CMO Chats with Kaio Philipe, Chief Business & Marketing Officer of Inter&Co

Ortus Chats

Kaio Philipe

Chief Business & Marketing Officer | Inter&Co

Kaio Philipe, Chief Business & Marketing Officer of Inter&Co, discusses building brand love, focusing on growth, and innovative media strategies.

 

To watch Kaio’s interview, you can subscribe to our CMO Chats interview series on YouTube. You can also listen to the interview on Spotify or pour yourself a cup of coffee and read the full interview below. Subscribe to the CMO Chats Newsletter on LinkedIn to keep up-to-date on our conversations with today’s marketing leaders.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Look at the diverse challenges the CMO faces, from keeping up with new marketing trends to navigating economic conditions
  • Explore how the CMO addresses the constant introduction of new technologies and platforms in marketing, deciding which innovations to adopt or ignore.
  • Delve into the necessity of adaptability in marketing, essential for responding to both market changes and internal company dynamics.
  • Reflect on the CMO’s description of his role as a navigator, overseeing a wide range of organizational aspects from strategy and product development to HR and operations.

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Can you tell us a bit about your journey and what sparked your interest in marketing?

My journey has been a tremendous one. I am Brazilian, and I have lived in America for the past decade. I built my career with multicultural marketing and advertising. I now oversee a global business. I’m very excited to be here and to talk about my journey.

What does your company do?

Inter&Co is a financial super app; we serve over 31 million customers around the Americas. A financial super app is basically a place where you can bank with your hands: you can invest, you can buy stocks, can send a payment or transfer to a friend, a relative, to family, or a business, buy a house, find deals, you can get cash back, and you can get rewards. You can do everything that is financially possible with your phone. It’s mainly the evolution of banking. That’s why we like to say that we’ve been a disruptor in digital banking. We are a company that has Latin American roots, and it’s spreading all over the world—but it’s mainly around the Americas. We are a financial super app. That’s our elevator pitch.

As the Chief Business and Marketing Officer at Inter&Co, what is currently your main marketing focus?

We are going to market to get more users, obviously, but I tend to say that it’s not only about users because it’s a short-term Northstar. I like to say that, in my life and everything that I do here and in my previous roles, I define these in two ways: I like to focus on brand love and growth. You have two main North Stars. Within those North Stars, you can divide things. It doesn’t matter if you have 100 people, 20 people, or 5 people; you can divide the KPIs and the functionalities, and at the end of the day, they are going to lead you to either brand love and, or growth.

What is brand love? Brand love is something you can measure. It’s not about, ‘Oh, I think people like my brand.’ Brand love is word-of-mouth. Brand love is learned. Brand love is people. It is more positive mentions than negative mentions on social media and in the streets. Brand love is customer service. If you have good marketing, people will reach out to you to compliment and not complain. It definitely decreases your overhead operation and makes it a more profitable operation.

Then growth. Obviously, growth means many things—growth could be new users and new customers, or information traffic if you’re an offline business. It also means lifetime value. I think the word of the low interest rates is gone. We’ve been living in a new era for a few years now. It’s not news for anyone here. Growing without tomorrow is gone. It’s all about growing with profitability. For me, growth is making sure that the customers we’re bringing in are the right ones; they are the right target audience we are reaching and looking for, and they have a justified lifetime value for whatever customer acquisition costs we are spending. To summarise, it is about brand love and growth.

Can you tell me a bit about a particularly innovative or successful marketing campaign that your team has executed?

There are a few at Inter&Co. We have the naming rights to a Major League Soccer stadium. In the last few years, soccer in America has been growing tremendously. I was reading somewhere the other day that soccer is already one of the top five or top four favourite sports in America. We have the naming rights to a big stadium, the Inter&Co Stadium in Orlando, Florida, and it has been very successful for us. I would say that for people in Orlando, Central Florida, the area they’ve been connecting with our brand.

