And what could the creative team and strategy team do for folks or listeners who are wondering what they could do for them?
Jenna Giles: Oh man, I feel like our strategy team and our creative team... We come from so many different backgrounds and we have so much experience in different industries and in the creative department we come from both in-house and agencies and just have so much different experience there where we're bringing that to us. Even if it's a project that's maybe not similar, but we're taking those lessons and we're applying them there. We've got experience in, like I said, graphic design, marketing, advertising... I know the MarCons have all kinds of additional experience on top of that. But yeah, we're just, especially for the creative team we're not, you don't always see a creative team, honestly, in a company as tech-focused as we are. So that can be often just really black and white, like that can be only data-focused and things like that. But being able to just work side by side with people who are doing such cool things that are, like I said, focused around the data and just learning from them... They're learning from us. We're coming up with new ideas all the time of how to work those two things in together and marry creative and tech together. I just think it's something you don't always see. So a lot of times, like I said, so many of our projects come in from other projects that are already going on that thought that they had nothing to do with creative and then turns out that they do. So like I said, if it's got any sort of visual component or branding to it whatsoever, there's a good chance that we can help you either polish that or come up with a new strategy or just any number of things related to creative.
Laura Madden: Yeah, and what I love about our creative team is that I always say this is a group of design consultants. You guys are not just designers who go off, make something beautiful, come back, don't talk about it. I don't know, maybe you don't talk to people, maybe you're like the Taco Bell of it all, but that's not the case. You guys do come with the thought process behind it, and it's more than just best practices. It's really just like, I understand what you are trying to accomplish from a holistic, strategic perspective, and let me help you activate that through your creative and whatever channel that is. And so it's that true design consulting that, like you said, it might feel a little strange to have at a tech-focused company, but we're MarTech and strategy and that's where that design element comes in. So I think all of our fantastic design consultants are so good at that. And just opening up so many windows for, windows, doors, all the portals for our clients.
Jenna Giles: We've said many times to the designers on our team, it absolutely mortifies us the idea of just making something pretty just for the sake of making it pretty. So if there's no strategy behind it, goals behind it, thought process behind it, research behind it, that's not doing anyone any favors. So just the fact that we've all got backgrounds in advertising, marketing, just general things like that to really be the foundation of our designs, I think is really what drives us.
Jordan Kraus: I want to think about what we can learn from this Huber customer story, especially because for some folks a template system might seem like table stakes. It might not feel that innovative. And really what we're saying here today is that it is. And so I'm curious from your perspective, Laura and Jenna, what can we learn from this story of innovation and where can other marketers start when they're trying to find ways that they can be innovative?
Laura Madden: Yeah, I can start there. I think part of it is just defining what innovation means to you because it's not going to mean the same thing for every person. It sounds cliche to think about the crawl, walk, run, but cliches are that way for a reason. So thinking about innovation for you might be table stakes for others, and that's okay because you have to get to that table stake spot before you get to the super innovation spot. We have something that we walk a lot of our clients through that we talk through the marketing maturity curve and it's like five different steps and it's going from basic really to more automated, to segmented, to personalized, and then the last step, the nirvana is the machine learning, AI, all of that good stuff. And I think that is seen as innovative for a lot of people and for a long time that is like, oh yeah, we'd really love to get there, but that's not realistic. That's our end goal. But we're really going to set our sights on three because that's where we want to go. Now we could talk, I think we do have a whole other podcast about how AI is a little bit more tangible now and more within reach, but just picking where you want to go for innovation and maybe the steps you need to take to get there is going to be key. So maybe it is those table stakes and that's okay because that's right for you. It doesn't have to be what your neighbor, what your competitor, what everybody else is doing. So that's really where I would start out with the innovation of it all. Jenna, what are your thoughts?
Jenna Giles: I agree with everything you said. That's why we don't hand out generic templates and emails and things to clients because honestly what we gave to Huber was what they needed based on their products and their audience. So yeah, we wouldn't have given them the same product that we would've given someone else. So it was very much based on we looked at their products and their content and like I said, all those great videos and resources that they had and we're like, what is the best way for us to present this to their audience? And that was the best way for them. So will there be something else super exciting and innovative down the road that they'll want to probably add on to that? Very likely, and we hope so and excited to see where they grow from what we've given them. But that was just the best fit for them.
Laura Madden: And I think one thing we touched on, but it's worth reiterating is looking at your metrics and making sure that all of these decisions are data-driven and performance-based. So not doing innovation for the sake of it, kind of like the idea that, " Oh, my emails could look super cool, but then all of a sudden it tanks my clickthrough rate or no one is purchasing anymore." So some of that innovation might just come from little tweaks and testing that you're doing to improve those KPIs, and that's what innovation means to you. So innovation doesn't always have to be the flashiest biggest award-winning thing. Yes, that would be amazing, but innovation could just be, " Hey, guess what? We've reached our growth goals and we made our C-suite happy." That's great. That's a win for everybody. So making sure that you're looking at those metrics and making sure your innovation matches up with that is going to be big. Jordan, I see that you're nodding ferociously. I feel like you are team dat- driven.
Jordan Kraus: I just, I think that is so well said. I think also in technology, I think people implement technology for technology's sake without any goals around the technology. Oftentimes it's how you end up overinvesting in some software. And so that's why I'm back here clapping. That's it. That's the point. Have a north star or have some sort of goal, and just because that's always how it's been done doesn't mean that it has to continue to always be that way. So get a fresh pair of eyes, and pull in a consultant like ourselves. Even if you just want an opinion and you're not sure that you necessarily need the help, I think it's important to stay on top of that and with your customer's experience at the heart. Thank you for joining us for this episode of Level Up, looking to continue to level up your knowledge on the latest news, technology, and marketing trends affecting marketers day-to-day. Stay tuned for future episodes of Level Up with new episodes coming out every Thursday on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. Until next time, thank you for leveling up your marketing knowledge with us.
Ensuring your marketing strategy is innovative can feel overwhelming as it can take a massive amount of creativity and problem-solving. But innovations can be small and build on top of each other to craft truly innovative and unique customer experiences.
In this Level Up episode, our special guest Jenna Giles (Associate Principal Digital Designer) joins Laura Madden (Sr. Manager of Marketing Strategy and Services) and Jordan Kraus(Client Success Partner) to discuss how Lev and Huber Engineering worked together to use Huber Engineering's dynamic, innovative content to create hyper-personalized email campaigns.