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Innovators Series

Innovators Q&A: How Banner Health’s Digital Marketing Strategies Increased Customer Trust During COVID-19

As soon as COVID-19 hit, healthcare systems and organizations across the world scrambled to craft new strategies to serve their communities whilst keeping employees and patients safe. But despite their efforts, there was often one barrier that often prevented patients from seeking care in times of need: Trust. Trust that they’d be protected from contracting COVID-19, should they visit a hospital in-person.

 

In the latest episode of Tallwave’s Innovator Series, our Vice President of Marketing Jessica Pumo talks to Patrick Knauer, the Director of Digital Marketing for Banner Health’s Ambulatory practices, about developing and implementing digital marketing strategies to give patients peace of mind, as well as what he believes is in store for the future of healthcare, the patient experience, and digital marketing as a whole.

Innovators Q&A With Patrick Knauer

Jessica Pumo: Hello everyone. I’m Jessica Pumo, Vice president of Marketing at Tallwave, a customer experience design company. Welcome to the latest installment of our Innovators Series. Today, I am thrilled to be joined by Patrick Knauer, Director of Digital Marketing for Banner Health Ambulatory Services. Welcome, Patrick.

 

PK: Hi Jessica. Thank you. It’s great to be here.

 

JP: Now, at a high level, Patrick, you work with Banner Health’s ambulatory service lines to align marketing strategies to business direction, and then you work with the broader marketing and media teams to execute marketing campaigns. So, I know you’ve got great perspective to share.

 

To kick things off today, I’d just like to start by hearing a bit about your professional journey. What initially attracted you, like so many of us, to digital marketing, and how did you get to where you are today?

 

PK: Yeah, I started off in digital marketing, working for a search engine optimization company, not knowing how much I would love it, but it really became my passion just because it changed it. It felt like every two weeks Google would reset the landscape and we would always [have to] adjust and have to rethink our approach.

 

That sense of excitement really stuck with me as I grew and it’s still that way. I’ve been in digital marketing for over 15 years now and it does feel like every two weeks there is a new tweak to keep you on your toes. So, that excitement hasn’t faded.

 

JP: So, let’s get a little more specific about how your role contributes to Banner’s larger mission. How is success defined for you and your team and how does that help Banner reach its established business goals?

 

PK: Yeah, so, Banner is working to meet consumers where they need healthcare, and that’s in an ambulatory setting. My role and the teams that I work with, are working to make sure that we’re easily accessible. That we’re easy to find through digital channels and that when our consumers need care, it’s not troublesome or burdensome to schedule to get into a healthcare clinic and to get out.

 

So, we have a lot of communication that we need to do, and we have a lot of marketing that we need to do to make sure that we’re omnipresent on various digital platforms that consumers use today.

There was a fear about being inside small spaces and healthcare locations. People were more hesitant to just walk in. They wanted to use their digital tools to limit their time, to limit their exposure, and [to] make that appointment on the computer.

JP: Wonderful. As, as we narrow our focus a little bit, I think I’d be remiss if I didn’t start with something that I know has changed the landscape for all of us. And it must be an understatement to say that the pandemic has changed the healthcare landscape.

 

So, given that the pandemic has driven a lot of changes to how consumers find and engage with businesses of all kinds, what kinds of changes have you all seen in terms of how consumers search for and engage with ambulatory services?

 

PK: One of the best examples that I could give you would be just our online appointment rate for our Urgent Cares, which is of our ambulatory service lines. We see the most volume out of our Urgent Cares. We have over 50 locations in Northern Colorado, [and] Arizona, so a lot of different points of access.

 

And, what we noticed from the beginning of the pandemic to its peak, was that our online bookings rose by 37% [percent] all the way up to 50% [percent]. So, about half of the patients coming through the doors were scheduling online. And the reason we saw that increase was because there was a fear about being inside small spaces and healthcare locations. People were more hesitant to just walk in. They wanted to use their digital tools to limit their time, to limit their exposure, and [to] make that appointment on the computer.

 

JP: Since you’ve mentioned it, I would love to jump to that idea: How concerns around personal health and safety have changed with the pandemic.

 

I know that’s really put those concerns front and center and the need to build trust with consumers has never been more important than it has been just these last several months. This need must have been even more acute when it comes to ambulatory services.

 

So, I’m curious what data points have you used to help understand patient needs and patient pain points as they’ve evolved through the course of the pandemic?

 

PK: Our analytics demonstrated that, prior to COVID, the most popular action that we would see consumers takes were clicks over to our website where they could access more information on the location or the services that were there.

 

But during the pandemic clicks to the website went down and direct phone calls to our clinics went up… We extrapolated from that there was more information that they needed directly from a person: To hear what steps were being taken or specific situations – if you’re at high risk for COVID or you have an auto-immune disease, or you’re in a certain age bracket – you might need reassurance of talking to someone at the front desk, and asking questions [such as], “Can I be seen?”, “What special requirements or services do you have for me?”

 

That was one data point that we really noticed, and it helped to kind of informed the communication that we put out there to our consumers because we were able to take those data points out of the conversations and understand, what are the concerns? How do we address them [and make] them easy to find, and put them in front of our consumers so that they already know the answers to some of their questions?

 

Also read: Data Driven Insights Into the Evolving Customer Experience

There’s a myriad of different digital transformations that are happening, but most of them are revolving around improving the ease and the experience.

JP:  It’s really fascinating to hear how you’re looking at those digital signals and interpreting them as indicators of how that experience needs to change, knowing that the experience inevitably – in an ambulatory setting – is going from online to in-person. How has Banner worked to build patient trust through marketing and messaging from what they experienced in local search to what they experienced when they arrive in-person at an ambulatory services center to inspire and build that confidence and trust and drive continuity in that experience?

 

PK: That was the main challenge with COVID. And the main objective was to really make sure people understood the efforts that, as an organization, Banner Health was taking to make care safe.

 

So, we created a safe place for care, a logo, and a brand campaign… [We put that logo] on communications, whether it be a top of the funnel advertisement or bottom of the funnel, actually inside the clinic. We had the steps we took to clean a clinic, that we ask our patients to [wear a] mask, and the other steps that we take for our own employees to make sure everyone [is] safe. And we put those pieces of communication on our website, on our blog, within our emails – all over the possible digital touchpoints, so that no matter where the consumer interacted with Banner, the logo was there and the information was there. And if they needed a deeper dive, we provided the URL where they could go and read exactly the steps that we were taking behind the Safe Place For Care campaign.

 

JP: When you look at any one of those individual touch points, the changes that you’re describing may seem really nuanced, but when you look at them in [the] aggregate, that really is some significant changes to the patient experience.

 

PK: It really was. And it was a lot of work to spread that kind of communication across 400 plus clinics, [through] email, blog, or website advertisement. But that was our mission. That was our objective. I was proud to be a part of the team, and the outcomes were great because we had a lot of people tell us that they felt safe, and they appreciated the efforts that we took.

JP: Which is so important. So important. Well, let’s move from innovation to transformation here for just a second. Something that’s top of mind for me and for the Tallwave team, based on our recent Tallwave research report, is telehealth as a prime example of the digital transformation underway in the healthcare space. What does digital transformation in healthcare look like for you and your team?

 

PK: It looks like a lot of things. That’s a difficult question to unpack because it could be an app on the phone that has a host of capabilities – from communicating with your provider to accessing lab reports, to making an appointment. And that’s just within an app. But there’s also other touch points out there, on the web on a mobile web, where you need to have other capabilities like online scheduling.

 

One of our most popular digital transformation features is our symptom checker, which is really easy to use. You can just pop onto BannerHealth.com, open up the symptom checker app, tell our computer exactly what you’re experiencing: What you’re feeling, [and] what your symptoms are. And after a series of questions and answers, you get a mini-diagnosis, and it’ll point you to the right level of care, which is important in healthcare, because you don’t want to go to the emergency room when an urgent care visit is perfectly appropriate.

 

There’s a myriad of different digital transformations that are happening, but most of them are revolving around improving the ease and the experience, overall, that you have interacting with healthcare.

 

JP: I know we’ve talked about some of the complexities of managing that experience within the pandemic, but I certainly don’t want to lose sight of how complex that is for you and your team, just on a day-to-day basis.

 

In general, outside of the pandemic, I know Banner has leveraged a really diverse constellation of digital touch points to address patient needs and pain points by meeting them where they are, when they’re there. And I know that really does cut across a lot of different teams at Banner. So, how do you set the stage for smooth handoff, from your team to the next, so that that patient experience feels really seamless as they move through multiple points of engagement from the Banner websites to social, to email, to Google My Business, and everything in between?

 

PK: Yeah, that’s one of the core responsibilities of my role. As the Director of Marketing for our ambulatory service lines, I need to understand the objectives of one of our business units, like Urgent Care or the medical group, and come forward with a marketing plan that meets the goals that they’re trying to accomplish.

 

Then, I put that together into what we call a marketing playbook, which lists out: What are we trying to accomplish? What are our goals? What are we going to use as our call to action? What are our proof points, or what we like to call “reasons to believe” in Banner Health or Banner Urgent Care or Banner Medical Group. [I] put that into a centralized tool, which we use work from, and pull all of the various teams together and have kickoff calls, and installation meetings, and go over all of this planning [around] the direction, and everything that we are going to use so that everyone understands: “Let’s use these calls to action. Let’s use these reasons to believe. Here are blog resources. Here are website resources.”

 

And then, whenever it’s time to actually execute, the teams can go into [that] work, [and] know that they can pull the information [and] that will be the same information that the web team is pulling, or the email team is pulling, and the advertising team is pulling. So, everything is the same across the board, and you have that nice, beautiful experience that’s consistent.

We know that the level of trust that we encounter through Google My Business and organic search is higher just based upon the way our consumers convert and make those appointments – but paid search is a very high converting platform in itself.

JP: I think you you’ve touched on some things that really are very actionable for all of us. I think there are very few marketers out there who are not working hand-in-hand with other marketers who may be on different teams, different departments, different divisions, but the idea of starting with a really clear unifying strategy in enrolling everyone into that strategy together, so that you’re all on the same page, and then offering up the tools and resources that everyone needs to do the job. I know it sounds simple. It’s hard to execute and certainly worth bearing in mind. So, thanks for calling those things out.

