Like many D2C brands, health products maker hims & hers knows the math of performance branding. But as its use of paid social and search are familiar pages in the D2C playbook, the company has also been known to advertise above urinals, partner with the well-tressed JLo on Minoxidil, and speak to wives about ED. It is a cluttered world of online prescription and health solutions.
Alex Chahin, senior director of product marketing, tells Brand Insider this week that building both brand and trust while also educating consumers requires a multichannel engine. The fuel is not only raw data, but also insights into where consumers are in their journey and how they want to be engaged. Listen to the entire podcast at this link.
MediaPost: Traditionally, what channels did him & hers use to build its brand?
Alex Chahin: It really takes an engine of several channels working together. This is important for our category because when you think about prescription treatment and people taking care of their health, a lot of trust-building is necessary. It's a new category for many people. They're experiencing taking care of their health from home for the first time.
We have to explain the brand and the services in a really clear way that builds that trust quickly. What that means, though, is people are at different levels of readiness, and at different points of the customer journey. It takes some time to really build up the role of channels, like TV or out-of-home or audio. They make people aware there's something that they could do to solve this budding problem.
When we think back to the early days of hims & hers, some of the things that we're best known for is taking advantage of places that people wouldn't even think of as conventional advertising space. The acquisition team went to different sports arenas and said, “Hey, would you sell that space above the urinals?”
So what would happen is people would go into the bathroom, and you've got a captive audience right there in the bathroom taking a break, and they see an ad for hims in what would otherwise be totally dead inventory space. So this was how we were able to find some cost-effective and effective messaging-wise placements in the early days of the brand that helped us get some attention.
MP: As you started out by saying, there are all these different levels of awareness and readiness for this product. How do you use data to understand where somebody is in the customer journey and how you're supposed to talk to them?
Chahin: Everything that we put in market is surrounded by this culture of learning internally. We are A/B testing lots of different ads that we're putting in market. But, even before that, doing the right customer research and insights work to understand what would resonate with people. ED is an interesting category. Many companies talk about this in a direct way: solve the condition, tackle ED.
We found through deeper insights work that actually there's a really important partner component. Most of our ED customers are in a stable long-term relationship. Now that opens up an interesting new dynamic to talk about: Oh, it's not just you going through this, your partner's also being affected. Maybe they are feeling like they're less desirable, something's wrong with the relationship, something is changing, you're drifting apart. So how do we understand how that message should play a role in upper funnel messaging to pique your interest? Now you've got a message like that in TV.
We found that this kind of relationship message actually works really well in TV because it gets people to consider that maybe this is affecting my partner too,. It's rooted in customer insights and understanding what people need to believe about the brand to become interested in it.
MP: How has your media strategy changed just as a result of the pandemic?
Chahin: We've started exploring new channels that might be even more specific to the audience. You think of a condition like ED and you think of a channel like Tinder, a lot of people dating and pursuing relationships on that app. That is a really well-timed message to say, hey, if you have this question or this problem, we can definitely help you. And so even without knowing a whole lot about that audience, just picking the right channel can tell us something really critical, and so we're definitely exploring new digital channels on that front.
We've started selling our non-prescription products at Target, and we found that's a really important way to get in front of a lot of customers who are just entering markets like hair loss. And what we found is it's really critical to land those key messages and value props on the front of that shampoo bottle, or the front of that box, because that's what people are seeing. It's so hard to get people to even pick up a package and look at the other side.
MP: Like many D2Cs, your category has gotten cluttered. What are your points of differentiation?
Chahin: We found that the right messaging, being this warm and welcoming presence, really helps people open up and realize that taking care of themselves is normal. So that's one way, through the tone and the messaging. I would also say that leaning into the personalization of treatment that we can provide has been really powerful.
We found through our research that a lot of people were afraid to take a pill, so we launched a new topical spray. And we actually leaned into that. We called it the un-pill. Getting more personalized treatment; that's done really well for us.
We're always looking at other categories to pursue. The power there becomes that we can be this front door for healthcare, a first place that people go over time when they have a health or wellness question. And I think this is powerful as a substitute for going to Google and ending up on WebMD or a scary page, and you sort of end up reading about a condition or a health question you have, and you leave that experience feeling more stressed than when you began.
So if we can be seen as this entry point for health and wellness where you're getting legitimate, credible answers, that's really powerful. I think of an analog like Amazon. When somebody, say, is looking for a coffee maker, they go to that Amazon search bar before they go to the Google search bar. I see something similar with us in health care over time.
MP: That puts a tremendous pressure on developing content that satisfies that need, as well as CRM, because you're talking about high levels of personalization.
Chahin: Through CRM you raise a really interesting point because, again, that's where the
journey matters. If we
didn't get them to convert all the way through that flow and get a prescription medication, they need different kinds of content to convince them that people did convert.
They want more of that trust-building content, maybe they want to see before and afters of other success stories from other customers. Pictures of people regrowing their hair are really convincing. Anecdotes from how couples save their marriage relationship through the right ED medication are really compelling to motivate people. But once you convert, it's about understanding what you want out of treatment.
And a lot of people need guidance on getting the most out of their treatment. How do I take this medication, because what you send me in the mail is oftentimes from a pharmacy, a little pamphlet with point-8 font that is really, really hard to comprehend.
So what we do is, we make sure to break these nuggets into digestible bite-sized pieces, so you actually understand how to take your medication. Many men need a little bit of help understanding how to talk to their partner about their condition. So we also craft a few tips for how you can have that conversation with your partner.
So I would say it varies again by customer journey, by category and understanding, not just that medical content but that real-life real talk kind of content to help you understand how to get the most out of that treatment.
MP: We are seeing your brand a lot in celebrity partnerships, like your Miley Cyrus tie-in. Why those partnerships for this brand at this time?
Chahin: We've also worked with JLo for our hers hair-loss category. We have partnered with DoorDash to increase distribution. We've worked with Gronk on hims’ side for hair loss and mental health. These can be a huge driver of growth for a couple reasons. One, they help cut through the noise, they are a notable figure that stand out in creative.
And two, for a brand that is continuing to grow and create a new category, they play a role in fast trust-building. You see Miley next to a prescription treatment and a brand name that you are new to, and it really helps give this halo of credibility faster than not including them would. So what we like to do is find people that can relate to these conditions.
For Miley, for instance, she has really found benefit in her own life personally to using prescription skincare treatment, and she wanted to share that story with people. So the more authentic we can find that connection to be, the more ties to the prescription treatment, the more it helps cut through the noise and build that trust quickly.
MP: Do they expand you into new demographics?
Chahin: They absolutely help expand. JLo actually started using Minoxidil when she found that her hair was under stress from being under stage lights, being styled all the time, and this product was a saving grace for her. It helped her hair grow more thick and fuller. It speaks to people that might not have always thought of themselves as a severe hair-loss customer. Normalizing that you can use this product really helped us appeal to different kinds of audiences.