From Pandora to Lyft to now Hims, Melissa Waters has a knack for marketing high-adoption, digitally-native brands. And in her role as Hims CMO, Melissa is not only focused on the growth of the brand – connecting people with doctors and healthcare products online – but also blazing new paths in the nearly $40 billion telehealth space. We talked with Melissa about what's next for Hims, how they reach consumers offline and what it takes to grow leaps and bounds in the world of start-ups.
What’s one thing you’ve learned about leading marketing for a hyper-growth brand?
Both companies [Lyft and Hims] were creating new categories, so it is important to not only educate consumers about the brands themselves but also how the product actually works. When you're in a new territory and bringing a new category to market, you can't underestimate the importance of product marketing and investing in education.
What are the biggest opportunities and challenges for direct-to-consumer brands?
Direct to consumer brands offer a consumer-centric experience and a quick feedback loop, two things lacking in today’s healthcare landscape. Since we’re able to receive direct feedback from our customers, we’re also able to build out our offerings based on their specific needs. For example, we started receiving daily requests from users who wanted Hims conditioner to pair with their shampoo. Thanks to this feedback, we were able to launch that offering this past spring.
What's the most exciting thing happening in marketing right now?
"We test no fewer than two dozen marketing channels at any given time..."
We’re seeing brands push into new offline channels in creative ways. At Hims, we test no fewer than two dozen marketing channels at any given time – whether that be the subway in NYC, Giants stadium in San Francisco or a popular gym. We experiment outside of “scroll culture” and meet our guys in that quick block of time where they might not be focused on their screens. Consumer-generated content is also having a bigger moment in marketing. Immediately after launch, we were surprised and excited to see guys posting unboxing videos of their Hims packages on social media and even videos singing in the shower with Hims shampoo. We now call these videos “Hims Shower Parties” and even made a commercial featuring some of the clips.
How are you acquiring customers so rapidly?
We’re most proud of referrals through our Instagram community; we immediately saw that Hims’ users were eager to share their experiences, advice, and tips with one another online. Taking a direct but bold approach to branding has allowed us to break the ice with guys and bring serious topics to light. We’ve found Hims’ users are open to humor and provocation, which are two of our favorite ways to kickstart a conversation about often stigmatized topics.
The expansion of the company into Hers in November, was that always part of your vision or was that developed due to consumer requests?
Hers was always a part of the larger vision; in the early stages of building Hims, it became quickly apparent that women also needed a similar, streamlined and judgment-free approach to care. Hers only launched in late 2018 but we’ve already had over 50k interactions between women and doctors on our platform.
What’s new for the brand?
Right now, we're focused on finding a location for and opening our first pharmacy in Ohio next year. Opening our own pharmacy allows us to expand safe, convenient and efficient access to quality care for our customers, no matter where they live.
What trait is most critical to leading a Challenger brand?
"Challenger brand leaders need what I call confident optimism."
Challenger brand leaders need what I call confident optimism. It’s the ability to ignore the noise and stay focused. It’s not feeling daunted by the status quo or all the people who are telling you no, and instead jumping in head first to get it done. It’s easy to get bogged down by challenges or obstacles, but successful leaders have a clear-eyed view of the potential roadblocks and keep going anyway.
What advice would you give to other marketing pioneers?
A marketer’s job is to be the voice of their customers. In order to do that, you have to really understand who your customer is - what they want, what they don’t and what drives them. Having this kind of empathy for your customer is what separates brands who talk at consumers versus those who serve them.