 

As a marketer who manages a combination of paid search and organic search, which are needs supported by different teams in my world, it’s not lost on me how challenging it can be to marry those things. That really should be two parts of a whole. So, I’m curious, Patrick, how do you think about organic versus paid search as it relates to the patient experience, and how do you coordinate your efforts on the organic front with those of your partners managing the paid activity so that those things work together?

 

PK: I think they’re both extremely valuable and, in my mind, there’s not a difference between the two. There’s performance differences – we know that the level of trust that we encounter through Google My Business and organic search is higher just based upon the way our consumers convert and make those appointments – but paid search is a very high converting platform in itself.

 

The thing that we want to do is make sure, again, that our messaging is consistent, that we’re using the same reasons to believe, because we know from analysis of how long it takes some to convert, that there might be multiple touch points along the way. Paid search might be two of three touch points. So, we want to make sure that the messaging, the reasons to believe are consistent no matter where they interact with us. But from a strategic level, they’re both lower funnel for us. And they’re both of high importance,

 

JP: [It] all kind of goes back to recognizing that those things have to be seamless in the customer experience. Right? So, how do you see local search within the ambulatory services space changing and how is your team adapting?

 

PK: So, yeah, I think that’s an interesting question. Real estate in Google is shrinking, and Google is owning more of the first page for its own products, like Google My Business, for zero click information. I think that that’s going to continue. I think paid search is going to stay rather consistent with the results that you see on the page and the real estate that it’s given, but zero click information and Google My Business, in my mind, has more of a future because the big change in healthcare would be if you can make an appointment to get into your doctor or to an Urgent Care clinic directly from Google, [without ever] having to click over to Banner Health or any other health system, that would be a zero click conversion.

 

Google is working towards that in many industries, including healthcare. And it’s probably not going to be a 2021 solution that you see, but it’s not too far down the road. And being able to provide our consumers with as much information, and as much access as they can out of local search is an extremely strategic focal point for us at Banner Health, and one that we’re keeping a close eye on.

 

So, we’re very active within our local search tools, [and] with our listings. We want to make sure that we’re providing everything that we can, and the information in there is as up-to-date as possible. So, we solicit reviews. We post new information. We provide videos. We provide images. And that continual effort to work the local search has paid very good dividends for Banner Health.

 

Also read: 9 Metrics That Help Measure Customer Engagement

Being able to provide our consumers with as much information, and as much access as they can out of local search is an extremely strategic focal point for us.

JP: I think that’s a well-informed look at what may lie ahead. When it comes to that local search space, what other changes are on the horizon for you and your team in a post-pandemic world?

 

PK: That is yet to be known. Right now, we’re kind of letting the data tell us what to do. Our research team is constantly bringing us new information on the consumer perspective [within a] COVID and a post-COVID world. And, right now, we’re continuing our messaging of safety and a Safe Place For Care, but we realize that that may not last forever, and that we need to plan for the future.

 

I think what we want to do is make sure that, no matter where you are on the spectrum of COVID-concern, whether you feel very comfortable without a mask and you’d like to go about your life like it’s 2019, great! Or if you are forever changed, and you need to know that there are certain safety protocols for you wherever you go, great, we also want to make that person feel very comfortable.

 

So, planning for those two different consumer types is something that is existing at Banner Health, as well as understanding the nature of the changing landscape of healthcare with the digital space, and how those two things can work together to be each other’s benefit.

 

JP: Such an interesting road ahead, no doubt, regardless of how that crystal ball changes over time. But you’ve been very generous with your time today, Patrick, thank you again for joining us, and for the great conversation.

 

PK: Oh, thank you so much, Jessica. I enjoyed it.

 

If you’d like to learn more about Banner Health, you can visit BannerHealth.com or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, all at Banner Health.

 

If you’re interested in learning more about Tallwave and how we help companies design exceptional customer experiences, contact us today. You can also read and download our recent research report, “Data-Driven Insights Into the Evolving Customer Experience” here.

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Customer Engagement Innovators Series Interviews Value Realization

Innovators Q&A: How Blink Fitness Embraced Digital Transformation During the Pandemic

Can you think of a global event that shook the fitness industry as much as COVID-19 did? With no option to continue business as usual, fitness gyms across the world were forced to contend with digital transformations– and fast – by developing apps, delivering content, and finding new, creative ways to provide value to members that were indefinitely stuck at home. And while some succeeded, for many, the weight of the pandemic was too great, and they were forced to shut their doors.

 

In fact, the IHRSA estimates that the US gym and health club industry lost $20.4 billion in 2020. By May 2020, about 500,000 people in the gym industry had been laid off; and by July 2020, 60% of Americans reportedly planned to cancel gym memberships.

 

On the flip side, brands who invested in and focused on delivering digital-first experiences saw a boom of success. With 74% of Americans reportedly using at least one fitness app during the pandemic, home fitness app downloads saw a 46% increase between quarter one and quarter two of 2020, while companies like Peloton, Beachbody, and Tonal (as well as businesses that produce at-home fitness equipment) reported massive revenue growth.

 

Alas, it was fitness gyms that had formerly relied on in-person experiences and only dabbled or recently entered the digital space that were given an ultimatum: Hurry up and create new experiences that put members’ needs at the core or throw in the towel. One gym that experienced this first-hand is Blink Fitness. With 100+ franchised gyms in 10 different states, Blink Fitness strives to change the narrative – and emotional landscape – often associated with gyms.

“Blink is a motivating space with a staff of mood-lifters. We take pride in challenging fitness industry norms and celebrating every unique body,” their website reads. “It’s what’s on the inside that counts… Blink offers a sparkling clean, spacious design with bright colors, scientifically proven to enhance your workout and elevate your mood.”

 

Sounds cool, right? Well, definitely. Except when you can’t actually access the space.

 

So, as the global pandemic reared its ugly head, Michelle Horowitz – Blink Fitness’s Senior Vice President and Head of Marketing and Communications – was tasked with ensuring that the uplifting, body-positive brand could transcend and traverse new digital demands.

 

To learn how Blink Fitness tackled the challenge, our own Partner Robert Wallace sat down with Michelle for our Innovators Q&A Series to discuss the evolving consumer journey, member-first mentality, data-backed strategy, and the future of the fitness industry.

Q&A with Blink Fitness’s Senior Vice President & Head of Marketing & Communications Michelle Horowitz

Robert Wallace: Hello everyone. My name is Robert Wallace. I’m a partner at we’re a customer experience design company, and I am pleased to an honor to be the host of our fourth installment of the new interview series that we’re putting on called the innovators. I’m really happy to have a conversation today with Michelle Horowitz, which she was named one of Brand Innovators Top 100 Women in Brand Marketing, and she’s a visionary in e-commerce marketing and leader experience in a variety of industries – B2C and B2B. She’s built high performing teams that and [has been] really customer obsessed throughout her whole career in marketing communications. And now she is the Senior Vice President and Head of Marketing and Communication at Blink Fitness, which is a premium and affordable fitness brand that challenges conventional fitness stereotypes. [Michelle is] responsible for leading the brand and digital evolution of the company through innovation and movement.

 

[Michelle], obviously that is a timely industry that you’re in and we’ve all gone through a tough year, and an interesting year. So, first of all, welcome, and thank you so much for taking the time. I just went through [your] standard bio, but I’d love to hear in your words a little bit more about your professional journey. You’ve been through sales and marketing… I’d love to just hear really briefly about your career and your journey and how you landed where you are.

 

Michelle Horowitz: Yeah, for sure. Thanks. Thank you, Robert. I’m super excited to be here and it’s an honor to have this conversation with you. So, thank you for having me. I took a circuitous route to be where I am today and where I am today is completely passionate about the health and wellness industry and obviously the impact that fitness can make. It’s never been more apparent than right now about how important it is for us to stay well. And certainly, you know, it’s not just the physical impact of what we’ve been going through [but] also the mental impact. So, to be with a brand that [lives that] ethos is super exciting.

 

Previous to this, I spent some time in fashion and then retail-specialty area, particularly in lifestyle. So, I’m super proud of the work that I’ve done during that time. And it really was all about customer centricity as we built and developed the Loft brand and expanded beyond the US borders into Mexico and Canada. And then I was part of the team that created the Lou & Grey brand, which was really the first foray from a specialty retail perspective that moved into lifestyle. So, it was a big, bold step that the brand took prior to being acquired, and was part of the growth from a D2C brand into 12 stores. So, that’s been the majority of my CMO experience – in the fashion space – but always with an eye to customer centricity and the impact that a brand can have on its consumer base.

Similar to how people feel about the e-commerce experience, they want [fitness] to be there when they want it to be there.

RW: How would you say you’ve segued that customer and member-first mentality, so to speak, in your new role at Blink?

 

MH: Yeah, it’s interesting. I recently took responsibility of the customer service center, as well. So, I think it really speaks to a marketer’s responsibility of the customer journey and thinking about it from the moment of acquisition through to retention and then, obviously, loyalty. So, to put the consumer at the center of it all, from identifying the issues that come through customer service and then being able to be really thoughtful about how we treat our customers and how we have that sort of member-first mentality. But I would say that, stepping back – as we hopefully are through that gateway of the end of the pandemic – that we really pivoted quite quickly at the beginning of the experience, which is more than a year ago, where we had to close down the business and had to really think about how important it was for not only our employees, but also our consumer base to keep them actively engaged and to put their health and wellness first.

 

So, we were very fortunate that we actually have an app – a fantastic app – that was created in 2019, that has three functional areas. One is obviously about the capability to have access to classes, where we partner with a lot of brands, but also create our own content. And then we have nutrition and rejuvenation. So, to be able to sort of engage fully behind that and share it with the community and really open it up – because at the time, it was one membership that had access – we opened it up to everybody. And then, as an engagement vehicle, we actually worked very closely with our personal trainers to create our own content. We began to host live stream content every day that really allowed people to [make] their health and wellness [a priority] as we transitioned to working at home.

