Square’s Lauren Weinberg on How the Brand Tells Real People’s Stories

Headshot of Heide Palermo

With a background leading consumer research and media planning for companies like Yahoo and Viacom, Lauren was drawn to Square’s insights-driven marketing approach. Now, Lauren is experimenting with new storytelling techniques and on-the-ground activations to reach small business owners where they are, while telling their authentically-compelling stories. Here, Lauren shares the latest from the brand’s “Dreams” mini-movie series (running strong since 2017 and earning multiple accolades) along with her advice on how to influence others.

Tell us about your background and why you chose to join Square.

I’m the Global Marketing Lead for Square. My team’s purpose is to shape and grow our brand while generating demand for our products and services. I’ve been at Square for two years and chose to join for a few reasons.

To begin with, I love its mission-driven culture… Square maniacally focuses on the customer, their struggles, and how to make it easier for small business owners to succeed. I was immediately drawn to the insights-driven approach to marketing and product strategy at Square. I spent the first 10 years of my career focused on research and analytics but during my time at Yahoo, I pivoted to overseeing marketing strategy, followed quickly by an even greater leap into overseeing all acquisition, growth, and retention marketing. Making the leap into Marketing made sense given the shift in the industry towards insights-led and data-driven marketing.

What’s currently happening in marketing that most excites you?

“…we’ll start to see great brands emerge from the pack through remarkable storytelling.”

One trend I find interesting is how customers today have increased expectations of how and where brands show up and what they stand for. I think brands taking a stance on social causes and identifying opportunities to showcase brand values will become an even more important piece of the marketing equation. The role brands play in culture is at an interesting point in time and I think we’ll start to see great brands emerge from the pack through remarkable storytelling.

As expectations continue to rise from customers – and their attention becomes more fragmented – great brands need to keep innovating to break through. This makes the job both hard and rewarding at the same time. And, of course, thinking about how we measure all of these activities is an ongoing challenge that I enjoy working through.

How is Square leveraging storytelling as a strategy?

We’re experimenting with different storytelling techniques, from customer interviews in podcasts to short films that highlight small business owners with an incredible journey, to hosting night school sessions in cities throughout the US. Our most recent film, “Forged in Flint” was launched in April and focuses on how small businesses are rebuilding the city of Flint, Michigan. We also launched the film “Exit 12” earlier this year, which focuses on an Iraq war vet that started a dance studio.

We’ve seen strong customer and critical praise for these films: “Exit 12” was a SXSW 2019 Jury Award Winner for Best Documentary Short; “Made in Iowa” was an Official Selection for the 2018 San Francisco International Film Festival; and “Sister Hearts” won the Tribeca X award in 2018.

What are you working on now that is innovative?

Square recently launched an integrated brand campaign that is both national and local in nature. In this campaign, we chose a mixed media approach, combining live action footage with animation to make the videos visually engaging while highlighting key product moments. Our goal was to have the animation enhance these seller stories and stand out amongst other content.

@heidefaith heide.palermo@adweek.com Heide is the senior director of brand community at Adweek and Editor of the Inside the Brand series, including the CMO Moves and Gen ZEOs podcasts, Innovators, Challengers, and Women Trailblazers. She also leads Adweek's Innovators Council.