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Healthcare Marketing From a CPG Veteran

Today Jenny welcomes her longtime friend and VP of Marketing at TCARE, Julia Pitlyk. They dive into Julia’s transition from the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry to healthcare marketing, discussing the similarities, differences, and best practices that have emerged along the way.


Jenny and Julia reminisce about their early days working together and reflect on how their shared love for problem-solving and complexity led them to the healthcare industry. Julia shares her unique experiences in both the CPG and healthcare sectors, highlighting the valuable insights she gained from working on billion-dollar brands and driving consumer-driven campaigns.
She also emphasizes the need to consider the holistic manifestation of a brand throughout the patient journey, extending beyond visual elements to encompass every interaction. They also discuss the complexities of the healthcare industry, and developing a strong brand presence throughout the patient journey.

Connect with Julia:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/jpitlyk/

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Jenny: [00:00:00] Hi, friends. Welcome to today’s episode of We Are, Marketing Happy – a Healthcare Marketing Podcast. My name is Jenny Bristow and I am your host. I am so excited to be joined today by my long, longtime friend Julia Pitlyk, who is the VP of Marketing at TCare. Welcome, Julia. 

Julia: Hi. Happy to be here. Longtime friend, also former employee of yours.

Let’s not forget way back!

Jenny: true. It was like, 13 years ago. Long time ago. And it’s turned into a great friendship, so that’s right. Yes. It’s been so fun watching your career grow and continue to evolve. We had worked together previously at sort of an agency and then you left to go into the CPG world with a well known brand. 

[00:01:00] After a while, you then pivoted and came into healthcare. So that’s quite a transition and I’m really excited to dig in with you and talk about the differences in the industries and maybe some best practices you’ve been able to pull over, or some, really big evolutions or differences that we can chat about.

So let’s get into it. 

Julia: Yeah, that sounds great. I love that we both found our way into healthcare independently. I was thinking about that as I was preparing for this conversation. I feel like we just love problems to solve. We love complexity and bringing kind of clarity through it so it makes perfect sense that we would wind up doing marketing in healthcare where there are just such complex journeys and as everything from the journeys to the data analytics.

Always something to navigate, always a problem to solve. 

Jenny: Well, we love helping people too. Right? We want our work to feel impactful, so I agree. Totally not surprised. 

[00:02:00] So, let’s talk first about that transition. You were at that large, big packaged consumer goods organization for some time, and then whenever you made the pivot into healthcare, talk to me about some of your initial reactions and experiences with that change.

Julia: Yeah, absolutely. So I spent about eight years in the consumer packaged goods industry. My experience there was really unique. I think I sort of got to see some of the best of both worlds. Working within the walls of a company, building, managing and operating billion dollar brands. But I was also more of that entrepreneur, so I was on a team, focused on innovation and building out new business models, really focusing on directing consumer pathways.

So I really got to see, what does it look like? What can I take from that experience where it’s so much rigor around brand design, consumer insights brand management, really having that [00:03:00] data driven business mindset when it comes to marketing and branding, but also that scrappy  perspective – designing the journey’s, experimenting, testing by design.

So I was really grateful to have that pretty unique vantage point. Especially knowing that, coming from more startup backgrounds, being able to always preserve some of that scrappiness was really helpful and that was absolutely necessary in coming to healthcare especially.

The role that I came to after my time in CPG was designing direct-to-consumer experiences and campaigns for healthcare, because I think a lot of legacy companies and healthcare of course, depending on the nature of the vertical you’re in within the healthcare industry a consumer-driven approach is a new one.

So the organization that I went to was very B2B focused, had a typical kind of healthcare sales-based model, account-based model with a large end market and field sales force. And so as they were thinking about how [00:04:00] do we reached consumers with our message. That was a very new way of thinking and was very grateful to have had the experience that I had from the CPG side because we leaned really hard into journey mapping.

We wanted to know at every stage of the experience, not just where does the brand need to show up and where do we need to market, but  so much deeper than that. What is that consumer thinking, feeling, doing? What’s their mindset at each of these nuanced stages and how do we really design and deploy a really good experience for them?

So I took that and just absolutely lifted and shifted, of course with some modification, but applying it to healthcare and found that was a really successful way to bring some of these consumer driven campaigns to life. And it’s interesting because I think one of the benefits of healthcare is it is so human driven.