 

That was another example of how we did it. And now, as we come out of this pandemic, or we’re traveling through hopefully the tail end of it… As we reopened the gyms, we actually, again, used [and are using] the app as a vehicle to help people feel more comfortable coming back to the gym. And, obviously, health and wellness was the priority for our employees, our communities, and the members that we serve by following all of the CDC guidelines, as well as local guidelines. But, in addition to that, we wanted to use the as a vehicle to help make it easier for everybody. We had that frictionless entrance where they didn’t have to touch or engage with anything. They could use their app. But, in advance of even doing that, they could still reserve their space in the gym, [and] look at capacity.

 

And if they’re not ready to come back to the gym, which some people are not yet ready… They can actually currently take personal training classes through the app. So, we’re constantly trying to think about the consumer experience. And, I think, a natural evolution of this is: “How are we going to continue to marry the digital world with the in-gym experience?” Which I think, until we find stasis, is definitely an “and,” I would imagine that people sort of live in both of those worlds.

RW: It’s interesting because it sounds to me that it boils down to – or what has happened – is it’s almost what does Blink Fitness really stand for? Meaning what businesses is it really in? And the delivery mechanism has changed. So, it has forced you to think about, “Oh, we’re about accessibility and democratization of really high-end health and wellness and fitness. And that used to be delivered through the gym, and now, when the phone goes away – at least partially goes away or has fundamentally changed – how else are we going to fulfill our brand promise while they can’t get to that particular delivery vehicle?” And it’s really interesting how you’ve thought about that and broadened your perspective. The only way you can do that is by putting [the] customer first.

 

MH: I think, even as people sort of flex and figure out what it all looks like, the nice thing about it is, if you [are] coming into the gym and [are] enjoying – whether it’s the weights or the elliptical or whatever the machines are that you choose, or even the stretch area – you might not have time, or you might be doing it in-between appointments or whatever. [But] you can always go home and continue that journey, whether it’s doing a yoga class or a meditation class or more stretching from home. So, I think, similar to how people feel about the e-commerce experience, they want it to be there when they want it to be there. And the app is definitely a vehicle that gives our members what they’re looking for.

 

RW: That’s fascinating, too. The idea of a 360-degree brand is one that that has come up. It came up in my footwear experience, and you probably saw too, where– and I’m dating myself here – but there was a time when you started selling online or selling catalogue or whatever channel is new, there was this fear that you would be cannibalizing your existing channel. And that never happened because it really just made it a 360-degree brand. I can buy whatever it is I want to buy whenever and however I want. I can do it on my phone. I can do it online. I can order through the catalog, if you still want to do that, or I can go into the store. So, it’s fascinating that fitness is going through that same thing.

 

MH: Yeah. And interesting, too. I remember from my retail days, it’s like that haptic social community feeling that you get when you’re walking through a retail store or you might have the urge or that window of time that you’re able to do it at home through the digital experience. I think there [are] some similarities there, for sure.

When you look at the true customer journey, that's not a marketing thing. That's not a product thing. That's not an operations thing... It's everything. The customer – or the member, in your case – doesn't much care what departments or silos exist.

RW: There’s an emotional connection that you touch on, in some cases from actually shopping, but certainly I think a lot of gyms – you have an emotional connection. How do you cultivate that? First of all, how do you think about cultivating connections with your members, but [also], how have you thought about how that has changed online or how you had to evolve that?

 

MH: Yeah, that’s an interesting question. It’s a very community-focused brand, right? When we come into the community, we are committed to the community and the local members. And we think a lot about local. When we first come in [to set] up the gym, we partner with a lot of nonprofits. We work very closely with local government to really engage and let them know that we’re here and we want them to come in and be part of that community. We have – what we call the people that work in the gym – we call them “Mood Lifters,” and they really set the tone and the feeling for coming into the gym.

 

We want people to come in and feel like they’re part of something… The music sets the tone and the friendliness of the Mood Lifters and the personal trainers really create that local community touch point. And often people obviously establish relationships, whether it’s with their trainers, their Mood Lifters, or their local managers. So that really, in and of itself, was really the ethos of the brand that was built. And when we went through COVID and started to create those live streams, we really began to allow the personal trainers – when they taught the daily classes – [to let] their personalities, their excitement for their brand, and for health and wellness, really shine through. And we actually included the capability for people to ask questions and engage, whether it was during the workout or after the workout, so we could really create that continuity.

 

Obviously, in the digital world, it becomes a little bit more difficult, but in the same way that we want to help people curate or navigate their fitness IQ, we see that as a lot of potential in the digital world to sort of [help] continue people on their journeys in the digital world. So, I think part of it is the content that we provide on the app by curating from the nutritional, from the rejuvenation, and then from the classes. And the partners that we’ve chosen, whether it’s Daily Burn or SworkIt or Aaptiv, it’s been very thought through. Of course, there’s tons of opportunity to continue to personalize that experience and really think of that journey. But we look at one as being an extension of the other.

 

RW: Yeah, fascinating. When I think about personalization, I invariably get to the data issue or the data situation. How are you thinking about data? The collection of data? We may soon be in a cookieless world… How does Blink think about this? How do you think about it?… Tell us a little bit more about the personalized experience that you touched on.

MH: Yeah, I think that’s a great question. And, you know, obviously from a brand perspective, it’s a member-first mentality, right? So, you know, and it’s a value exchange, by understanding more particularly, [it] becomes a lot easier obviously in the digital world – through the app – to understand what content appeals to people, where their interests lie, and we can begin to really curate that.

 

So, for us, it’s all about making the experience [and] constantly evolving the experience to make it better: Being really thoughtful in the data-sense from a marketing perspective – obviously, in addition to focusing on the member experience – we have to be very attuned to the applicable laws, legislations, and I think an ever-changing landscape.

 

Also read: How Johnson & Johnson Is Pairing Data With Creativity to Connect With Customers Like Never Before

 

At the beginning of the week, I was listening to Kara Swisher’s podcast “Sway” from the New York Times and she was interviewing Tim Cook. Tim believes that privacy is at the forefront of what things are going to be about. And certainly, from Apple’s perspective, you know, they’re introducing the ATT – the ability for people to choose their privacy settings. So, I think it’s still an interesting time. There are many different things happening at many different levels, from the policy perspective – around section 230 – and, you know, there are some… Amy Klobuchar is very involved with making refinements [to] – I think she’s calling it the Safe Tech Act. You have Virginia announcing that they’re going to be doing very similar [things] to what California did with the CCPA. That they’ve now adopted their version of that. And, I think, from what I heard, there’s another eight states following suit.

 

So, a brand has a responsibility to align with and be aware of that. And then, in addition to that, you also have the platforms, right? Like, Facebook has a lot of responses to Apple and there’s a lot of activity. I look – from a marketing perspective – the importance of staying on top of it and putting member privacy at the forefront is what we are looking at. And staying in tune, too. But there’s, there’s so much going on from a marketing perspective, we work very much in line with our legal department and technology [teams] to make [sure] everything aligns. So, needless to say, I guess there’s a lot going on, Robert.

RW: The ground is shifting, too. I mean, what you just spoke about is going to be different maybe even by Monday. Every day you see that there’s new legislation, or just new technology, and how companies – all of them – are reacting to it. To me, the brands that at least make it, first and foremost, “Hey, we’re paying attention. And we’re doing our best to put you – the member – first.” That starts to build enough of a trust factor that, “Hey, we may not keep up with every single thing, but we’re trying and your first, so you – the member – are first,” I think that’s critically important for most brands to think about, because it’s not necessarily possible to keep pace with everything.

 

MH: Yeah. But I think it’s our responsibility to, as brands, to do that. But I think it also speaks to, you know, the agility and the cross-functional partnership that takes place now, certainly through this time… We’re in it together and navigating through it.

 

RW: So, for sure. When you look at the true customer journey, that’s not a marketing thing. That’s not a product thing. That’s not an operations thing. It’s all of those things – [including] service. It’s everything. The customer – or the member in your case – doesn’t much care what departments or silos exist.

 

MH: One hundred percent. I love that you say that. I mean, we work so closely together – the Head of Operations – we all work so closely together to create this member-first experience and we’re, like you said, it’s an evolution. Simon Sinek talks about “The Infinite Game“. It’s this constant [goal of] doing it better and putting the member first.

 

Also read How to Holistically Map Your Customer Experiences

 

RW: I think organizations are being forced, especially during COVID – because [the] customer became front and center, whether you thought about it or not – and it forced a lot of companies to think about, “How are our departments interacting with one another? And how are those interactions even touching the customer? How do we need to maybe be more agile?”

Our North Star really is thinking about the member first and that member experience.

MH: Yes, I love that you said that. I was just going to say, I think these keywords came out of the pandemic, right? Like, the acceleration of behavior or technology, resiliency, agility. And, obviously, from a leadership perspective, empathy is at the, at the cornerstone, which I think has only made us better and stronger as individuals and teams. So, I agree with you. I think those are some of the keywords that are definitely coming out of this moment in time.

 

RW: Ultimately, that’s a good thing. So, there’s some silver linings. I think it’s all good. So, we’re almost at time, but if you cast your vision forward a little bit, what do you see in terms of the fitness industry, or technology, or any trends, or any combination of the three? What do you see out there in the market? Where do you see things going?

 

MH: Yeah, I think – just touching back on what we started talking about – I really do believe it’s this constant continuation of the member experience. And what does it mean to offer that member experience? From a technology point of view, from a people point of view. Bringing that all together and continuing to deliver that. And, I think, it’s about understanding this moment of stasis: When, you know, the technology and the digital world and the four walls live together. What does that look like? So, I feel like we’re on a journey that was accelerated by COVID, for sure. I don’t think we’re the only industry. Obviously, there’s many that we can point to that have been [impacted by] this acceleration. But, again, a lot of the behaviors that you’re talking about, and that we’ve touched on – the agility, the resiliency, the cross-functional partnership – will be key in this experience. But I think our North Star really is thinking about the member first and that member experience.

