By Brendon Schrader

At Antenna, we’re always interested in learning how marketers got where they are, and what they do to keep growing and improving. In this blog series, we’ll interview marketing leaders we respect and admire at companies across industries. We recently talked to Amanda Brinkman, chief brand and communications officer at Deluxe Corporation.

Amanda Brinkman is a smart marketer with a strategy that works: “Whenever I join a company, I like to go out and spend time with customers to really understand what their daily struggles are,” she says. That approach served her well when she was faced with a challenge to promote Deluxe’s 100th anniversary.

Long known for printing checks, Deluxe has been evolving over the years into a go-to partner that offers business services to small and growing companies. Brinkman dug into some data and found that only 1 percent of businesses knew that Deluxe offered these services, so she knew she had to raise awareness.

As she got to know Deluxe’s customers, she kept coming back to the stories she heard that made her want to visit these stores and restaurants as a customer herself. “If we can tell these stories, maybe we can convince more people to go to small business, to create a movement,” she says. “From a brand perspective, that’s an ownable space.”

The result was a Deluxe-branded series of 100 videos and photo essays — one for each year of business — that profiled small companies and highlighted their struggles and triumphs, all on a standalone website, Small Business Revolution. By taking her paid media budget and using it to develop content, the series has gotten 11 times the return on investment, Brinkman says, resulting in 1.4 billion impressions so far.

Finding Meaning

The campaign is a great example of what Brinkman says is a common thread throughout her career: doing things that are purposeful and meaningful. When working at UnitedHealth Group, she built out Carrot, a consumer engagement division to help people make healthier choices and decisions. At Allianz, she worked hard to break down the concept of annuities so customers could understand them better and make more strategic investment decisions. “At Deluxe, I feel like the task is to raise brand awareness and do so in such a purposeful way that I’m proud we’re making a difference in people’s lives.”

Making a difference means building people’s trust in brands, which can be hard. “Consumers have more access to a voice because of social media, and so brands are more accountable than they were 10 or 15 years ago. It’s had a great effect on marketing — you have to be genuine and authentic, or consumers will call you out.”

Brinkman encourages other marketers to do things that are purposeful and meaningful to make the world a better place through their work. Marketing doesn’t have to be something that interrupts what viewers or users are doing, she says; it can be something they want to spend time with — as with the Small Business Revolution.

“Add value to the viewer’s life and accomplish marketing goals in the meantime, and that’s a win-win,” she says. “Hold yourself accountable to doing worthwhile work.”

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