When I was in the CPG side, we’re selling packaged goods, right? Like there’s emotional ties. That’s what all the branding is about is you know, that [00:05:00] emotional resonance. And we were very insight rich. We had tons of great consumer insights and tons of great empathy work. But it’s always a leap to go from something onto the shelf to really like, winning the heart of a consumer.

Brands do it well, we did it well. They do it every day. But when you go into something like healthcare, that’s such an inherently, there’s nothing more personal than a healthcare decision for you or for a loved one. So being able to come into a space where empathy and insights and kind of that emotional connection are, should be the norm, should be table stakes.

Was really exciting because it made the way that we could deploy messages at the right stage of the journey. Really rich and personalized. 

Jenny: Oh, I love that. So when you began to apply that experience in the healthcare space, were there any unexpected hurdles or roadblocks that you had to overcome and really change your approach?

Or do you think that most of your prior experience was [00:06:00] applicable? 

Julia: I would say most of it was, the core of, how do I think about designing marketing? I’ll say a campaign, but really a marketing experience or a consumer experience. Leaning into the insights first and foremost, really not listening to anybody but the user insights and, the feedback, the call recordings, things like that.

That’s where I start. That’s kind of where I build my gut, I like to say, very data driven. You wouldn’t have raised me any other way when I first started working for you. But so much of that, the qualitative stuff is, that forms insights too. To me, it’s all about forming the gut.

I think from a marketing standpoint, we’re really data driven, but the data’s never going to tell you what to do. It gives you, insight and direction, but you have to apply that. And some of that is, what I like to think of as like a really well educated gut that’s connected to your heart that’s connected to the mind. Right. It all has to work together. So that was all really applicable I think with healthcare the most. 

The biggest gap, I think is more [00:07:00] of the, this maybe sounds a bit tactical, but more of the channels with which we can go to market. Where I would say the gap between marketing to a consumer and then them actually getting, the product, the good, the service, within consumer package goods, it’s commercials, it’s coupons, it’s anything. And then you go to the store and if distribution’s done well, then it’s on the shelf.

And you put it into cart and you buy it. Or you go on an e-com site and do the same thing. Depending on the business model, within healthcare, you may be marketing to a consumer, but there is a big chasm, a big gap that they have to jump from wanting the good, the product – the medicine, the test, whatever, to actually getting it ordered.

So there is a very the journey maps and the messaging and all of those artifacts get a lot more complex because you have a much bigger landscape and ecosystem of stakeholders to educate. You’ve gotta think about, okay, well we also have to make sure we’re educating the providers.

There’s the payer angle [00:08:00] too. When I started in healthcare, we were in the testing space. So you literally had to have a provider order a test. So that’s a whole other set of education and tasks and jobs to be done. 

So I think that, there are some kind of pure play, more true direct to consumer healthcare products popping up, be it telemedicine services or direct to consumer tests or medications or things like that, which feels much more straightforward and I should say normal, not in a judgment light, which is normal, a normal user journey compared to the really fragmented one that can happen in healthcare.

Yeah, and I’m sure you run into that too with a lot of your work.

Jenny: Yeah, absolutely. Especially depending on the kind of care. So for example, like cancer is much different than promoting say, bariatrics, where it may be a decision that is proactively being made versus a decision that your health makes for you and then you have to find a solution.

So I think that’s definitely an excellent point. 

Julia: Yeah, that’s a great point [00:09:00] too, when I think about the journeys and you said a health event, something happening to you. As marketers, we’re always thinking about what’s going to trigger the beginning of that journey.

And in healthcare sometimes, and oftentimes, unfortunately there’s a very very personal, very intense, sad, heavy trigger that happens. A diagnosis, okay. Of yourself or friend or family member, and that’s, very crudely from a marketing perspective, that is a clear entry point from a marketing standpoint.

That’s, it’s not nice, but you know what I mean, it’s a way in. But my goodness, again, that’s where it goes to the empathy, the insights, the messaging, the respect that you have to have, the first words out of your mouth to someone to speak is absolutely critical.

