Soul & Science
Soul & Science

Season 1, Episode · 5 months ago

S1 Episode 6: LendingTree CMO & Customer Experience Officer Shiv Singh | How Trust Builds Powerful Brands


LendingTree Chief Marketing & Customer Experience Officer Shiv Singh joins Jason this week to discuss how he's harnessing the power of trust in our post-trust world.

Shiv joined LendingTree in January 2022 from The Expedia Group, where he served as SVP and General Manager for the world-class travel brand, charged with driving brand loyalty and long-term customer value amid the coronavirus pandemic. Previously, Singh worked as CMO for med-tech startup Eargo, successfully repositioning the brand during a crucial high-growth period for the business. Singh's impressive career also includes senior leadership positions at Visa, PepsiCo and Razorfish. As an entrepreneur Shiv also had his own consultancy as well. Shiv has been inducted into the American Advertising Federation Hall of Achievement. He has been recognized by Forbes as a Forbes Next CMO, Ad Age as a Media Maven, Business Insider as a Payments Industry Game Changer, Adweek as a Top 50 Marketer (twice), and The Internationalist as a Top 100 Influential Leader. He is also the the author of two award-winning social media and marketing books, Savvy - Navigating Fake Companies, Fake Leaders and Fake News and Social Media Marketing for Dummies

Brought to you by Mekanism

I always wondered if marketing lives in the heart or in the head. Should you trust your instinct or your integers? Often the answers both, but should you lead with one more than the other? So bring your heart and your head and join us in the conversation this week. I'm joined by shift sing, chief marketing and customer experience officer and lending tree. Ship joined lending tree in January of this year, so he's really new to the team and he came from the Expedia Group, where he served as SVP and general manager for the World Class Travel Brand, charge with driving brand loyalty and long term customer value amid the coronavirus pandemic, a challenge for sure, which we'll talk about. Previously, ship worked at CMO FOR MEDTECH START UP Ergo, successfully repositioning the brand during a crucial high growth period for the business. His impressive career include senior leadership positions at visa, Pepsico and the agency razorfish. Ship's been inducted into the American Advertising Federation Hall of Achievement. He's been recognized by Forbes as a Forbes next CMO AD age as a medium maven business insider, as a payments industry game changer, Ad Week as a top fifty marketer twice. So I guess that put you in the top twenty five and the internationalist as a top one hundred influential leader. The last asked. And finally, he is the author of to award winning Social Media and marketing books, savvy navigating fake companies, fake leaders and fake news, and social media marketing for dummies, which is a classic. Today's episode theme is how trust builds the most powerful brands. What a resume. Thanks for joining US shift. We appreciate you being here. Before we get into trust, I want to start with your origin story, because you've worked with some of the biggest brands in the world and I want to know a lot of people in marketing and advertising are either, happens, dance marketers or, like me, I wanted to be an advertising since I was about fourteen, and so I wonder how your story morphed into where you are today in the hall of fame, really wellknown CMO and author. Did you always think about marketing or how did how did that happen to you? Yeah, I know. Thanks for the question, Jason. I've got to admit I did not think about marketing. What I did think about though, which is it comes through in my background as well, as I always wanted to be a rite to like from the time I started writing, I never wanted to stop writing, and even now I've won my team's I'm not pios and that bosses the occasions when I will write an email that's just too long, and don't mind. I apologize an advance for that. So my my passion, the way I think, who I am wired, is as a writing. As a writer I did. I wrote short fiction when I was in high school. I went to a business university, but I did my honors thesis in Writing Fiction. I've written two books since then and what I love about the world of marketing is I get to bring my writing side, the the idea of expression, the idea of formulating strong thoughts, the the the idea of making an argument, making a case for something and bringing to out to the world in different forms. So I come to the table very much so as a writer. Now how I got into marketing? I would say that was more by chance. I entered the workforce in one thousand nine hundred and ninety nine, when the intent the internet boom was exploding and we were all excited about everything Internet and I saw the power...

