To mark the annually celebrated Women’s History Month in March, we raise awareness around young women in marketing and highlight how they are moving up the ladder–paving the way for others to follow. The focus is on building strong leadership traits and a gender-diverse pipeline of talent when our host Peggy Anne Salz catches up with Bruna Amaya, a Mobile Hero recognized for her marketing expertise. She shares her meteoric rise from intern to Head of Marketing at Hurb, a Brazil-based company providing an online platform that enables travelers to find and reserve accommodation and activities. She also recounts how she encouraged her team to drive a new approach to mobile app marketing—and one that rocketed retention and grew the total user base by 3X.
So I will not delay in introducing our guest for the day, Bruna Amaya, Head of Marketing at Hurb. Bruna, great to have you here from Brazil, is it, right?
BA Yes, I’m for Rio, it’s such a pleasure to be here, thank you, Peggy.
PAS Cool, an awesome city, I’ve been there for conferences, of course we’ll not be travelling too much for the moment but, hey, you are at Hurb – yes indeed, I know – you are Hurb which is a travel app but I would like to hear a little bit more about the company and your role there. What is exactly your responsibility at Hurb?
BA Yes, so Hurb is Brazil’s leading online travel agency, we offer thousands of lodging options all over the world and an interesting fact is that we have recently gone international so you’ll be hearing a lot about us all around the world. So, I manage a team that is responsible for all marketing efforts to our app, so acquisition campaigns, engagement retention, branding and so on.
PAS So that’s what you do there at Hurb and I’m just curious because full disclosure, I also contribute quite frequently to Forbes and I’ve just written an article about empowering women because this is what it’s all about here in the month of March and I’m so impressed, I mean, you’re 24 years old, your Head of Marketing, quite an accomplishment, one would think you just got out of school and said, ‘That’s it, I want to be in marketing and I want to move up that ladder’. Is that what’s happened, how did you get into mobile marketing in the first place?
BA That’s a really good question because my background is actually in industrial engineering, I have my Bachelor Degree in Engineering but I always felt like doing anything related to marketing so I entered Hurb as an intern and it was for me more like an experiment, I wanted to see if I was going to like it and maybe pursue that career and then everything just happened so fast, I had no idea I would become Head of Marketing by the time I was 23. Yes, it was a crazy journey, I grew a lot both personally and professionally in a short period.
PAS As I said, 24, it’ll be 25 in April so there you go, still quite young but it’s great to have mobile-first digital native input into mobile marketing, I'm sure your company also appreciates that as well. Can you tell me a little bit about – as I said, it’s about that first step, you know, coming from where you are to where you’re going, you’re rising up, I see a lot of promise there but how did you get up on that first rung in the first place?
BA Yes, I agree, it’s not easy both for women and especially young as I was to overcome all the barriers you face when you move from an interim level, especially in my case as an intern to a manager. There was a lot of people in the company that thought I was not ready, and I actually understand them, they have a point, but luckily I had an amazing manager, he’s our CEO, João, and he truly believed in my potential, I think back then even more than I did. Myself, I thought, are you crazy because me being Head of Marketing at 23, I’m in the company for like, two years – but he truly believed in my and he did the best he could to clear my way up all the obstacles I could have.
He always knew I had a lot to learn so he managed to put me always at the same time outside my comfort zone but also in a safe space to take risks and learn from my mistakes, that was really important for me.
PAS You want a little call out to him because it sounds like he was very influential and impactful on where you are right now?
BA Yes, definitely, it wouldn’t be possible without him.
PAS So a little shout out to him, his name is, again…
BA His name is João Ricardo… he’s one of the founders here in the company and I think his biggest talent is that he sees things in people that no-one sees, it’s like he’s always believing and putting everything on the right people, it’s amazing what he does.
PAS The impact is certainly impressive because here you are, you know, you’re in marketing, you’re able to make a contribution, you obviously have data skills from engineering, so you’ve got that data side, you know, and you’re working in marketing so that’s the place where we have those talents come together. Can you give me an example of how you’re also ensuring that other young professionals, women, gender inclusive, so young men, young women, can also perhaps follow in your footsteps? I understand you’re mentoring there as well, is that correct?