 

Also read: Trends Driving CX Design In the Hospitality Industry: Q&A with Marriott International’s Christine Kettmer

 

RW: Yeah. Awesome. Well, I I’ve been fortunate enough to have a few conversations with you. Each one is awesome, and each one, the time sneaks up on us. We could keep on going for a while. But I do want to thank you, again, for taking the time. This has been wonderful. I know our audience is going to appreciate it and learn a lot from it. Is there a URL for Blink Fitness that [people] should check out?

MH: [Yeah], it’s just BlinkFitness.com. Right now, we actually are allowing people to download the app for 60 days trials, no matter where they live. So, I welcome anybody that would be interested. Just go to our website and download the app, or to the app store and download it that way.

 

RH: Excellent. Everyone go do that, go download [the app].

 

MH: Stay healthy, stay well, right?

 

RH: Yeah. Everyone: Stay fit and stay well. That’s exactly right. This will help you do that. So, I’ll do that when I hang up here. But thanks again. It’s really been a lot of fun.

 

MH: I look forward to continuing the conversation. Thank you so much.

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Innovators Q&A: How Johnson & Johnson Is Pairing Data With Creativity to Connect With Customers Like Never Before

A big brand name is no longer a differentiator. In fact, according to the Customers 2020 study, neither is price or product. While those factors may naturally drive more awareness or familiarity, they no longer drive trust and credibility or dependably convert consumers to buyers and advocates. Actually, if you think of it, big legacy brands might have even larger hurdles to overcome in achieving the cross-functional alignment and agreeance it takes to transform customer journeys and craft personalized, valuable experiences at every touchpoint.

 

There’s really only one way huge companies – like Johnson & Johnson – can be innovative in a fast-changing marketplace. They must learn how to pair data and analytics with design and creativity to cultivate authentic strategies that place the humans they serve at their core. Even if that means spending money to create experiences that have no guaranteed ROI.

 

To learn more about how Johnson & Johnson is thinking about and approaching customer experience, we talked to Matthew Fantazier, Senior Brand Manager for Johnson & Johnson’s Baby businesses, including Aveeno Baby and Desitin. As you’ll learn during the conversation, hosted by our very own Founder and CEO Jeffrey Pruitt, Matthew is passionate about bringing together insights, data, and technology to connect authentically with today’s consumers.

 

Prior to his current role, Matthew led digital strategy and media at J&J’s OTC business for Digestive Health, Cough Cold Flu and Eye Care. He has also worked on brands such as ZYRTEC®, SUDAFED®, and BENGAY®. Through his experiences and first-hand interactions with evolving customer experiences, Matthew shares his unique insights and perspective as it pertains to the future of CX.

Q&A with Johnson & Johnson Senior Brand Manager Matt Fantazier

 

Jeff Pruitt: We’d love to hear a little bit about both your personal and professional story. I saw that you interned at Deloitte at the beginning of your career and then took a job as an analyst. So, you’ve always been very tied to brand strategy.

 

Matt Frantazier: I’ve been at J&J (Johnson & Johnson) for about 14 and a half years now, but I did start out as an accountant way back when. I studied accounting, got my CPA, and spent about seven years in finance at J&J, actually. I made the switch to marketing about eight years ago. And that’s definitely been a hallmark of my experience – combining the data and analytics side with creativity. That’s the exciting thing about what I get to do for work now: Combining those two things – data/analytics and creativity – to connect with consumers.

 

JP: That’s great. I actually am, too, a CPA and studied accounting. I don’t know why I actually got into it, but I love [working] more on the marketing and branding side. We’ll get into how data and brand connect, but first, how do you believe marketing strategies have been forced to change for big legacy brands like Johnson & Johnson during COVID?

 

MF: Well, you know, I think the evolution really changed before COVID and… this has been talked about a lot, but the last 10 months or so just accelerated a lot of things that had been advancing maybe at a medium [or] slow pace, but the need to change has been right in our faces. I think one of the biggest evolutions is brands and companies thinking about moving away from advertising and retail and [instead, thinking about] enabling access. How do we enable access to consumers and how do we foster discovery versus just advertising? I think that’s one of the biggest changes that I’ve seen in what we’re thinking about [at Johnson & Johnson]. COVID forced consumers to adopt all sorts of new habits and behaviors. More research is happening online [and on] social media. Consumers are becoming accustomed to different shopping experiences and we have to be there.

"Brands are being pushed to change as fast as the world around them is changing, and we can't wait for perfection."

There’s just countless specific things that have changed from a commerce perspective: E-commerce media habits, [and] consumer demands for brands to stand for something. There’s so much that has changed in the last 10 months. I think brands are just being pushed to change as fast as the world around them is changing. And we can’t wait for perfection. I think that’s the biggest challenge right now: So much has changed so fast that we have to try. You know, we’re in uncomfortable territory of not knowing – doing new things, operating differently – but we have to try to learn and adapt.

 

JP: Yeah. So, when you think about that and you’re pushing out different work streams or different approaches to drive an experience through your brand with your customer, how are you looking at that in conjunction with data, analytics, and creativity and design?

 

MF: The intersection of data and creativity – I think it’s just so much more prominent now. And it’s one of the bigger challenges we’re facing right now: Unlocking this data. There’s so much, and as more commerce and media consumption and interaction – on websites or wherever – happens online, there’s a data trail there. But, “What do we do with it?” is really the next big question. You can have all the data in the world, but if you don’t know what it means, – if you don’t understand what to do differently, or if it’s good or it’s bad – it’s sort of meaningless. So, you know, we seemingly know more about consumers as digital media matures and data becomes more robust, but you have to have that feedback loop to consistently learn and adapt…

 

One of the challenges there is that it can’t [just] be a machine.

 

At the end of the day, we’re talking to humans… They may be online and buying things online, but you still have to make that personal connection. I think that’s where the tension point really lies. Algorithms don’t make purchases. People do. So, the data can be incredibly powerful in understanding what’s working, what’s resonating, but you still need to grab attention and make a human connection there. The data is allowing us to try more things and push further, but I think it can be used as an enabler because you can quickly figure out [if] something is working or not, versus feeling trapped in [the mindset of] “We’re going to do what we know because it’s safe.” We can do unsafe things because of data – it’s unsafe from a performance standpoint – but it’s making that connection and creating that loop. That is really the biggest challenge, right now.

Also read: How We Created a Contemporary Experience For a Strong, Timeless Brand

 

JP: So, getting more specific, what kind of data do you look at? And how does that influence, for example, design – how you test design and get it out into the real world?

 

MF: Yeah, I mean, I think one of the things is that it’s not just one data source. It’s important to not get too myopic and focus on [something like] short term ROI, is a good example. It’s paying the bills. It’s keeping the lights on. That’s important, without a doubt, short-term ROI matters. I would lose my job if I ignored it. But it’s one data point. So, brand awareness or different equity metrics – those are important for long term health assessments to understand [if] what you’re doing [is] driving relevance with your consumer. Is it something that they like? Do people agree with what [you] stand for? You need both. You need to know: Is what you’re doing selling products? Is what you’re doing getting people to respond positively? It’s that mix. You need to understand all of it, which can be hard. It’s easy to anchor on the one good metric and declare a success, but we do need to take a broad approach to it.

 

JP: All too often, we’ll focus as marketers on the bottom of the funnel because it’s the most trackable, but at the same time, as you look at the upper- or mid-funnel, you are now able to track some brand awareness. And it’s important to make sure that you do measure it, but it shouldn’t get the same level of ROI expectation that you do at the bottom of the funnel.

 

MF: Yeah, it’s a different job to be done. You need all of it. I think it’s easy to [say], “My job is to sell product,” but really, it’s to create awareness, drive consideration, and sell product. You need to do all [of] that stuff.

"You can have all the data in the world, but if you don't know what it means, – if you don't understand what to do differently, or if it’s good or it’s bad – it's sort of meaningless."

JP: So, taking this to the experience you’re driving for your customer: How does Johnson & Johnson measure customer experience, both digitally and in store? What are the key components of understanding that experience and ensuring that it’s seamless – that it’s one of value – and that you’re educating the customer correctly?

 

MF: It’s really taking a look at the entire journey. There are so many touch points [within] consumer journeys today. And, I think when you look at it, the consumer journey being very non-linear is a reality that we’re dealing with.

 

So, customer experience [or] consumer experience takes a lot of shapes and forms… I’m thinking about what they need. What are the consumer’s current needs and expectations? You know, in my business, I talk to new parents a lot and they’re very information hungry. So, providing them with knowledge, information, education – about ingredients, or what our products do; how to give your child their first bath, [for example] – that’s relevant. They need that, that’s a lower purchasing barrier. But it may be tips, if it’s a more complex product. If you’re in a category that [doesn’t naturally provide an] intuitive process, or it takes some skill to use your product, you’re going to have to provide support. We see a lot of good examples from hardware stores – they do DIY videos on YouTube. That’s super important. If you don’t know how to install a toilet, you’re not going to go buy one. So, they need that – as far as the consumer journey and experience goes. It’s really [about] putting the consumer at the center, which is a little bit of a trite thing to say, but I think it’s true. First thing’s first.

 

JP: Implementing these strategies is really, really difficult for a lot of brands internally. When brands have a customer acquisition group, a brand group, and a customer experience group – the reality is that it’s still the same customer, they’re just entering your brand through different touch points and avenues. Your experience is resonating, you’re working on the acquisition, but then when you bring them in, it’s still that customer that you’re driving the experience to. Sometimes this journey spans across  multiple teams and stakeholders. How do you manage integrating all the good data that you get around the experience – like you mentioned, talking to actual mothers and parents – and then, embed that through a multitude of strategies that provides a seamless experience to the customer?

MF: We talk a lot about how consumers don’t actually know if they’re getting an ad from me, or from a retailer, or whomever. They see an ad for Johnson’s, and 99% of the time they just see, “Oh, it’s a baby shampoo,” or whatever. But in reality, to your point, there [are] so many parts of the ecosystem at play. It could be an ad or an experience that’s managed by a retailer partner; it can be managed by me, PR, an influencer. It’s so important to be coordinated and to have that partnership. We put a lot of effort into that discussion and alignment upfront: What are our objectives? How are we achieving these together? What is our one communications plan to make sure we’re not operating in silos? From a creative perspective, [that] it’s not different messages; From a data perspective, that we’re talking to the right people, and retargeting the right people, and bringing it all around and feeding insights to one another. It’s all the same consumer. We just trick ourselves into thinking it’s different, but it’s not.