...of digital technology changing our lives for the future and I just wanted to be a part of it. I didn't have the right kind of skills to be a technologist and didn't want to be, but I wanted to be a part of this tectonic shift that was happening in the world around us. So I joined an agency. I started doing news experience design and getting custom experiences, but one thing led to another. I did Grad School Research and social network theory and I and I ended up as a full time monitor. Amazing. And do you feel like you still scratch enough of that writing it now never enough enough, okay, I mean I go to bed every night thinking in my head about my next book. That's amazing. I mean I spent three years on a book. I never really wanted to be a writer and author. I thought I had a point of view and something to say, which is why I did it. And it is a real wrestling match to get something like that done. So I am and I'm inspired that you still have that it's too scratch and you still love writing, because it is. It is is really hard work. I think your category experience is really vast and broad, from financial to travel, sort of starting really and CPG. Also entrepreneurial, starting starting your own thing as well, which I know to get clients as as an entrepreneur as well, you're building trust with the clients you work with and and the brands you work with. And then when you're a CMO and you think about your your consumer and your core audience, all those categories that you work in do rely on consumer trust and do you have a I don't know, values or guidelines or some way that when you come into a corporation, you you say, well, we have to build trust and this is this is sort of the way I do it. Yeah, so the short answers yes, and it comes from two different strains in my background. The first was I did graduate school at the London School of Economics and my grand research was in social network theory with an emphasis on what makes information travel and what makes people receive and absorb information and trust as a very big piece of that. It's do they trust the sender? Do they trust format? Do they trust that the context? Do they do they have a long term history of trust with that, that that other party that is a big part of it. So I draw a lot of inspiration from from that work, how information travels and social networks. But the other piece was, as I wrote the book, Savvy and navigating fake news and fake leaders and fake companies. I actually went back and did a whole lot of research in trust theory and I'm a big believer, and those who studied psychology and and trust would appreciate this. I'm a big believer in the Moreton Joyce Philosophy. So he's considered the father of a modern day theory on trust and it's the whole idea that a trust is built on the premise that you believe you're going to get something in return for what you give and what you expect. So it's quite simply that your expectations match reality and we trust people and things if our expectations keep matching the reality of what we experience again and again. and to build that trust you have to take what's called a trust leap. I joined this podcast with certain assumptions of what it would be like. I hadn't had...

...any experience of doing a podcast with you, Jason. That was a trust leap. I took the fact that it matches my expectation means I'm going to trust you again and I'll do another podcast with with you. I mean that's a fewer to have me. So that basic premise goes through the heart of how I think about trust and it has a very direct influence on how I think about brand building in the future, especially because we live in a hypertransparent world and when you wrote savvy and that idea and then you did research on trust and we live in we live in there this fake news, Post Trust era, but it is at the same time all about transparency. How is that today different than maybe in the past? Yeah, so so. Firstly, the some of the the challenges with with fake news and missing information onto new there. They've been around a long time. You know. My favorite example is when Massachusetts was a colony in the British Empire, the Governor of Massachusetts capablemission for the first newspaper in the United States to be published, but three weeks after it's publishing he shut it down because he felt it was just full of too much fake news. So everything we talked about today, and whether it's on the fake new side or building trust with with brands and businesses, there's a long history of it. What has changed, though, is the Internet has put everything on steroids. So the way information travels and while there's hypertransparency, I get to see everything, it doesn't mean it's any more trusted or believable. In fact, there's also so much more information that it's become much harder to discern, you know, fact from fiction, truth from lies. So that's one big piece that's happening. The other thing that has changed, and this makes a very hard for marketing, for brand building, for for just being good members of society, is we have retreated to our echo chambers. are wonderful q tribes where everybody, and I'm generalizing, but where everybody looks and sounds like us and things like us, and we get into a feeding frenzy where we keep opping one each other on more and more extreme opinions. And unfortunately it is social media platforms that enable and allow and inadvertently encourage this. This has massive implications for brand building, because for a brand to do well it has to penetrate those tribes or those those echo chambers. But when you penetrate those echo chambers, you have to be careful of what you may find. You may realize Oh, my gosh, a'Mana space where I don't want my brand to be. It's not a Ligne to our purpose. It's not aligned to our own value system. I always think about you know, the psychologist Jonathan Height has this famous line that the human mind is a story processor, not a logic processor. And when we think about trust and building trust, stories are stickier than just facts and logic and data. Right. How does that correlate with with trust and transparency? So I I think it's incredibly important. I think you know, we we run our lives through the Lens of stories. Without a doubt, I I think stories are a mechanism with which to build trust, sustain trust, to to put context around trust and to to to make trust, make us appreciate it,...

