H&R Block's Jill Cress Discusses How to Give Brand Purpose "A Fair Shot"

By ANA InSites Archives
Cover image for  article: H&R Block's Jill Cress Discusses How to Give Brand Purpose "A Fair Shot"

Jill Cress (pictured at top), Chief Marketing and Experience Officer at H&R Block, is a featured speaker at the ANA's upcoming Brand Masters Conference April 26–28 in Bonita Springs, FL. ANA Senior Vice President Mike Kaufman recently sat down with her for a pre-conference interview.

Mike Kaufman: Your brand purpose, "To provide help and inspire confidence in our clients and communities everywhere," notably does not include the word "tax." And that in turn inspired a new brand strategy, leading to the "A Fair Shot" campaign. Was there ever a risk that you might go the other way, be more explicit in your purpose, and put the word in? Was there a debate within the organization over this, and any consideration to re-think the brand purpose instead?

Jill Cress: Many years ago, the word tax was in our mission statement. When our CEO joined in 2017, he wanted to inspire our associates to create a brand that was about much more than tax. We changed from a mission statement (what we do) to a purpose statement (the societal value we create). For many Americans, their tax refund is their largest and most significant financial transaction of the year. It allows them to buy new tires for their car, get ahead on bills, or put a little aside for a rainy day. That's what drives us – to help them with their money in ways that extend far beyond tax.

Kaufman: Yet "A Fair Shot" does have a straight-line connection to your company's benefit, namely helping folks navigate the complexities of our tax system. How important was that connection in developing the campaign, and were there other campaign ideas that did not pass muster?

Cress: When we developed "A Fair Shot," it was in the first year of the NCAA's rule change allowing student athletes to earn income from their Name, Image and Likeness (NIL). We knew there would be thousands of athletes who would not understand the tax consequences of their new income source. As we dove deeper into how we could help student athletes, we uncovered a disparity in the number of sponsorships female student athletes were earning in comparison to their male counterparts. It was the perfect blend of our putting our purpose into action -- helping people navigate tax complexities while also helping solve a societal inequity.

Kaufman: In these tough times for brands and marketers, with the financial downturn and lingering effects of the pandemic, many companies are feeling the pressure to focus on short-term goals rather than long-term brand building, effectively putting brand purpose on the backburner. Yet H&R Block has done the opposite, and leaned in. Was that a tough sell? What would your advice be to other marketers that are feeling that pressure?

Cress: My advice would be that nothing lasting can be built without a strong foundation of brand purpose. For us, there was never a distinct choice between driving business results or brand purpose. They are always inter-woven. "A Fair Shot" helped us gain favorability and trust with Gen Z, and that's a key target for all our services.

Kaufman: There's also a growing wariness among marketers to step into social causes, for fear of alienating a part of their customer base. Was that a discussion, and a calculated risk?

Cress: Every brand must determine what it stands for and this commitment doesn't have to mean being exclusionary. As I shared earlier, the premise of "A Fair Shot" is rooted in our purpose and every customer we serve across all our brands. At H&R Block, we will always stand for causes that give everyone equal footing and support those trying to get ahead.

Kaufman: Of course, we need to talk about results! Can you speak to the campaign KPIs? Were there long and short-term goals? How did it perform in the marketplace?

Cress: The results in the first year exceeded our expectations. We gained favorability and trust with Gen Z, as well as college students' parents. At the time, there were several other brands focused on female college athletes, and our earned media results exceeded those of top, household brands.

Kaufman: And finally, can you speak to the future of the campaign? Is "A Fair Shot" an evergreen effort, or are there other, similar ideas in the queue? That brand purpose statement would seem to be a great platform for other related -- and relevant -- efforts that can "… provide help and inspire confidence …"

Cress: We are launching year two of "A Fair Shot" soon, in ways that are even more inclusive and promote equity for all. In fact, we recently took "A Fair Shot" from an H&R Block marketing moment to a movement. This is just the beginning. There are so many ways H&R Block impacts people's lives throughout the year. We know living out your purpose resonates with all Americans. People want to work with brands whose values match their own. There are many ways we'll be bringing our purpose to life in the future.

Click the social buttons to share this story with colleagues and friends.
The opinions expressed here are the author's views and do not necessarily represent the views of MediaVillage.com/MyersBizNet.

Copyright ©2024 MediaVillage, Inc. All rights reserved. By using this site you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.