 

JP: Right. Different stakeholders and sometimes different measurements, which drive different initiatives, but trying to align all those is, I think, where Nirvana sits both internally and [for] companies like ours: Trying to find that alignment for the customer sitting in the center.

 

MF: Yes, for sure.

 

JP: So, from a digital first strategy perspective, J&J is a huge legacy company with over 200 companies inside it. How do you drive that overall digital-first strategy as an organization?

 

MF: Yeah, we think about, again, putting the consumer at the center and thinking about, well, first, where are they actually spending their time? What are their actual behaviors in the real world [and where do] we want to interact with them? And digital-first, I think, can be misconstrued as digital only, or digital media, but there’s also a performance mindset that is important within a digital-first mindset of data collection, iteration, optimization, that also needs to be fed into this. But, from a consumer journey perspective, what are those moments along their journey where we can deliver a transformational brand-building experience? Where does it matter? Where is it really high stakes? And put our time and effort there to really make a difference. And, you know, it could be communications, it could be commerce technology, it could be an app experience, whatever. But really, digital-first doesn’t mean anything unless the consumers are there – it’s [zeroing into] a behavior of: They’re working from home, or they like to shop on their phone, or watch how-to videos before they buy something. So, putting ourselves in their shoes and then leveraging digital technology e-commerce to really enable those kinds of brand-building experiences.

"There's also a performance mindset that I think is important within a digital-first mindset of data collection, iteration, optimization, that also needs to be fed into this."

And then, as I mentioned, what have we learned from that, and how do we get better? That performance mindset, I think, to me, that’s what digital-first actually means, which is a lot, and pretty complex. But it’s not, “We’re going to run Facebook ads, and now we’re more digital-first.” That’s objectively not true. A lot of brands do that, and they’re totally not, but it’s a mindset shift, really.

 

Also read: Why Customer Experience Can’t Be All Data-Driven

 

JP: And it’s also a mindset shift to really understand that, even upfront, when you’re identifying your strategies, data can be utilized to understand deeper sentiment and intent from the persona. And also being able to look at engagement metrics, engagement features, and overall demand that does drive both your online and offline strategy through that journey. I think that’s missed a lot.

 

MF: Yeah, it’s getting back to that feedback loop. We don’t want media plans to live in silos. We don’t want insights living in silos, either. So, if you run a programmatic campaign and find out that “Claim X” drives twice as much conversion – it would be pretty good to know as you’re developing other communications or strategies that, “Hey, this is a behavior-changing message. This matters. Let’s think about that. Let’s iterate on this a little bit…” And that’s what we strive for. That’s, I think, Nirvana for me: Getting to that place, but to the extent [in which] you can use it as a research tool. I think that’s one of the less leveraged aspects of digital media right now, and why you’re seeing more and more CPGs getting [into] DTC commerce. I can’t imagine that a lot of these companies are making any money on having a DTC website, selling snacks or soda, but the data they’re getting from it is invaluable. And that’s why they’re doing it.

 

JP: Right. 2020-2021 has been a really interesting year. And COVID in many ways, like you said at the beginning of the [interview], drove the need to really understand the customer experience. If you were to define the experience that you want with your customer, as you continue to go into 2021, what does that relationship look like for J&J?

"If our mission is to make sure babies have the healthiest start to life, how do we not address a global health pandemic? That's crazy.".

MF: I think at a very high level, that relationship is one that is meaningful and relevant. That we are listening to what our consumers need and expect, and we’re delivering on that expectation. [It came into] real focus in the last year with brands: [the need] to think about how they adapt their communications in the face of COVID, and the face of social unrest and racial inequality, and all these different things. There’s a lot on consumers’ minds. It’s not just a product. It could be what’s happening at home or – [for example] – having to homeschool a child for the year, which is a huge challenge, as a lot of us know, right now. But really finding ways to resonate with them on that personal level. We’re a relevant brand, we’re meaningful, and we deliver against those expectations.

 

For us, a lot of new parents are coming into the category [during] a very challenging time. Right now, being an expecting parent is incredibly challenging, which is why last year we launched our #InItTogether program, which is a partnership with Meredith [in which] we created all sorts of different content and videos around what questions to ask your doctor before you go to the hospital; what to expect when you’re giving birth; can your partner be in the delivery room with you. All these sorts of questions we know were rattling around in parents’ minds. There was no tie to sales there, that was purely equity, but we knew we couldn’t talk about shampoos and lotions without addressing this enormous stressor that is happening in the lives of millions of people, right now. We had to talk about this. If our mission is to make sure babies have the healthiest start to life, how do we not address a global health pandemic? That’s crazy.

 

So, I think it’s thinking about that and knowing that we have to be relevant and, if we can continue to do that – if we can continue to make connections, meaningful connections with modern consumers – we’ll be okay. But it’s being agile enough to adapt with the needs and what’s happening in the world around us.

#InItTogether Campaign on Johsnon's Baby Instagram

Also read: How Avidon Health Is Solving the Patient Engagement Problem in Healthcare

 

JP: It’s really made prominent and propelled customer experience forward, faster than I think a lot of people would have expected and the authentic, transparent, empathetic approach to really understanding where people are in their day and their mindset. It’s different for everybody, but being able to – I don’t like the word “market,” as much as I like the [practice of being] able to connect with them with your offering, which is an offering of support, in many respects. So one last question for you. How do you define innovation for both the business that you’re in, and for J&J?

 

MF: I think it is finding what consumers actually want and need, and delivering on it. That could be product innovation to meet emerging needs. We see that across industries in response to the at-home economy now. People’s lives have dramatically changed in the last year. So, there’s new physical needs.

 

We’re also seeing a communications evolution and innovation. So, it could be: What are the needs of consumers, or what are their new questions? What are they wrestling with now? Like the example I gave with parenting information and around COVID. But, I think, regardless, again, it needs to be meaningful. And innovation can’t just be a fresh coat of paint. You can do that, that can work, but ideally it’s evolving with changing needs. If we’ve seen anything in the last year, we’ve seen that needs are changing really rapidly, and the brands and the companies that can continue to evolve and keep pace with what people are looking for, that’s the magic combination. It can be tough. Product innovation obviously takes time. For us, everything we do is backed in science and research. So, we can’t just quickly [get] new products out the door in a couple of weeks, but taking those insights and really thinking about: What are new parents or new consumers looking for? Are they looking for germ-killing characteristics in a wash, right now? Okay. Let’s think about that. How do we deliver on that? But it could also mean information, like the last example, too.

 

JP: Yeah. Well, Matt, from your background – from the very beginning to all the work that you’ve done at J&J – very, very insightful and great to have you on for the Innovator Series. So, I really appreciate your time and look forward to connecting again, soon.

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Innovators Series

Innovators Q&A: How Avidon Is Solving the Patient Engagement Problem In Healthcare

Meet Avidon Health, the behavior change solution that’s solving the engagement problem in healthcare for good.

 

Born in 2020 after the merger of MedPro Wellness and SelfHelpWorks, Avidon Health enables Healthcare organizations across the country to touch their patients’ lives and inspire long-lasting change. By leaning into cognitive behavior training and technologies that advance human connections, they launched a platform called Engagement RX™. This platform not only enables providers, hospitals and telehealth practitioners to increase patient engagement, but also guide their patients to optimal health by focusing holistically on the individual, rather than just their conditions.

 

In this week’s episode of Tallwave’s Innovator Series, our Partner Robert Wallace talks to Clark Lagemann, the co-CEO of Avidon Health who is responsible for spearheading the strategic direction and implementation of Engagement Rx™. They discuss Clark’s journey from sales and marketing to entrepreneurship, the “aha” moment that inspired Avidon Health’s newly-defined purposes, the true definition of innovation in the modern digital age, and how Clark’s personal and professional experiences – including being a three-time Ironman athlete – has influenced his business mindset and approach.

Q&A with Avidon Co-CEO, Clark Lagemann

Robert Wallace: Thanks so much for taking the time to speak to us today, Clark! You’ve had a pretty interesting and inspiring professional journey so why don’t we start at the beginning… In your Linkedin profile, [I love that] you say, “I climbed the corporate ladder and then jumped off into an entrepreneurial world.” Tell us more about how you made that leap from marketing and sales into entrepreneurship.

 

Clark Lagemann: You’ve probably heard the story many times among entrepreneurs. I wasn’t that great in school. I didn’t know what I was going to do but I graduated college and thought, “Well, now what?” I lived close to New York City so the idea to go onto Wall Street or in finance was prominent amongst most of my fellow graduates and friends, but I was someone that could tell a pretty good story, so I decided to go a different path [and] into sales. I said “I’ll go a couple years here and just figure it out and come back and do something else.”

There are [an] infinite number of problems to solve. There’s no shortage of challenges if you think about how much we spend from a GDP perspective on healthcare. How the aging population is being addressed and treated...

So, I started getting into sales, interacting with people, really learning where problems [were], and leveraging a set of solutions that enabled us to solve problems they had for their business. I spent a couple years at a company called ADP, a payroll company, arguably one of the best entry level sales positions and training you can go through. I really had a strong interest in healthcare and transitioned into GlaxoSmithKline. [I] helped that company launch a variety of pharmacologic agents, and then went into the medical device world, where I was working directly with physicians and patients to impact their lives in a very meaningful way. On that journey – let’s just call it 10 years or so – I saw a lot of inefficiencies or difficulties or challenges [that] weren’t being solved…

 

I liked sales because it helped problems get fixed by solutions. In many cases, you’d have a bag you [could] pull out and say, “Here’s a solution that fits for you, Robert…” “Here’s a solution that fits for you, Clark….” But, if you don’t see the solution ever being built, you have to say, “I don’t have a solution for that.” Or you can say, “I’m going to build it myself.” So, I decided to build it myself.