...appreciate a trusted piece of information. where I think we have a really interesting dichotomy in our world today is, whether it's in the Lens of marketing or more broadly, we've got an obsessed and fascinated with data and because there's a lot of it and you can put it in a spread shade or you can put an algorithm against it or an AI processor and it will spit out an easy answer. The problem with that is it often lacks the context, in lacks the storytelling to give it meaning. You know, we're we're irrational people and as a result, you you you run the risk, if you're incorporation, of building a brand where you're buying your customers again and again versus earning a deeper, more emotionally rich shared relationship. And I'll give you an example. I don't drive a Volvo, but I'll always like a Volvo and at some point in my future I will probably buy a Volvo the car, and the reason for that is when I was young my dad drove a Volvo and they tell me stories about why he likes the car and the and I have memories of the places we'd go together in that. That's submit. That's a story. You know, in my life today there's very little data that that comes out of that that mockter can use and say, let's go off to shave and talk at people like him to to sell more Volvo calls to but but it's deep. They have a deep connection with it. Yeah, and I always think about that idea that great companies don't give us something to buy. Great companies give us something to believe in. It's got to be something bigger, a bigger mythology, a bigger story that you're trying to to talk to the customer about. And when you think about the financial category and trust, is that a particularly challenging category that consumers trust less than other categories? Or is that because you're dealing with money? Is it somehow easier to build trust with a consumer, or is it, or is it ultimately harder because it's financial? Yeah, so I looked at this really carefully, especially when I was at Advisa, because I was responsible for the brand for a few years while I was there, and what I discovered is consumers really trusted their banks and they really trusted payment networks like visa, and it was because the banks did exactly what they thought they would do for them, you know. So if I go back to that more enjoycee definition of expectations matching reality. However, while the banks were trusted, there was no love, there was no met there was no storytelling, there was no deep affinity. The banks were invariably reduced to utilities in their minds and in the minds of the consumers. So it was a case of High Trust, low myth and therefore not enough hot which made less loyalty and the only reason why consumers wouldn't move across bank so across financial companies. It was just a no share. Like I use the same bank I originally signed up for when I was in college and it's just effort to move it off. It's not tied to any greater connection with that specific brand. So that's where trust can in some instances not matter.

Actually, I mean the trust is good. You always want trust, but it's not enough. You can have high trust but low connection to right. You need both of those things. And so when you think about lending tree, which is a real you know we've had this discussion. Is it a legacy brand? Is it a challenger brand? How do you see your charter and the way you're gonna move this brand forward between that idea of like short term and long term? There's performance marketing. That's getting new customers. You know, if there's churn, you're always kind of filling like it's like a train, a cold train. You're always like putting the call to keep the train going. But at the same time you need to carve out a bigger idea for the brand that people can believe in that's not just purely transactional. has to mean something bigger. How do you sort of see that approach? And maybe it's a modern marketing mixed question, but how do you see that? Obviously you're you're you're pretty new there, so you're sorting it out, but you have sort of a mindset of how you're going to build lending tree into a great brand. Their few things that that really mattered to me. So the first is I think every brand should wake up every morning with the mindset that they all challenge of brand. You don't see yourself that way, the next couple of years are going to be incredibly difficult. That's the first piece. The second is, you know, with lending tree, I'm incredibly humbled and excited to be working on the team because this is a brand that it's been around for twenty six years, it's served more than a hundred million customers and it works like a highly predictable machine and and that's that's just incredible. It now needs to complement that incredible performance marketing with much with a much higher sense of purpose and a much stronger brand voice than it may have needed to in the past, because to go from that hundred million customers, you know, and the thirty or fifty billion in service loans to doubling that. It takes the rational and the irrational side of human interactions. What we're going to do, and what we are doing, is we're attacking it simultaneously across multiple areas. We're making up performance marketing more brand centric. So you know, the the the challenge I've put to my performance marketers is I want you to keep delivering the amazing, phenomenal results that you have, but you also have to check these five boxes from a brand standpoint. To it every creative, every message, every line, every word that's that's in that performance marketing. That's one side to it. The other side to it is we're going back to our roots to really understand what makes lending tree lending tree. It has incredible high aided awareness. Whoever I talk to you about lending tree, they know of the brand. The third piece is, and working with my peers at lending tree, is to really hone in on the customer benefits through the Lens of product and brand innovation. And we're going to do that as well, because they in a day and age where all consumers they've just come out of covid they couldn't be a greater dicotomy between Wall Street and Main Street. People are struggling financially. We're entering a high mortgage rates environment. It's no one wants to deal with their finances, but we're feeling that pressure. We're making these wonderful life choices of around the great resignation, but we...