People often ask me, ‘Why naming rights?’ and ‘Why is this something you guys bet on?’ In my view, there is no better investment from a marketing standpoint than attaching your brand name to something that already has some value for the local community. Naming rights could be a stadium, a plaza, or a mall, whatever you can come up with, and that all translates to alternative media. I think more and more we are seeing new types of media. Nowadays, there are even Uber or food delivery bots in the streets. In Miami, they are testing a few. They have media; they’re selling and advertising on those things. One could ask, ‘Well, but does that convert well?’ Of course. You’re getting your name out there, and it’s a brand recall; people are walking on the streets. Of course, it’s not going to impact 20 million people because you don’t have 20 people walking in that geo, but you’re definitely going to get the people from that geo to remember you. I would say that’s one of the most successful things we’ve done so far.

It’s not only that because that’s just the beginning. then you have a trickle down so many other things that we are doing. That goes from the other marketing efforts, like getting and wrapping a Cybertruck in orange—that sort of colour similar to our logo. We want to make things very orange with our logo, so we wrapped a cybertruck in Miami in March during spring break. Very guerilla marketing. If you think about it, the tactical plan is very, very small. We are not talking about a big media plan with, you know, $20 million; we’re talking about a very specific and tactical plan that worked tremendously. We got people from that area, as it was the only cyber truck driving in the area during spring break.

I think marketing is about big things like naming rights to a stadium, which impacts millions of people and millions of sports fans. But you also get small things that help you grow in the local community. Those are two examples where I’m proud of what the team accomplished.

Amazing. As a Brazilian, I’m sure you’re enjoying having the stadium there. I was looking at the website, and I think I saw Ronaldinho pop up in one of the images.

Interestingly enough, I’m not a big soccer fan. A Brazilian who loves soccer—cliche, right? Being Latino in America, or Latinx, however you want to call it, there are a lot of assumptions that we love sports and that we celebrate Cinco de Mayo. And we do! We love to have good tequila if you drink it, and we like the guacamole, and so on. But that’s a cliche, right? And I think in marketing, we need to deviate from those cliches.

What I’ve been learning is that in America specifically—I’ve been here for almost a decade now—is that Americans like entertainment, right? As you know, America is a contributor of immigrants, and immigrants love multicultural stuff: they love Italian food, they love Spanish soccer, and now they love American soccer. I like the fact that our brand is very attached to activations. Sports is one of them. And that comes from the bank’s background and the financial institution’s background. They’ve been doing that before my era; they have big sponsorships in Latin America of major sports clubs in arenas, co-branded credit cards, and so on. So, it was a natural path. But I wouldn’t say we are only attached to sports or soccer itself. This is just one of the things that we are looking to do in the alternative media field, which I cannot disclose here because they are confidential. We are cooking very cool stuff.

Now on the other hand, what are your biggest marketing challenges at the moment?

I think the challenge is everywhere, right? Being in Latin America, Brazil, the US, Europe, and Asia, the challenge is budget. You have to be efficient. In the US, at least, you’re talking about an almost $100 billion advertising industry. So if you spend $100,000 to target, let’s say, Latinos watching soccer at the America’s Cup that is happening now over the summer, is it going to be worth the return you’re going to get if you spend money on TV? So, the biggest challenge will always be resources. How do you divide a resource? I like to say to my team that every company has limited resources, even Amazon. Amazon cannot just go and spend $10 billion. I mean, they can; they are actually doing that with the NFL and NBA, yes, but it’s not like they can just decide those things.

Every company has limited resources. It doesn’t matter if it’s people or if it’s budget, and you have to pick your battles. For me, it has been the biggest challenge and is always going to be, and that’s a challenge that we have to live with. We have to invite this challenge to dinner every evening, which is to work around resources. It doesn’t matter.

