H&R Block looks to support bewildered tax filers

The tax prep brand shows how its human experts can help customers through another unique tax filing year.

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H&R Block is once again helping clients through the pandemic, bringing back most of the principals from its spring campaign to allay people’s confusion around another unusual tax season.

In three humorous spots, “Nature Boy,” “Working from Home,” and “Working Mom,” H&R Block’s tax professionals engage with clients who are being rattled by COVID lockdowns, including one who’s moved out to a remote locale and another who was pregnant in last year’s spot and is now struggling to raise her child. The creative is tagged with “our experts make taxes simple” and “we have filing options.”

The work is “an extension of a campaign that began last year, which entailed putting experts front and centre and demonstrating how they could make people’s lives and taxes easier,” says Matt Fraracci, CD at Sid Lee, which handled the creative elements. Expertise is the brand’s key differentiator, and knowing there’s a real human being to help you along is a wonderful thing for a lot of people who don’t know what to do during tax season, he says.

According to Fraracci, H&R Block also recognizes the importance of levity and empathy when people are stressed out and confused –  especially this year, thanks to COVID. “We are carrying forward what we know resonates with people,” he says.

Hilary Zaharko, VP of marketing at H&R Block, tells strategy she believes there’s a lot of confusion out there, thanks to CERB, work from home, tax filing extensions and recovery benefits, and that there are more people calling its offices and emailing for support. As a result, the campaign is in market a week earlier than normal.

“Sometimes when there is confusion in the market, H&R block emerging as the hero is the place we want to live and to play,” Zaharko says.

In terms of the tagline, she says that since the brand doesn’t know if spring will bring more lockdowns, it wants to remain flexible with filing options. “We just wanted to position ourselves as understanding that it’s a complicated year and H&R is really there to help and leaning into that sentiment,” she says.

From a retail-assisted point-of-view, the brand competes primarily with mom and pop shops, as Liberty Tax is the only national brand that’s similarly structured. On the software side, Turbo Tax is getting into the assisted space with Turbo Tax Live, but it’s new territory for the company, Zaharko says. UFile and Turbo Tax are leaders and H&R Block is third in that market, which the brand is fine with, she says, as H&R Block has been steadily growing that part of the business as it diversifies its services.

This time around, Zaharko says the brand is increasing spend in online video and social, while omitting OOH and radio. Last year, the company increased its ad budget because of tax season extensions. This year, spend is expected to return to normal, with Dentsu handling the media buy.