 

RW: I’ve seen a fair amount of entrepreneurs throughout my career and they’re typically either great sales people or great product people. Sometimes, they’re both. Sometimes the best ones are able to – no matter where they started – be that translation layer between here and what the market needs and [then] translate that into what people want and will pay for. What challenges and lessons would you say, as you built your own company, especially in healthcare, were primary lessons that [you learned]?

 

CL: There are [an] infinite number of problems to solve. There’s no shortage of challenges if you think about how much we spend from a GDP perspective on healthcare. How the aging population is being addressed and treated. I would say there’s no limitation to where you can go and solve something, but ultimately it comes down to: Can you solve it quick enough with the budget you have?

 

Many people have this idea that they want to have the beautiful house, corner lot, multiple acres of land, in-ground pool, but they have the budget for none of that. So, how do you eventually earn and get the right to build that house [that] you’ve always dreamed of? It’s by solving micro-problems that ultimately become macro-solutions, and that can be deployed across large scale populations.

RW: How would you articulate the biggest problem that is specifically in healthcare today?

 

CL: [That goes back to] my “Aha!” moment, and where we changed the direction of our business in a very meaningful way.

 

Forever, in my origin story – in starting my own business – I was in an operating room in a very prominent New York city hospital system and I was helping a surgeon do a case. So, basically, surgery. The person we were doing this case on was there only because they weren’t taking care of themselves. My [“Aha”] moment [occurred one day as I was] sitting in the OR – wearing my scrubs, wearing my mask, watching this person through this procedure – and [thinking], “I can’t believe he didn’t just do X, Y and Z, and if he did X, Y and Z, he wouldn’t be here today.” I became so frustrated that people weren’t treating the health and wellness of themselves… I saw that there was this huge opportunity to flip it. To say, “Let’s help these people get healthier.”

 

That was kind of my origin story, where I said, “I’m going to build a business to help these people get healthier.” So, six plus years into running the business – this happened about a year ago, prior to COVID; prior to this incredible change and shift of landscape – I had [that] “Aha!” moment [and] realized, this whole time, I was trying to fix people and help them get healthier. But that’s a byproduct of what we’re really solving, which is: How do you get someone engaged around health? How do you get someone to enroll, to participate, and to complete a set of activities that will change either their health or their life? So, all of our attention went into solving that problem of engagement.

 

That is the problem that we think is the biggest in healthcare, today.

I was trying to fix people and help them get healthier. But that’s a byproduct of what we’re really solving, which is: How do you get someone engaged around health?

RW: That’s well said. A lot of people just have those “Aha!” moments in their everyday lives. Those solutions are sitting out there. It just takes the right people, at the right time to put them together… Tell us about Avidon Health. The company merged two smaller companies in the past year and a half… What you guys are doing and how?

 

CL: Our belief is [that] healthcare is driven through human connection, but the problem with human connection is that it’s very expensive. In a perfect world, I’d have a doctor, a nutritionist, [and]a personal trainer living with me and telling me what I should and shouldn’t eat, how to workout, making sure I get my vaccinations and take my vitamins, but that’s completely unscalable, and not realistic for most normal people…

 

We spent five [to] six years doing health coaching, so, one-on-one interactions with people all across the country and identified certain trends we recognized that people need to work with. We sought out a digital solution company based on the West Coast that had an incredible cognitive behavioral training process and video courses to support a coaching methodology. We said, “One plus one probably doesn’t equal two, but one plus one equals three.”

 

It took those two pieces: [Being] human-centered and coach-driven, and layering in enablement technologies to make the coaches more successful and effective. [That’s what we] think is a huge differentiator [for us] – [we empower] technology with a human-centered focus and [partner it with ] a human-first approach. We’re having our coaches and our care teams and clinicians say, “Here’s all the things people need.” Then, the technical team and engineers build it. So, now, it feels like you’re really interacting with one person.

 

 

Our Work: Upleveling a Product That’s All About Great Service

 

RW: There are a lot of solutions in and around that space, but you really seem to have a lot more empathy around what people are facing, and understanding that connection. It seems to be more about the combining of real people and technology, and trying to figure out where that happy ground is, because it seems neither one on their own is fixing the problem.

 

CL: Changing unhealthy behavior is hard. Most people are going to fail. The most ambitious, driven individuals are not always achieving what they hope for in their health and in their wellness.

 

The belief behind this is [that] there aren’t great solutions – that we’ve identified – that are solving that problem. There are great solutions that have assets that could solve that problem. But, the problem is, Robert – as I say problem six times in a row – they’re not being used. There is no engagement. There is no acceleration, on top of that. You can’t just do text messages and emails, because it doesn’t feel natural. It doesn’t feel like a person. It doesn’t have [that] connection. So, we’ve been able to incorporate that human connection into all the other steps [we were] taking.

 

RW: I have at least three health and wellness apps on my phone, and I don’t use any of them. But, I do track certain things, and I do answer when my human trainer yells at me. That, I pay attention to.

 

CL: Accountability is incredibly important.

Our belief is [that] healthcare is driven through human connection, but the problem with human connection is that it's very expensive.

RW: Tell us about your business and how it’s structured – who do you sell to?

 

CL: We’re an enablement solution or technology for third parties. So, we [identify where] people [are] trying to interact or engage with a large population, and [ask], how do we make it run better, faster, stronger, longer?

 

Primarily, you think of the BUCAs – the Blues, United, Cignas. They have a large number of members that interact with them for health and wellness. Can we make their solutions run better? The answer is: Of course, we can. We have incredible third-party data and case studies that validate and demonstrate [our] efficacy in creating more meaningful change. Then, [we] just go down the line [considering] where people interact with health. So, hospital systems and healthcare providers…

 

Prior to COVID, people weren’t talking about virtual coaching – how [to] make engagement in people’s homes and communities. They were doing it a little bit, but COVID happened, and it’s like the whole world shifted. [Our] expectations – as consumers, consuming healthcare – are a lot different than they were a year ago. [We’re] not waiting for the doctor for 45 minutes, [we’re] expecting things to be delivered to [our homes], [and we’re] expecting things to be easy and simple. We believe – and you know this, Robert, from your experience – [that Healthcare is] slower to implement newer technologies… We can help give them a little more speed… Consumers are expecting that right now.

RW: I’ll diverge here for a minute. In many ways, a lot of the things that have happened in E-commerce over the last 12 months pushed everything forward five years. I think there are some things in the healthcare world that happened, too, around telehealth.

 

Telehealth was a thing, for sure, but now, I think it’s been pushed forward five years. And here we stand. That plays well for Avidon Health.

 

I actually heard the other day, you know, the Mirror, the fitness solution recently bought by LuluLemon? They’re now thinking about having that be the portal for telehealth. That’s an example of how the whole thing got disrupted right under our noses, and it bodes well for the kind of integrative approach Avidon Health is taking.

 

CL: Again – going back to the problems – think about a huge problem right now that’s across every state. It doesn’t have any empathy. [It doesn’t care about] your social, economic class: Substance abuse.

 

People are addicted to pain pills, addicted to different substances. They’re having a difficult time going to their traditional therapies and treatments, because they’re not in their same environments, anymore. So, we said, “This is a tremendous opportunity for us to leverage what we’ve learned and throw it against a big problem that many Americans across the country, healthcare systems and communities are suffering from…

 

So, we built out a program to solve that, because we can acknowledge that there’s this [fear] that [people battling addiction aren’t] going to be able to get the treatment they had in the past. Now, we’re doing something where they can get [treatment] 24/7. Within minutes, [they can] be interacting with an experience that can change their lives and help them get off of – or stay off of – those abuses and different substances they [are or] were on.

Can we increase the interactions? The completion rate of certain predetermined clinical paths or clinical protocols? While we are a face fresh in the industry, we have a tremendous amount of experience.

RW: How are you thinking about the customer experience? You’ve described a much more different, and potentially effective, way of doing things for the business, but how are you thinking about how the customer experience is being effective? How are you ensuring you’re effective? Are there specific metrics you look at?

 

CL: Ya, going back to engagement. Can we increase the interactions? The completion rate of certain predetermined clinical paths or clinical protocols? While we are a face fresh in the industry, we have a tremendous amount of experience: [We’re impacting] four million lives right now, [and hosting] hundreds of thousands of interactive coaching sessions. Everything we’ve built has been built on the problems and pain points that we were trying to solve for ourselves, and now, we’re saying we can package this whole thing up, and give it to another organization and say, “We know you have these problems too. Take this box and open it. It will give you all the tools you need to be successful and engaging with your own populations.”

 

RW: How does the product actually work. I’d love to hear about how the pieces interact: What a customer might go through and how they interact with the technology, coaches and content?

 

CL: Almost always, someone has a solution. They have something they’ve worked on, built, or is sitting on the shelf behind them that they want to use, but don’t know how.

 

We built our solution to fit into their solutions. So, robust APIs, webhooks, [and] documentation. People can take our solution, and bring it right into their universe and environment. The end user would never know it’s us…

For those [who] don’t have a solution, we say, “Well, we’ll give you something that’s white label, so again, the end user will never know that we’re there.” They’re just running with the solution. We give them all that at their fingertips with a few clicks.

 

[Now], the end user’s perspective. This is where it becomes very fun and very interesting. The greatest solutions in the world only work if you use them, you know about them, and you’re engaged with them. This is a repeated theme, over and over. So, we built out what we call a Recruitment Phase. Most solutions start with the person actually on your product. That’s, like, step five. You don’t just download an app and put in your information – that’s crazy talk, man! You had to have a moment, a life event, [or] a motivation to get signed up.

 

Now, once you’re there, [that’s when] everything happens. Our magic starts when we try to get you interacting. We say. “We’re going to educate you and engage with you.” We look at zip codes where people are [interacting from]. We have data to support different personality types of those zip codes. So, we look at one of five different personality types that you will most likely have if you live in a certain zip code. Then, we start to create a messaging strategy to get you into our system and solution. You come on our solution, you verify that our assumptions were correct, and your experience begins.

 

Some personalities say, “I want to tell you everything about me, I’m going to give you my life story!” Other people say, “No, thank you, just give me what i need. Give me my answer.” So, as you’re interacting. the solution evolves and shows you things that are more relevant for your personality type. Then… it gets exciting. We’re dancing at that point. [The solution surfaces] interactive content relevant to your health risks, holds you accountable and makes sure we use – and this is really important – cognitive behavioral training actually influence your activities long term.