BA Yes. I think of course the background in engineering helped a lot because it gave me like the tools to do a lot of the things I wanted to, like a lot of analysis, all the technical part, it was easier for me to learn about Facebook ads and so on, but I think the main thing that made a difference for me is that I was always so curious about things because it’s good when I entered here, I had no baggage so I didn’t know what was right or wrong, everything was new to me, so I was asking the questions that no-one else would because they thought things were already like true and the best way to do performance and campaigns. I don’t know if I’m being clear but…
PAS Yes, you are.
BA I think it’s a package of being curiosity and asking questions. Of course you need a safe space to do that and I had that which I’m lucky to have that space and I try my best to replicate the opportunity I had to do that with other young people here in the company.
PAS And you also mentioned that bringing input to campaigns and the like, is that something where you believe that – can you give me an example where maybe you were the young voice in the crowd but also the correct voice in the crowd?
BA Yes, so, before when I was first Head of Marketing, I was taking care of basically everything related to performance here like Facebook Ads and Google Ads but at some point I changed my focus and I was mainly focusing on our app. So what I did as this young girl questioning everything was that I started to change the mindset of the company and I started asking like – I mean, most of Brazilians have Android phones and we had the big challenge of device memory with Android. Also we have a product that it’s not a recurrent buy for the clients, people don’t travel that often.
So the question was why would our client, our user not uninstall our app? So from that point on, we started to – we have different strategies of our app because before we were just duplicating everything we had in our website to our app and we started to change that. So, we would go to our sales team and ask them for special prices just for us to send the push notification to our users. We wanted the user to think, like, ‘Oh, I’ll not uninstall Hurb’s app because I get so good push notifications and I have prices here and good deals’.
It was really challenging for us because the app was already live here for like 6 years, so we had like a way of doing things so I had to – it took a lot of effort and conversations to change this mindset here in the company but fortunately everyone bought into the idea…
PAS Everyone bought into the idea because of course you walk the talk, you’re mobile first and you are making a contribution to your company. Bruna, we do have to go to a break right now but, listeners, when we come back, we’ll be talking about digital natives, marketing and also empowering women to move up that ladder. So don’t go away, we’ll be back after the break.
Welcome back back to Mobile Presence. I’m Peggy Anne Salz, we have today, Bruna Amaya, Head of Marketing at Hurb and Bruna, right before the break we were talking about how you make a contribution to your company because of course you don’t, well, let’s just say you don’t settle for no but you’re very curious, you ask questions, that’s what you’ve been telling me also offline – it’s all about asking questions and saying, ‘Why are we doing this and not that?’ and that’s what led you to approach marketing differently at Hurb. Part of that is push notifications – what’s an example of how that has really delivered for your company or enhanced and made the user experience better?
BA Yes, that’s a good case because when we go like to events and we watch keynotes, everyone is talking for example about personalised messaging, right, people don’t like to get public messages anymore. We call it broad messaging. So everyone is talking about how we cannot do that anymore but here, I think we were asking even – we were questioning even what was new when I was training because we found out at some point that segmentation and specific messaging was working for everyone but it was not working for Hurb specifically because we are not so demand driven but we create a lot of demand.
So we create this will of the user to go for example to Tokyo because we work with packages and hotel deals that have so good prices that the user thinks about buying it just because it’s cheap, not because he wanted it before. And when you think of that we cannot just send push notifications, if I have a nice deal for Tokyo for example, or Cancun, I cannot send that push notification only for people that was actually looking for Cancun, right, because everyone that is going to buy it was probably not even thinking about going – does that make sense?
PAS Yes, it’s more like a nudge, in a way, is what you’re saying.
BA Yes, and so we went like the opposite way of what everyone was doing with push notification and we started to intensify all of our broad messages and that gave us engagement rates like three times higher and we started selling packages like crazy because I was not like segmenting my audience in a diverse, I was not deciding before who was willing to go to the Caribbean, I was letting the user be aware of all the promotions we had. That’s a really interesting case.