But yes. You’re exactly right. In terms of that journey. I remember doing some of my initial journey maps when I came into healthcare, and I was so used to going all the way from awareness, engagement, conversion. I mean, I had direct to consumer e-com store, so I’m used [00:10:00] to cart convert, reorder.

And one of the first journey maps I saw really sort of ended at this more of this…Consideration stage, right? Because that’s all we could get the patient to do was say, I’m aware of this product. I know it’s for me. I’ve considered it. I want to talk to my provider about it. And I remember thinking, wait what more can we do?

How else can we help bring this along? And truly, to your point, it’s about helping someone who has a need and helping them fulfill it. But I think was the biggest adjustment I had to make was that, I could not have my e-comm side of transactions all the way through, and some healthcare companies do, but that was very much an adjustment. 

Jenny: I love it. Let me, let’s kind of slightly pivot – still talking about the overall patient journey. Let’s talk about the importance of a consistent brand showing up throughout that journey. I mean, I think [00:11:00] it’s really interesting when you think about legacy, large well-known brands compared to tech startups and smaller organizations that maybe don’t have that consumer recognition and are still offering something really phenomenal to patients, but they’re not super well known, they’re not something that’s top of mind. How can and should marketers be thinking about the brand and the ways that it shows up throughout that patient journey?

Julia: Oh, I love that question. To me, a brand is a promise kept. You don’t do it for you as the organization. It’s really the brand is designed for the people that you’re serving. And that’s one of the biggest takeaways from, my time in cpg Again, that’s in a more commoditized space. The brand is really all you got.

So you have so much time and investment in architecting that. And I think it’s important for me to clarify to [00:12:00] marketers, but also especially non marketers, that when we say brand, it’s not colors and typography. That’s a part of it. And I could spend an hour talking about the millions of dollars spent researching some of those things because it does, it does ladder up to something.

But for me, I remember, in my, even in my early days of brand management, just as much what you say when you answer the phone when someone calls in as it is the colors, the typography, all of it Yes, actually it’s so much more than that. Especially for a company that’s developing a brand. My biggest advice is to think about the brand as just how your company shows up to consumers in every touchpoint.

And you said that yourself, you know how you show up and don’t. Don’t think of it as just the visual aspects or, sort of over invest or over architect in that. Cause you think about it, an iconic brand like [00:13:00] Nike, that was a $35 swoosh logo. Right?

It’s all the heart and the meaning and the manifestation of that core. Go to work with every touchpoint, especially the ones that are often outside of typical marketing control and really understand how your business is coming to life.

So go to the call center, right? Look at those scripts. Look at the way that those are being navigated. I think those are some of the channels that are often not under the umbrella of marketing, but actually, especially from like a call center standpoint, is one of the very few places where your brand voice is actually talking directly to your customer.

I did a lot of work with that in my CPG side as well, because we would spend lots of time and money thinking about brand voice, but that whole world was not part of marketing. And wasn’t really [00:14:00] influenced by it. So to me it was, oh my goodness, we need to bring that all in.

The brand is about the consumer. That’s it. If your consumer can feel how your org is structured then you have not done your job well. As a marketer, as an organization, it should feel really seamless. So I think tactically it’s looking at that journey. Any good journey’s gonna have these channels sort of defined.

And then it’s going and really making sure that what’s manifesting in those touchpoints are exactly how you’d want your brand as a person to show up in the world. 

Jenny: I love that and I spoke at a class with Northwestern two nights ago, and one of the students had such a great question specifically about telehealth, so we’re gonna pick a very specific subsection within healthcare.

And she asked me what the importance of branding was in the promotion of telehealth services. And so I used a real life example. At Hedy & Hopp, we work with a lot of different telehealth service [00:15:00] offerings. As far as our clients, and I’ll tell you, it is much easier and cheaper to get a telehealth patient for Ascension or some large brand that already has that patient relationship and that patient trust than a startup that is trying to break in into the field.

Even if clinically, their outcomes are wonderful and they are great, if they’re not known, it’s gonna take a lot more work and budget to be able to even have a third of the ability to sign a patient up online. 

Julia: Yeah, absolutely. I think there’s, so when you look at something like telehealth, and I’ve had this experience too in my prior role of designing a telehealth experience with a third party provider.