Avidon post about the importance of content

RW: That’s really smart. When I think about customer experience, I use the term “Persona,” but what personas really are are amalgamations of behaviors. What you’re saying: You’re trying to think about what behavior types and what personality types lead to certain behaviors and build the product around that – or at least form the pieces of the product based an individual person’s needs. That’s really interesting.

 

CL: Ya, and think about this: There’s five generations in the workforce right now… It’s insane! Think of someone in their mid-60s working, and someone in their early 20s working. Do you think they want the same solution? No, absolutely not! Yet, the idea behind it is, “Let’s build something that fits all people.”

 

Our solution is focused on the individual. Not the condition, but the individual. Their personality, their interactions, their learning style – which we haven’t even talked about. How people learn is different. You may want to consume something that takes you seven minutes to read; I may want to consume video content. So, how do we serve it up to you [so that it’s] relevant and timely?

 

RW: I have more of a philosophical question, when you define innovation, do you think it has to be disruptive?

 

CL: When you hear the word innovation, it’s sexy and people want to just slam down innovation and say, “Thats me, look at what I can do!” But innovation happens everyday. I look at my daughter – she’s 2 years old – she’s innovating, she’s telling me what she wants. It doesn’t need to be so disruptive that it changes the world, but it [needs to change] her world.

 

For me, if I can innovate on something that makes a meaningful change for one of my employees. or for a person that’s consuming our product, it could change their life. [Even if] it’s just a small change for them, [it could] ultimately amass into something very large because it’s so incredibly needed for their own experiences or personal beliefs.

Changing unhealthy behavior is hard. Most people are going to fail.

RW: You’re a technology person. You’re also a healthcare person. Do you see any larger trends that you believe are moving one way or the other for 2021, 2022, or even over the next five years?

 

CL: I think of the acceleration of everything – virtual and remote – that happened with COVID. It was really incredible. Where I thought the market was, as you touched on, it basically got sped up by three years – five years potentially.

 

So, where I thought we were going to be going, we’re almost there now, which is kind of crazy because i was only thinking – as an entrepreneur you look at, “What am i going to do tomorrow? What am I going to do in a month from now? What am I going to do in a year? Three? Five? You’re not twenty years out. That’s just not realistic. So, where I think we’re going is almost what I see coming at me right now, which is leveraging this highly personalized approach to interact with people in their homes, and a very convenient time that they desire, versus forcing people to get into their cars, to wade into buildings – typical brick and mortars – with a dozen other people waiting. You don’t get seen on time; the experience is not great. It’s not a consumer experience. You’re going to take that experience whether you like it or not because you have to.

 

Now, there’s a different way. It’s making it more interactive and more compelling.

 

RW: A lot of startups are ahead of the trends and, a lot of times, they have to either hope they can pull the market with them, or hope the market catches up with them, and that those two things hit each other while the company stays alive. You were doing that and everything went like this, and now, you’re standing here saying you have a perfect solution for the time. It’s so fascinating and rare.

 

CL: Before [we acquired] the company in the West Coast, we just saw white space and thought this is where [things were going]. We started pulling it together, and as COVID happened, it came almost too fast… It’s a good problem to have.

 

Now, it’s a matter of, “How do we translate our story, so that it’s compelling to the budget holder that’s making that decision, that has some sort of solutions or budget in place?” They’re deploying against this problem that isn’t getting better. People are not reversing the curve in healthcare – healthcare costs are getting more expensive every year, it’s insane. But yet, we’re doing the same thing, over and over and over again, with a different skin, maybe a different smell or a different taste, but it’s the same general solution.

 

So, we say, “Let’s take that solution, and let’s make it a hell of a lot better.”

RW: Right. I mean, stay healthier. There’s the first answer, right?

 

CL: I’ll take that. Yes, please!

 

Also read: Real People Told Us What They Want From Healthcare in 2021

 

RW: I want to switch to a personal question and fun fact. Our research team dug up that you’re a three time Ironman, is that correct?

 

CL: I’ve suffered those hours on the course, yes.

 

RW: My guess is that what you learned during those Ironmans has helped you in how you approach your professional work. Is that a fair statement?

 

CL: It is. To get to that starting line, the amount of work you have to do… People [associate] overnight success [with] entrepreneurs, but [they] only see the final product.

 

It [took] eight months of training to get to my first Ironman, and it forced me to cut out noise. When I started training for it, I cut out social media. I just disappeared because my primary focus – just like when you’re running a business, is making sure this thing gets to the starting line. Not even the finish line, to the starting line. And when you get there, you’ve got this race, the cannon goes off, and you realize: There’s a whole community of people that are there, that want you to get to the finish line.

 

So, just like an entrepreneur, as I’m seeing right now, there’s a whole community – yourself including – that wants to see us get to the finish line. And the finish line for me could be different than someone else’s finish line, but the idea is that we rally behind our entrepreneurs, and people want to see them do really well. But you have to earn the right to get to the starting line. You’re sure as hell not going to go do it without thinking about it. You have to earn the right to get to that starting line. That, to me, was my “Wow” moment.

This business that we’re doing right now is going to change the way people interact with healthcare in a very meaningful way.

RW: There’s also a mental stamina to entrepreneurship. Those overnight successes you mentioned, and people think about the “Unicorns.” Those unicorns are 10 years old. Those first seven or eight years were really difficult, but no one remembers that first half of the process.

 

CL: I remember when I ran across the finish line at my last Ironman. It was 15 ½ hours on the course. I was exhausted… As I’m coming up to the finish line – I’m not having a good day. I’m not feeling well. I was telling my wife and family friends that were there, “I’m sure as hell not going to do this, again. No way. I’m done, I’m exhausted, this is stupid. What was I thinking?”

 

The next day, we’re in wine country having a couple glasses of wine celebrating, and I say, “I’m going to do this next year.” And [my wife] said, “You told me you were never going to do it again?!”

 

What you said is so true. You forget the pain that got you there. Ya, it was painful to get there. But I have this desire to run this business. You see a problem, you go to solve it, and if you don’t have the solution, you keep working on it.

 

RW: It isn’t about the money, it isn’t about the finish line – well, it is but it isn’t. It’s about doing what’s necessary to see if you can make it happen.

 

CL: How often in life do we have times like that? We have a finite amount of time to be here. For all the things I’ve done, there’s so much more I want to do and achieve, and I need to force myself to do it.

 

It’s easy to let a week go by. And [then, when it’s gone] you don’t realize what you’ve done and achieved to help make yourself better, your family better, or your community better. I want to make sure that I’m doing that.

 

This business that we’re doing right now is going to change the way people interact with healthcare in a very meaningful way.

Learn more about Avidon Health by visiting their website and staying up-to-date with them on LinkedIn

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Innovators Series Strategy Uncategorized

Innovators Q&A: How Genexa Is Challenging the Pharmaceutical Industry & FDA

Welcome to our first of many interviews with innovators, mavericks and leaders across the globe who are challenging convention and changing the CX status quo!

 

To kick off the series, our Partner Robert Wallace who leads Tallwave’s strategic market and growth opportunities interviewed Kelli MacDonald, Chief Marketing Officer of the world’s first clean medicine company Genexa. Founded in 2014 by two dads who were concerned about the ingredients in their family’s medicine bottles, Genexa has one simple mission: To put people over everything. They believe in expanding health education and improving accessibility to clean medicines for all. And in 2021, they’ve got some pretty big goals – some backed by data, and others inspired by their ‘StoryDoing’ ethos. 

 

Learn how Genexa plans to evolve from start-up to household name, Washington D.C. lobbyist, and the brand that changed the over-the-counter (OTC) industry for good. 

Q&A with Kelli Lane MacDonald, Genexa CMO

Robert Wallace: To start, I think it would be worthwhile for you to give us a brief overview of your background and an introduction to Genexa.

 

Kelli Lane MacDonald: Sure! I [started my career cutting] my teeth at various different advertising agencies up and down Madison Avenue, if you will, in New York City. I went back to school while working at one of those agencies to really dig into customer experience, human centered design – to expand my knowledge.

 

Through that process, I landed at a brand strategy firm that really focused on putting the person at the center of the experience. [They] hung their philosophy on this idea of ‘StoryDoing’… [it’s] the concept that you [not only] need a really powerful story and mission – you need to do that story in the world. The best brands in the world – [the ones that] are most famous, impactful and giving back to society – are the ones that follow that kind of philosophy. So, through that work – through my previous agency where I was the Managing Director – we started working with Genexa to help them finalize their brand and really take them to the next level with the launch into stores – 40,000 different retailers like Target and RiteAid, Walgreen, Whole Foods and many others. So, I bring a lot of experience with marketing, communications and consumer insights – how to speak with, touch and provide value to consumers everyday.

 

What really drives me every morning to wake up and [makes me] excited to do this job with Genexa is what they’ve built. The founders of Genexa, David Johnson and Matt Spielberg, are two dads. About five years ago, they looked at what was in their children’s medicine and couldn’t believe the artificial dyes, colors and ingredients – literally the poisonous ingredients in substances like Antifreeze – that are being used in micro-doses in our medicines and we ingest to make us feel better. They felt there had to be another way and so they embarked on a journey to really create alternatives that are just as effective and have the same active ingredients, which is the reason you take a medicine – acetaminophen, diphenhydramine… the reason you take Tylenol or Mucinex or Benadryl – but take out all of the dirty, inactive ingredients and replace them with organic, non-GMO alternatives. Our whole company is built around this philosophy ‘People over everything…’ That everyone deserves access to cleaner, better for you medicines. And you know, we’re thankful to all of our retail partners who are helping us bring that to everybody.

"Our whole company is built around this philosophy ‘People over everything…’ That everyone deserves access to cleaner, better for you medicines."

RW: Thank you for that. It’s a really interesting concept. When you looked or are looking at building out Genexa, do you take into consideration any specific touchpoints in the over-the-counter buying journey? What user experience components do you believe to be most critical to customer conversions and loyalty? 

