Cooking with Data: Kohler Credit Union Centers Community Campaign on Member Insights from Google Analytics

This story comes to us through the generous collaboration of Kohler Credit Union, whose marketing team shared it with attendees of one of our recent VantEdge Point webinars.

Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Living out that value, Kohler Credit Union has found, is much easier with the help of data intelligence.

With lobbies closed and some employees working from home, the Wisconsin financial cooperative wanted to remind members and neighbors their local credit union was there for them. Marketing team members Katie Rammer and Emilee Shostrom knew the best way to achieve that was to build an even greater sense of community among employees, members and other area non-profits. But first, they needed to understand more about the lives their members were living now, amid the chaos and change of COVID-19.

As the $500 million credit union's digital marketing analyst, Shostrom naturally gravitated toward web analytics. What if, she hypothesized, we used Google Analytics to investigate the interests of our site visitors, the majority of whom are members and nearly all of whom are local to the area? Understanding daily lifestyles and hobbies to a greater degree may help stimulate ideas for the community-building initiative.

The strategy received an earnest thumbs-up from Rammer, who makes it a practice to support every new marketing initiative with data. "Backing our crazy ideas with information and research gives us a leg up when we ask to spend resources," she said. "When we have information proving our members are into what we're proposing, it makes it easier for our senior leaders to support us."

Shostrom's addition to the team, Rammer says, makes data-driven proposals that much easier. "Before Emilee, we tried our hardest to do as much with data as we could, but we simply didn't have enough time to devote to it in every circumstance. She's a dedicated expert who can dig deeper and find more about how our ads are doing, where we're doing well and not so well, whether we need to quickly change a campaign. She's only been here four months, and she's already having an impact."

Cooking with Data Workbook

Click on the image of the cookbook cover, above, to see a couple sample recipes.

Creating Community with a Kitchen Throwback

Shostrom set about reviewing the intelligence available in Google Analytics. As it turned out, a large number of the credit union's members were categorized as cooking enthusiasts. The software determines interest and affinity categories by analyzing a site visitor's app use, as well as online travel and purchasing activities. The analysis also allows users to view different dimensions, sorting by web usage, age, gender and other demographics.

With the newfound knowledge of their community's interest in cooking, the marketing team got to brainstorming. Their initial idea was to share employee recipes on social media and encourage the community to try it out, take pictures of their efforts and post them on Kohler Credit Union's Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages. Pushing the idea a bit further, the team thought something more tactile, perhaps even a bit vintage, may be an even better way to engage the community and to meet their members where they were – returning to time-honored, family- and home-centered hobbies. That's when the idea struck: They'd publish a community cookbook – like the kind everyone had in their kitchens growing up… published by a church, neighborhood or social club – only better!

Data Drives Leadership Buy-In

Although the team was confident the concept was strategically suited to the community-building objective, they knew it would require resources. So, they gathered up the necessary estimates and took them to senior leadership for approval. According to Rammer, having the Google Analytics data to back up their idea was highly valued by the credit union's decision-makers. It allowed leadership to see two things: First, that the idea was rooted in sound member intelligence, and second, that the marketing team was enthusiastically advancing Kohler Credit Union’s burgeoning culture of analytics.

In fact, adding Shostrom's position to the team was part of accelerating the credit union's analytics culture. "I've been given ownership of our entire marketing analytics effort," Shostrom said. "That way our other team members aren't being pulled away from their most important priorities. Not only can I show the team how our various campaigns are performing, I can also use the data to be prescriptive. As my analytics professors drilled into our heads, a bunch of data doesn't mean anything; it's the insights and the action that matter."

For instance, Shostrom added, Google Analytics also revealed Kohler Credit Union members to be outdoor enthusiasts. With that information, they changed up the imagery in an ad campaign to show an individual unloading a bike from his car. "If our creative fits the lifestyles of our members, they naturally feel a greater sense of belonging and want to engage with us at deeper levels. Data helps us get there."

"In the past, we may have pushed forward on a campaign because we believed it was the best way to go," added Rammer. "Now, we make decisions based on actual insights and justified reasoning."

Pushing through the Pandemic

Throughout the pandemic, the team pushed forward on the project: gathering recipes, working on the cookbook’s slow-cooker theme and layout, coordinating printing and identifying the best locations to distribute the books. About two weeks before the cookbook was set to launch, Kohler Credit Union’s lobbies were again closed as a safety precaution for members and employees. Fortunately, Kohler Credit Union’s network of grocery store branches remained open, so they became a natural choice for the necessary pivot. The team is also planning to offer the books through an additional drive-up location.

Because it was important to the credit union to leverage the project for even greater good, the team also coordinated with local food pantries to arrange for all proceeds from cookbook sales to be sent back into the community.

Using Data to Determine the Future

Rammer and Shostrom insist that data will also be an important asset to track success of the project, which they hope to repeat in one form or another on an annual basis. After culling their member list to those over age 30, a group more likely to be cooking for families, the team had its core list of targets for the campaign. In addition to tracking engagement among this group with metrics like email opens and online recipe submissions, the pair will also analyze results like sales by location and social media likes, comments and shares around the campaign.

Social media engagement is especially important to measure, as Rammer and Shostrom report an already highly engaged social community. "It's not unusual for us to get comments thanking us for what we do; we have a very appreciative membership," said Shostrom.

Undoubtedly that appreciation will continue to grow as Kohler Credit Union shows its members their credit union sees and understands them… and is working to make their lives just a tiny bit more enjoyable during tough times.

"We don't live in a cookie-cutter world. Everyone wants to feel seen," said Rammer. "They want their TV to show them episodes they'll like. They want emails to display ads for products they might actually enjoy. Our members are no different, and they deserve our every effort to make their member experience personalized and exceptional."