PAS It makes also sense because, yes, you can use data to segment your audience and you absolutely should but then there’s a level of saying, ‘Okay, rather than predict what you want or decide, I’ll let you also take a look and let you decide’ and that’s what you did here and maybe also some surprises because sometimes we think we know what we want but we don’t really, so if you give us a wider variety, you know, you let what’s called serendipity which is just chance, just see what happens really.
BA Yes, and when you’re talking about retail, for example, if you need a fridge, you need a fridge because yours is old or you have none at home but when you’re talking about travel, I mean, every place is a possibility, right, maybe I go to New York next year but maybe I can go also to – I know Thailand because it’s cheap and because there’s going to be an event there, so we need to take that in mind when we’re doing our push notification strategies.
PAS And also not to be too, as you said, not to focus on what you think people want but give them sort of level of preference. I’m just curious, do you also let people sort of set their preference, I want information about these vacation packages or I only want to be contacted so often – to what level do you let your audience decide?
BA So, we do that – at some point, we will identify some patterns in your behaviour in our app, so if, Peggy, you’re doing a lot of searches for New York on a certain date, I know that – I will still send you some broad push notifications but I also know what your real intentions are right now. So we take those signs from the events we can track in our app and then we will give you specific offers and prices, we will run specific Facebook Ads and Google campaigns for you, that’s more or less what we do.
It’s not something that you’re going to feel like – you won’t feel like you have given us this information, we’ll just like pool all this date and then in a special segmentation.
PAS What about your market where you are, I mean, I’ve written about it at length, Latin America, LatAm is just an amazing growth market, high growth market. You hinted that you’re going to be looking beyond LatAm and we might be seeing you elsewhere with Hurb, that makes a lot of sense but what could you give me as some advice or some marketers, they’re saying, ‘Hey, I want to make it big there, how do I make my mark there?’ Tell me a little bit about what resonates with your audiences, you know, is it a certain type of approach, maybe it’s video as a creative or something that you’re seeing either in LatAm or also just in the travel vertical that really seems to work for you.
BA I still can’t talk a lot about other markets except for Brazil because so far at present we’re only here but what I think we need to have in mind is there are some things – first, I have mentioned already is that most of users here have Androids so that means limited memory on their cellphones, you need to have a light app, you need to be aware that at any point the user will have to choose between your app or his, I don’t know, the game he wants to play and that makes it even more of a challenge to put more energy on retention, on getting a product that sticks to the user.
Another thing is that the internet here is also not good, a lot of people are still navigating in 3G, not 4G internet. So, I wouldn’t run, for example, ads with really heavy videos that won’t run in a lot of people’s cellphones, it’s also something to have in mind.
PAS So maybe use banner then and interstitial or…
BA Yes, that works better here. Once I think like three or four Black Fridays ago, we hired like this huge company and they did like a live on Facebook for us, that’s a good case because we paid like thousands of reais and we set up for this big live to go live on Facebook on the day of Black Friday and no-one watched it, it was like a complete failure. You know why? Because we were recording the whole thing in like a 4K resolution, it was so heavy for people to watch on their phone and to spend the data package, right? Because not everyone is connected to wifi all the time.
So, we learned a lot, we were like – it would be much more successful if we had just recorded this live in like our cellphone, in an iPhone, it would be good enough. It was a complete failure because we didn’t take internet into consideration.
And another thing that it’s nice to mention is that Brazil, and I think it’s something in common in Latin America, we are crazy about promotions and discounts and prices. Companies have a way to communicate that and you need to be aggressive in your promotions, you know? Like, it’s a 50% discount, it’s our super sale… my team likes to say sometimes in the push notification, they write, like, ‘The boss is on vacation so we went crazy…’
PAS Well, we’re going to go crazy when we get back actually from break, we do have to go to one more break, I'm having fun, this is a great learning with you, Bruna, and also we want to continue this but as I said, we just want to go to a break, last break people, we’ll be back just after this message.