I think it’s really important too, in my mind, I wanna say the words brand equity, right? Which doesn’t really mean much to a consumer, but to me it’s looking at where is there the strongest [00:16:00] brand equity, or I should say, To put it in better consumer words, recognition and trust from that consumer or patient.

And let that lead the way. So your example with Ascension is exactly right. There’s trust, there’s a relationship, there’s scale of the brand. And so the consumer then has, permission to bring someone else to the table, to literally like think about if you came over to my house and you had a friend with you because of the trust that I have with you, I’d feel fine letting that friend in my house compared to a mild acquaintance or even relative stranger wanting to bring someone else in my house.

Like, it’s just very different and that’s the way I like to think about marketing, be it whatever channel, especially digital. I think we kind of lose the fact that we’re just humans with hearts and minds and I always like to think of like, okay, what’s just a real human example of what we’re trying to do here?

And so that’s how my mind [00:17:00] works. Like, if you bring someone over to my house because of the trust I have with you, they can come to the party. And I think that’s exactly, especially with the proliferation of online care and telehealth and there’s definitely some scrutiny and skepticism around it, especially as you’re looking to perhaps targeting older audiences.

There are bad actors in certain situations and I’m glad the consumers have a healthy amount of skepticism when it comes to their health. But yes, so I think in terms of if I’m a smaller company, a startup trying to bring in a telehealth partner tactically, I would really like to consider things like what would it look like to White label a service or just get the brand hierarchy done right?

Because you’re kind of just a bunch of acquaintance acquaintances showing up to a consumer’s house, and you’ve gotta respect that and you’ve gotta build trust. I’ve been in situations where a telehealth experience I designed, it was a provider referring a patient to my [00:18:00] organization and then we were referring them to Telemed and I kind of zoomed out on the creative.

I’m like, there are three logos, like to get it really clean and simple. Three logos, and this consumer maybe has 75% of a hundred percent of trust in one of them being their provider, and the rest are complete strangers. So how are we gonna do this in a way that’s actually gonna make them feel comfortable and that they know what’s going on, and kind of who’s on base in terms of providing them what kind of care?

And then back to my example of the journeys, like you’ve gotta also think about the service and fulfillment aspect of it. So who does the patient call and when, if they’re referred by Ascension to telehealth and they have a question or an issue, how do they know who to go to? And are the teams orchestrated and organized behind the scenes so that they’re not receiving a call from a patient saying, oh, sorry, that’s not us, you need to call Ascension instead. 

Like, but that’s not great, right? So you’ve gotta really think about that [00:19:00] orchestration. Both from, I should say the consumer facing front end and the back end. 

Jenny: Yeah. And the much more difficult thing, as we’ve already spoken about, is typically the patients coming from a place of fear, right?

If they’re seeking out telehealth, something’s probably wrong. And so, like you said, making it as easy and streamlined as possible is so important, 

Julia: Exactly. That’s the promise that they’re thinking that they’re going to get from telehealth. Right. It’s easy, it’s streamlined, it’s not needing to leave the home.

It’s more access. Like what are the types of benefits that they think they’re getting that you better be sure that you at least deliver table stakes on, but definitely don’t make it in that negative in terms of making it more difficult, more complicated. Because you’re right, that actually just adds to the fear and the skepticism.

And if there’s a sense of urgency with what this patient needs to get from this. You best not get in the way of that as much as possible. 

Jenny: Exactly. Well Julia, this was so much fun. It has been just a joy watching your career continue to [00:20:00] grow over the last decade plus. And I’m gonna link to your LinkedIn profile in the show notes.

So if anybody would like to connect with you, please feel free. I’m sure you’d love to continue the conversation. 

Julia: Yes, I could talk about this stuff all day, so please connect. I would love that.

Jenny: I love it. Perfect. Well, for all of our listeners, thank you so much for tuning in and we’ll see you on a future episode of We Are, Marketing Happy.

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About the Author

Jenny Bristow is the CEO and Co-Founder of Hedy & Hopp. Prior to starting Hedy & Hopp, Jenny launched, grew and sold a digital agency in Seattle, Washington and worked at Amazon.com. She was named one of St. Louis Business Journal’s 30 under 30, won a Stevie Award for Female Entrepreneur of the Year in 2018 and speaks regularly at industry and local events.

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