We sat down with Margaret Safford, whose marketing career spans Fortune 500 companies to more recently, health and wellness start-ups. Margaret brings us important perspectives on the role of brand and performance marketing and the future of health and wellness innovation.

Why did you make the leap from Fortune 500 companies to a start-up?

I have always been interested in building things from the ground up. That was one of the main reasons why I went to Babson for my MBA. Babson is well-known for entrepreneurship (25 years in counting ranked as #1!). The other reason was that my grandfather went to Babson for advanced business studies in the late 1940s. This was before they offered an MBA so he was a bit of a pioneer. He then bought and ran a successful travel business. I imagined one day I would follow his footsteps and land at a startup.

I was originally drawn to brand marketing as it allows for the opportunity to be an entrepreneur within a larger organization and to launch and grow brands that have a positive impact on the lives of consumers across the world. Working for $1B brands at Oral-B, Colgate-Palmolive and CVS Health afforded me access to best-in-class training, resources and the ability to work alongside experienced marketers. I had access to budgets for primary and secondary market research to uncover deep consumer insights to unlock new ideas for consumer products and campaigns. I also loved the global aspect of many of these roles - it was exciting to see products that I launched sold in retail locations all around the world from Buenos Aires to Paris to Bangkok!

Image courtesy of Evolved By Nature

In late 2019 I took a risk to change paths and move to a high-growth startup. I was inspired by the mission of Evolved By Nature to create personal care products that were safer for skin and the planet. I was able to draw on my brand marketing toolkit to dive into the consumer white space and build a business plan to launch a line of hand soap that would be gentle and safe for frequent use, particularly in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Leveraging the insight that people were washing their hands more frequently (8-10x on average) and more educated than ever about the ingredients in their personal care products, I worked quickly with a very nimble team to launch our brand in DTC channels in a condensed time period.

I made the leap to a startup to be able to create something new that solved a problem for consumer health and wellness and take an active role in its scale. It is now rewarding to use the knowledge I have gained to mentor startups and female entrepreneurs in the health and wellness space through MassChallenge and back through Babson.

In an omnichannel world often dominated by digital, how do you view the role of brand marketing and performance marketing?

In today’s world, it can be tempting to become hyper focused on performance marketing, which is generally defined as online marketing activities where advertisers pay only for interactions with target customers when a specific action is completed (e.g. a click or a sale). Performance data is available instantly, and is certainly valuable for a variety of applications, from media optimization to personalization. However, there are so many KPIs to track and measure that one can become lost in the metrics and the consumer insights can be harder to find. Additionally, there are relatively fewer barriers to entry to launch a product on a variety of B2C and B2B marketplaces. In my latest role, launching and growing our startup brand on Amazon, I was constantly tracking daily sales, ROAS, the number of customer reviews - making sure to stay above 4.5 out of 5 stars. One tangible KPI I liked to focus on to gain an understanding of product likeability and loyalty was monthly growth of our “subscribe and save” programs. Ultimately, however, this can lead to an outsized amount of time, attention and budget focused on performance marketing. It may end up that you are selling products vs. building a brand and building physical availability but not mental availability. So it is a balancing act!

Image courtesy of Postalytics

To keep the balance, a general guideline I like to consider is to allocate at least 25% to brand building activities (depending on campaign goals and brand maturity). As a traditional brand marketer, I feel that it is critical to keep focus on the longer-term brand equity component in an omnichannel environment. What does the brand stand for and why does it matter? According to Kantar, the strongest brands in the world are meaningful, different and salient. The question that is always on my mind is - with so many product choices from so many channels, how can you stand out? It is important to invest the time on the brand strategy. Diving into the target customer, what they care about, identifying the unmet need, benefit or connection that the brand can uniquely solve all combine to create products and messaging that build a memorable connection. From there, optimize the performance marketing KPIs across the marketing funnel to drive loyalty and grow the customer base as it is all interconnected. I often recommend the importance of paying close attention to data sources like consumer reviews and actioning against them to continue to create positive associations and ensure the brand comes through in a memorable way to the consumer.

In what ways do you think marketing technology is transforming health and wellness innovation?

I recently published a series of articles with Sophia Agustina, a marketing leader at IBM, where we are exploring how advances in marketing technology have helped to improve our health and wellbeing. The 4 key themes include increased personalization, improving organization and efficiency, increased access to product education and data integration.

Image courtesy of Houston Chronicle

Based on our audience feedback around data sharing and personalization, we found that willingness to share data is driven by a perceived benefit that allows people to make smarter, proactive decisions about their health and wellness. The most-cited reasons given for trading-off that balance between privacy and personalization center around these 3 essential areas.

1. Health monitoring and tracking - brands that have been built around tools that monitor heart rate 24/7, blood glucose levels, fitness, sleep and nutrition trackers.

2. Education and discovery - brands that improve customer loyalty and retention by leveraging the ease of personalized recommendations. Access to product ingredients, safety, allergy information and recyclability is also more readily available in real-time and can be leveraged to drive transparency and brand value.

3. Efficiency and task-monitoring. Marketers are leveraging opportunities that have emerged with tools that help people manage their calendars (more efficiently schedule reminders, doctor’s appointments and automating purchases).

There are countless new brands playing in the global wellness economy that leverage this data to add a specific and measurable improvement to our day-to-day lives. And all of these areas are ripe for continual health and wellness innovation. It is exciting to think about what is possible and how we can shape the future to add value to our overall wellbeing.

Lynda Ferrari

Lynda is a consumer marketing expert with a track record of successful U.S. and global product launches. She has created new product innovations across consumer wellness, from personal care to digital health. She is a founding partner of Compass Marketing.

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