 

KLM: That’s a great question. There’s really two kinds of OTC drug shoppers and all of us are those two personas depending on the situation that we’re in. There’s the emergency situation: Your child has a 103 degree fever. It’s 11pm at night. You need to go get relief for them to bring that fever down. Or you are not in a moment of crisis and are thinking about how to improve your health, be prepared and clean up your medicine cabinet or find alternative options.

 

As consumers, there’s been a clean revolution in all kinds of industries – food, beverage, beauty – to me, it’s actually the most counterintuitive thought in the world that the medicine we put into our bodies to make us feel better would be the products that are still dirty and have dirty ingredients.

 

As we think about those two personas – the emergency shopping persona versus the non-crisis but trying to prepare [persona] – there are different needs, right? If you’re in an emergency situation, [you’re] not ordering something online and waiting two days for it to [arrive]. It’s not useful, at that point. Where as.. If you’re thinking about how to live a less stressful life or help with sleep at night because of the changing of time zones, you’re more in that reactive mode. Because of that, we made a really conscious decision to be the only pharmaceutical company that sells omnichannel. We, obviously, have an in-store presence with retailers. We have a .com, we have Amazon, we’re selling through instacart. [We’ve made] a conscious decision that we never want to force a consumer to shop in a way that is not natural or useful for them, and, therefore, we had to build out sales and marketing strategies that supported that.

RW: How did you come to those realizations that it needed to be a 360 customer experience or to understand that those were the two primary personas that you were looking at? Did you do audience research?

 

KLM: Yes, we did quite a bit back in [quarter one] of last year. To give my counterparts that run sales internally at Genexa credit – they started having retailer conversations long before the marketing team did tons of audience research and segmentation and said this was the right decision: To go have those conversations. I think, originally, like any entrepreneurial culture, there’s probably a little bit of gut feeling, a lot of talking to people in aisles. Everybody on our executive team walks into retail aisles and just talks to customers – well before COVID. We don’t do that currently. And so, it starts by understanding the customer – we used research to validate that – and also find additional insights to understand how to reach them, how to add value and [to uncover] what their need states were.

 

Also read: What Is CX & Why Does It Matter

RW: How did you identify or evaluate which channels to go after first? You have DTC, big and small retailers, instacart – how did you prioritize those or even think of those when crafting omnichannel funnels? What was most important to you and your strategy?

 

KLM: It’s chicken and egg, honestly, because from my perspective, depending on who you are as a brand – that’s where I think you need to really start: Do some soul searching, figure out what is authentically you. Then use that to inform how you think about your business and where to build, invest time, money and effort first. But I think the egg side of that is – especially with more entrepreneurial startup environment – you have to get your product into people’s hands. So, really organically, our sales team went to the Erewhons and the Sprouts in LA [where it was founded] with backpacks of product… and just asked for some time with the decision-makers of those stores.

 

But I also think, coming back to the brand point, part of what makes Genexa so different is that we call ourselves the only human funnel. We are pharma with a face. Our founders phone numbers are on every single product on the box. We have Founder Fridays where our two founders actually call customers. Our customer service team are people, they’re not robots or offshore. They sit in the office with the rest of the teams. It was really important to us to make sure that, when we’re thinking about where we’re going to show up, we do that in a way that ladders back to the brand and that humanity.

RW: Is that a good example of ‘StoryDoing?’

 

KLM: Yes! My team gets tired of me saying this, but I constantly say, ‘Living out our purpose is not the job of just the marketing team.’

In order for a company to be successful – [for] a brand to be built and have long-term loyalty and really impact change in a society – every single person in the company, whether in quality or compliance or legal or sales, they need to understand what mission we’re on and they need to shape and drive their actions accordingly.

"Every single person in the company, whether in quality or compliance or legal or sales, they need to understand what mission we’re on and they need to shape and drive their actions accordingly."

RW: I agree. You think about brands people truly love – truly covet – and have an emotional connection to. Those people that have that kind of affinity, they don’t talk about it in terms of a product thing or a customer service thing or a marketing thing. It’s a brand thing and that means every touchpoint has to be right in line. You’re making a promise as a brand – you have to question if everything else is fulfilling that promise.

 

KLM: Right, [you have to consider] every interaction [a person has] with the brand: Opening the package of a medicine bottle, where [they shop for that, calling customer service or, obviously, the social impact work that we do. All of [those are] our brand touchpoints. [They’re all] opportunities for consumers to create a relationship, good or bad, with the brand. The companies that are doing it poorly are only thinking about advertising – they’re talking, they’re not walking. It’s those that are on the flipside of that – that understand that purpose has to be embedded into everything you do as a business – that are most successful.

 

Also read: Real People Told Us What They Want From Healthcare in 2021

RW: It’s that idea of authentic awareness. It’s not just about doing a mass market campaign, but doing something authentically that actually speaks to people in a way they care about. It’s not just driving eyeballs, that’s only part of it. So, you have the authentic awareness part of things, you have the culture storytelling… you obviously have a product that’s cleaner, better and healthier for people. Those are departures from other OTC brands out there, but is there anything else you’re doing that’s different from other legacy brands you’re competing against? Not that those two alone aren’t enough.

 

KLM: Yes. We’ve been working on a [longer term] impact strategy, so we’re going to have a couple of pretty significant initiatives kick off this year that are in service of driving change at a systemic level. So, with the FDA – I don’t know if you know this but Europe actually has the European standard, which is the equivalent of the FDA in Europe, and the standards that they put out are incredibly more strict than they are in the U.S. All of the ingredients that are on Genexa’s ‘X List’ – which is our growing list of ingredients that we vow never to put in our products and are in our competitor’s products – 98% of those are banned in Europe. So, it’s not even a question for European products. That really gets you thinking. How come European citizens have access to carte blanche better products than there are in the U.S? It doesn’t seem sensible. So, Genexa is really leading the charge. I don’t want to give too much away, but we’re going to be partnering with some other brands that you know and love to really drive that change at a systemic level in Washington D.C. [and with the FDA.

 

We’re also really looking at – I said the word access earlier – [increasing] knowledge. First and foremost, people don’t know that these ingredients are in their medicines. Then, [it’s about getting people] access to the actual product. We’re standing up an initiative that will help bring education and actual products to communities that otherwise don’t have access, have been forgotten about or are often overlooked because – especially with clean products – I think marketers realized a couple decades ago that they could mark those products up to be premium pricing. Genexa does not believe in [in that]. Our products are more expensive to source because they are better-for-you products – they’re not synthetically made in a lab – and so what we’ve done is kept those price points as competitive as possible. They’re never more than 15% of the leading skew. That’s really driven by this idea of ‘People over everything’. Everybody deserves knowledge and access to better products.

RW: How do you measure ‘People over everything’? You have this idea of people – it feels qualitative… super important but qualitative – but then you have to measure that somehow. How are you measuring your impact or how are you using data to measure whether you’re on the right track or not?

 

KLM: There are some really incredible brand impact partners that have built out tools to help do that. I think there’s probably a more formal way to do that, which we’re working on standing up.

 

I think informally, we do donate quite a bit of product to different organizations – new moms that don’t have health insurance… Baby2Baby does a lot of really good work with new moms. We don’t shout it off of the rooftops. We feel we’re privileged enough to be in a position where we can give the product to people [who] need it. And that’s our duty, we are fortunate to be in that position. Two years back, we actually built a clean water well in Central America because access to clean water is really the fundamental starting point for good health, or better health.So, we’ve really acted out quite a few initiatives over the past few years that we can more informally measure.

 

Also read: Why Customer Experience Can’t Be All Data-Driven

But to answer your question, there are tools that – when you design your brand impact strategy – you look at societal and cultural health and there are all these different metrics that you can measure the impact your brand is having over time to help move that needle. One of our goals over the next few years is to start getting the FDA to cross out previously approved ingredients in all medicines, [so] Genexa [is not] the only [brand] that has better ingredients. That’s a tangible measurement. If we can get five of those products removed – or however many ingredients removed – across the U.S., that’s longterm going to incrementally have an incredible impact on people’s health.

 

RW:  If you’re successful in what you’re setting out to do, that will disrupt the OTC market quite a lot. Do you feel that disruption is a prerequisite of innovation or do you think that you can innovate and do cool things that aren’t necessarily disruptive but still effective?

 

KLM: The latter. If you go back to the famous Henry Ford quote of 1920-something, when he said ‘If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.’ He wasn’t necessarily looking to disrupt horse and buggy [businesses], he was identifying an opportunity to create a better product, a better experience. [He was identifying] a need state for people. So, I think disruption is one way, but I also think consumer insight – understanding where people are and what they need most – [can be disruptive].

 

I love the Swiffer example, too. They went in people’s houses and looked at how women, primarily, homemakers were cleaning floors. One woman wet a paper towel and mopped up the coffee grounds off the floor. Again, not setting out to disrupt vacuums, but trying to define a better option. In-between the vacuum happens to be a Swiffer.

"It was really important to us to make sure that, when we’re thinking about where we’re going to show up, we do that in a way that ladders back to the brand and that humanity."

RW: I love that example. The spinbrush is another one. So, this has been a big year for everyone, obviously: 2020. But Genexa went through a rebranding, released a new line of products, launched some campaigns and even established a partnership with Nintendo. That’s a big year. What do you see as your mandate as CMO for 2021?

 

KLM: To make 2020 feel like it was just a step on the journey. This year is all about growth. Last year was about foundation and reinforcing foundational elements and starting to put the pieces in place for serious growth. Obviously, getting a presence in 40,000 doors is growth, but it was really just starting to reinforce that foundation. This year is about taking us to the next level. Ultimately, I want Genexa to be a household name. I want everybody to understand that they don’t have to settle for less than acceptable ingredients in their medicines. Then we can start thinking beyond just OTC… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

 

RW: We’re marketing people. It’s what we do. Thank you so much, Kelli! I love what Genexa is doing. I love your passion for it and I love the idea of really being authentic in how you’re doing your business and at scale. Genexa looks like it’s well on its way.

 

KLM: Thank you, Robert!

Want to learn more about Genexa? Visit their website and check out their latest advertising spot below.