I’ve worked in companies before, and they’d built brands with just a person—just a one-man show jack of all trades, or Jane of all trades, whatever you want to call them—and I’ve been in places that had much more resources and had millions of dollars in budget. I was in a Priceline group before and booking holdings, and they’re allegedly one of the largest media buyers and Google Search buyers globally, if not the number one. It’s a different dynamic, but every company has limited resources. I think that the challenge is always to decide what medium you’re going to bet on, how you’re going to double down, and how you’re going to provide the results that a corporation is expecting.

How does your company stay ahead of its competitors in terms of marketing?

Product. I think at the end of the day, if you build a good product and there is proliferation, there is fusion. And you don’t have to paint the rules, right? It’s all about the product. I’m not a marketing person; my background is as an economist, which is interesting, but I’ve been doing marketing since day one of my life. I think marketing is not that complex. Marketing is about product and distribution—and creativity, obviously. But if you have a good product, creativity comes along. For Apple, the foundation was in the product, and then creativity came within the product. It’s all about the product. For us, we’re very focused on the financial Super App to make people’s lives easier and to make people smarter about their money and their investments. If they travel, they can have a dollar account to spend internationally. It’s about making people’s lives better and easier. And then you get word of mouth—beautiful, right? And that’s how you build a brand and build brand love, combined with growth.

You’ve mentioned a little bit about this already. But in your opinion, what does the future of marketing look like?

I don’t believe in linear TV anymore. I wouldn’t spend a dime on linear TV. I’m sorry about that for my linear TV folks; nothing personal. It’s just my view as a marketer, and I think my job might require me to make decisions and to judge. And what I don’t believe in is linear TV. Let’s start with what I don’t believe. I do believe that there is a new generation of Gen Z’s and the new alpha generation that comes. I have a daughter, so she’s probably in that generation. I believe that we are not still talking about what’s going to happen in the next 10 years. Sure, AI is there. AI helps us with copywriting; blah, blah, blah; it helps to generate creatives; it helps the marketing team be much faster; you have Excel spreadsheets being done by AI to make us smarter. But AI is just a tool; it’s like Word or PowerPoint. It’s just a tool that has been added to our lives and makes them better and easier. But I do believe that we are not there with the new generation. I certainly believe that this generation will be 100% focused on their mobiles; there is no other medium other than mobiles, screens, and smart screens. I think this is already happening; you have a lot of retail media and out-of-home businesses that have grown tremendously over the last couple of years. So retail media is becoming part of any retailer out there. If they are not doing that, they will be. I think that will also become an SMB, or small and medium business, reality. It’s all going to be about screens and mobile. That’s where you’re going to spend your money; it’s not going to be the metaverse, for sure. That’s not going to happen. So it’s certainly on the screens, around LCDs, around activations, stores, and so on. So that’s where this new generation will be impacted by media—their phones, screens, and LCDs.

If you were to describe the CMO role in one word, what would that word be? And why?

Growth. You don’t hire a CMO to be in the comfort zone. You hire a CMO because you want to make sure your brand is well-perceived. It is connecting to the audience that your product wants. For example, the other day, I was talking with a brand that is like the veterinarian franchise for pets in America, and they have an audience. I was putting myself in their CMO’s shoes: How do you get pet parents? How do you target this audience? So you hire a CMO because you don’t want to be in your comfort zone and you want to grow. If you want to grow your numbers quarter over quarter, you don’t want to be in your comfort zone. You need to have people thinking; you need to have people with creative ideas, and you need to have a good product to sustain all that. CMOs with a bad product tend to fail. A CMO with a great product skyrockets. That’s my perception.

What career advice would you like to share with other marketing leaders?

I would say to trust your teams, to hire well, to hire good people, to hire skilled people, and to give them freedom to execute. That’s the main thing I would say to a market leader out there. I would also say to trust their gut—trust data but to trust their gut harder. You’re going to be thrown a lot of data by these companies: Google, Meta, and all the big techs. They’re going to throw you XYZ reports. But at the end of the day, if you’re driven by that, you’re going to be driven by them. You need to be driven by your gut, by your own data, and by our people.

“I would also say to trust their gut—trust data, but to trust their gut harder.”

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