Hoping to reignite interest in DNA testing, 23andMe is heading back to broadcast advertising with “Hero Gene,” a new campaign focusing on ways genetic awareness can save lives. The new work aims to reverse slumping sales with true stories from customers, showing how knowledge of genetic conditions changed their health destiny. Tracy Keim, chief brand officer, tells Marketing Daily about the new strategy.
Marketing Daily: Why are you back on TV, and why with this campaign?
Tracy Keim: We have been blessed with so many customer stories about the power of genetics. And we wanted to humanize prevention in a way we haven't done before. We’d done a great job talking about these stories with the press and media, but we hadn’t highlighted them in a TV campaign. We want to rewire people's thoughts about 23andMe, so telling the story through a customer lens seemed right.
Marketing Daily: These spots, from ad agency Los York, focus on health problems like Factor V, an inherited clotting disorder, and the BRCA cancer gene. What’s the goal?
Keim: Take the BRCA gene. This particular story was incredible because the woman who took the test found out she was a carrier and then called her mom. The idea is that even if others don’t do 23andMe, you can help family members.
Marketing Daily: 23andMe has been around for 10 years, and so much of the brand’s early success centered around people wanting to find out if they were Polish, Irish or whatever. How hard will it be to change the perception to concern about blood clots?
Keim: There are two answers to that. Ten years ago, ancestry was super easy to understand. It was an incredible entry point into genetics, and that interest has matured. But we are much earlier along the curve in understanding the connection between health and genetics. We're just scratching the surface, so this appeals to early adopters. Second, ancestry matters when it comes to your health. It’s not about deciding between wearing a kilt versus Lederhosen.
What matters is if you find out that you have a certain percentage of Ashkenazi Jewish roots or are African American, for example, there are specific related health risks. We help people on that health journey with our reports.
Marketing Daily: Why switch the focus now?
Keim: People are interested in health, especially our new Total Health product. They want to optimize their longevity and understand risk prediction. The popularity of wearables has opened consumers up to data and science.
Marketing Daily: Consumers are increasingly mistrustful about data privacy, including ways insurers and law enforcement can use genetic data from companies like yours. Apple even addresses this worry in consumer ads. How do you deal with those suspicions?
Keim: We’re very upfront about choice and consent. We’re privacy-forward and do an excellent job of informing people, asking them to consent to their data being used in research. But as far as the advertising campaign goes, we don't address privacy.
Marketing Daily: Where are these ads running?
Keim: On “CBS This Morning,” the Thanksgiving Day Parade, and holiday movie channels. As we transition from ancestry and try to rewire people to understand 23andMe for health, we are trying to reach a bigger audience. This isn't a holiday campaign, even though we're launching now. We’ll keep introducing new ads.
Marketing Daily: In your latest quarterly results, sales fell 34%, so obviously, you’re hoping to fix that. What other metrics will tell you if these ads are helping people change the way they think about the brand?
Keim: We have high brand awareness – it is 65%. Now, we want people to think not about ancestry but about health. So brand familiarity will be a crucial metric.