...wake up on morning and realize, Oh my God, I feel so proud. I resigned from a job I did like, but now I don't know how to manage my finances. So there's a lot going on in the world. We have a unique and powerful role in helping and Advising and guiding and supporting people through that and helping them win financially, and that's what we're going to do and it's be will be product innovation, brand innovation, going to the roots of our business of how lending tree began, and then also making performance marketing and brand marketing stop working in silence but working as one. I love that answer. Its super clear. You have a really clear plan and road map and the thing I picked up on there is because my question was going to be it seems like there's the heart in the head and the performance marketing piece, to transactional pieces hamming along and you're going to kind of add the brand piece or the hard piece or the story piece to it, to the mix, but you're also saying to the the data performance piece, you're going to put some heart into that as well. So it's not it's not just separating the head in the heart. It's kind of it. That has to be present in both both places. Absolutely, I mean that's that's when the magic happens and that's where I want my performance marketers to K as deeply about the brand as my brand lead and vice versa. And the way I think about it, you know that's my wife married me not just for my head or my heart. I want to believe it was for both. That's what makes us whole. And, coincidentally, my wife is the court of Savvy, so we worked on that together. So all the trust conversations happened in the house as well. Here's a soulful question for you as an author and writer. That plays as a CMO, because the first thing you said was you're a writer. Are you reading anything right now, fiction or non fiction, that is inspiring you? Yes, I am, and I mean, I should cave added that I'm I just about finished listening to it because I've been on the road quite a bit. It's called the splendid and the vial and and it's a it's a book about Winston Churchill during the battle of Britain and his leadership quality. So this was in the context of World War Two, when the Germans were bombing London and when the United Kingdom thought America was not going to enter the war and they were the the lost one standing, so to speak, against the you know, against Hitler. And it's an incredible story of leadership, of the untidiness of humanity, how we all have our weaknesses and and how how we can learn to rise to the occasion, whatever that occasion maybe I love that. And so and perseverance. Do you have any inspirational quotes or mantras that you think about that helps to find who you are? Honesty is the highest form of loyalty and and I think that matters a lot as I work with my own leadership team, as I work with my bosses and my peers, as I work with partner's like you. You know we're in difficult times. I mean you know if you think about the war in Ukraine, the tragedy that's unfolding there. We are just coming out of a global pandemic. We may be going back into one, who knows. We as I said, we couldn't have bigger divisions between Wall Street and Main Street. People are struggling. For us to make a difference and have an impact and to find the misinformation wars, it takes more honesty...

...and we have to demand that of each other, because that's when, me we can break out of the the the stagnant drops that make may find ourselves in, and that's what I ask for my team and I've won my boss. That's what I will give him because it's honestly is the highest form of loyalty, but I think honesty is the highest form of loyalty. Is the perfect summation and exclamation point on a podcast that you've really taught us a lot about building trust to build a powerful brand, and I think honesty is how brand's honesty and transparency is really how brands connect and breakthrough and and build that trust. Well, thank you. Your incredible I've followed your career since we work together ten years ago and and now today and it was great chatting with you and thanks for all your wisdom. We really appreciate it now, and thank you so much for having me on and and congratulations on all the incredible successes that mechanism has had over the last decade. Thanks so much for listening to soul in science and we'll see you next week. So in sciences, a mechanism podcast produced by the amazing Frank Risco, Ryan Tillotson, Tyler Nielsen and the Swanson and Sophie Maround, with the music by Kyle Mary. I'm your host, Jason Harris.

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