PAS And we’re back to Mobile Presence. I’m your host, Peggy Anne Salz, we have Bruna Amaya, Head of Marketing at Hurb. And Bruna I’ve really been enjoying our conversation because it’s so straightforward. I mean, you shared a great story about what happens when you film in 4K, it’s obviously not going to cut it on Android phones in Brazil, now we know that. But it’s always exciting to hear more learnings, something that you did or something that didn’t work and how you learned from that, how you advanced your team as a result. So what’s another mistake, something gone bad that actually ended up good?
BA A nice thing to say is how we used to structure our team before and how we changed that to a more creative mindset. What I mean is before, when dealing with Facebook Ads, for example, in other media campaigns, we would put like all of our efforts thinking about audiences and budgets and everything related to the settings of the campaign. We forgot that what the user, the final, the end point of everything was the user and he was actually seeing an ad, a creative, and he was going to click it or not.
And before, we would like upload creatives like once a week or once every two weeks so all the effort was in audiences and settings and none of the effort was on creatives. We started to change that really gradually, I talked to a lot of people in the industry on the market and I started to realise a lot of people are paying attention to this and we’re not – why is that?
So, we brought like two designers to our team to be dedicated to our campaigns for the ad and we started to create new creatives like crazy. So instead of uploading 5 creatives per week, we were doing like 10 per day and when we started to do that, I have to say our CPIs, I can’t say how much our CPIs is nowadays but I can say it’s now like 20% up from what it used to be.
So, nowadays, all of the team, even the performance analysts, everyone is always focused on creatives. I mean, audiences are important of course but I like to say that the best audience, the best settings of your campaign are never going to work without a good creative.
PAS That’s a really key learning, Bruna… I’m hearing that a lot in the industry, to your point, creatives – that is the source of competitive advantage, that’s what’s going to make it or break it.
BA Yes, because, yes, exactly – it’s what the user actually sees, right, it’s all about whether he’s going to click on your ad or not. So, it’s not going to work if you don’t have a good creative but the best creative might work, even if you have the worst audience and the worst setting and that’s a key learning for us.
PAS That’s also a super important one, again, one I’ve heard a lot this year. I mean, for 2020, the top pick, the theme is creatives, we’ll be talking a lot about that here at Mobile Presence as well. We’re running a little bit late on time here but great key learnings, I wouldn’t have stopped you for the world, Bruna, but I think it’s also important for our audience if they want to connect with you or understand how they can get more, maybe learn from you – I think a great topic to follow up on would be, hey,
you’re 24 going on 25, what’s some advice for some marketers out there who want to get taken seriously in their companies, so there’s a lot of reasons to catch up with you – what’s the best way to stay in touch with you?
BA Yes, you can find me on LinkedIn as Bruna, I’m Head of Marketing at Hurb so it’s not hard to find me but I have to say about being young an a leader, just don’t put a lot of thoughts on that, just do your best, results will follow and eventually people will start respecting you, I don’t let that affect me and you shouldn’t either.
PAS Well, I think that’s a great way to leave, a very positive point, you know, don’t let anything hold you back, advocate yourself even if others aren’t advocating you. Great to have you, Bruna, on Mobile Presence, today, thank you so much for joining me.
BA Thank you, Peggy, it was a pleasure.
And of course if you want to catch up with other Mobile Heroes from other amazing companies, of course stay tuned for our series, but you can also read up on Bruna and all of the other Mobile Heroes in the series, check out their dedicated page over at heroes.liftoff.io.
And if you want to keep up with me throughout the week or find out more about how you can be a guest or sponsor on Mobile Presence, then you can email me, firstname.lastname@example.org, Mobile Groove is where you can find my portfolio of content marketing and app marketing services.
And also check out earlier episodes of our show, you can do that by going to wmr.fm, you can also go to iTunes, Stitcher, Spreaker, Spotify and iheartRadio and simply search under Mobile Presence and there you will find us. So friends, until next time – remember - every minute is mobile, so make every minute count. We’ll see you soon.