Lindsey Belknap, Director of Brand Marketing at One Medical, is a remarkable young leader that operates with a swift and savvy instinct. In fact, that instinct allowed her to “turn the impossible, possible”, as one of my mentors, Linda Boff, CMO of GE, has said. How does one take a challenging topic like health care and completely revamp a brand into an inviting and fun consumer product in under three months? Well, have a look below as Lindsey shares exactly how she orchestrated a “cross-agency, hyper-collaborative sprint” that produced the new “human-centered healthcare” One Medical branding.
What current developments in marketing are most inspiring to you?
It’s exciting to see the growth of marketing’s impact within an organization – more specifically, the conversations or decisions that today feel critical to have a marketing leader in the room for. Today, great marketers can’t work in a silo with their teams on design and advertising. They have to understand products, services and technology in its earliest stages so they can interact with the market and help shape customers’ initial interactions with the brand. Every single touchpoint or experience people have with your product, whether it’s in the app, in an office, on a website, etc. – is shaping their perception of your brand. Marketing should be a partner in the entire consumer lifecycle, continuing to define the right messages for the right moments.
Tell us about your current role and why you chose to join One Medical.
I lead the Brand Marketing team at One Medical – overseeing our Advertising, Product Marketing and Social Media/Content efforts. The company is in a huge period of growth, and while there’s always been a strong product and internal vision, I’m here to help share that story authentically as we scale. It’s a purpose-driven organization with passionate consumers and huge opportunity ahead.
In addition to being a huge fan of One Medical personally since joining four years ago, I came here because I love the challenge of marketing a great product in a traditionally “unloved” category. As we all know, the healthcare system is complicated and in many ways needs to modernize. There’s no reason that people’s experience with something as important as primary care should be inefficient and frustrating, and One Medical is changing that – we want to make people love going to the doctor. As a bonus, it was an opportunity to work for Doug Sweeny again, an inspiring CMO whose team I was previously on at Nest. Our time working together provided a shorthand and familiarity that allowed us to skip the ‘getting to know you’ phase here and immediately dive into projects.
What are you working on now that you think is innovative?
Just a few weeks ago we launched a totally new look and feel for One Medical – a more modern visual language that sets us apart from traditional healthcare companies. At its core, One Medical is a group of people caring for other people, and that idea of human-centered healthcare was a huge inspiration for our new branding. There’s a disconnect right now between the experience most people have with the healthcare system and the way it’s traditionally portrayed: smiling doctors shaking hands with smiling patients in neat, empty offices. We’re trying to embrace real life – all the busy, messy, and sometimes confusing parts of it – as the basis of our brand marketing, which I think is really powerful. Staying healthy, eating well, exercising, managing a career, having a family, taking care of yourself – it’s hard. We can be more authentic about those challenges and in turn become a trusted partner along the way.
Another interesting aspect of this project was the deep collaboration between our team at One Medical and our agency partners. To accomplish a full brand overhaul and campaign launch in just three months required a level of trust and integration between internal and external creative teams that I truly hadn’t experienced in my career thus far. We crafted the vision internally, then jumped into a cross-agency, hyper-collaborative sprint to evolve the brand and bring it to market at breakneck speed. It was a bit nuts.
We knew going in that our aggressive schedule and scope of work would be nearly impossible to achieve within the formal constraints of typical client/agency relationships. We needed teams to work in direct contact, forgo formal presentations, and let us behind the curtain to get things done, which resulted in some interesting crossovers. Our talented Creative Director, Chris Peel, stood into art direct a shoot while the agency’s CD was on vacation. Our design agency led the direction of the photography that the advertising agency ended up using in our OOH. We once even sent a Planner from our media agency to 6 of our doctor’s offices across the country to meet the local office managers, check out the neighborhoods, and help us identify hyper-local marketing needs.
Chris and I were in the elevator one day and noted how little time we had to over-think the creative as it was being made. It was actually refreshing, because it meant that almost every decision had to come straight from instinct. The end product felt more impactful because our process was similar to how we knew consumers would end up seeing the work in real life – fairly quickly in the midst of a busy day, with little time to over-assess.
What big learning moments have you had along your career journey? Did you have any notable mentors?
I actually got my undergraduate degree in Architecture and an MA in Design Strategy, both of which gave me a foundational understanding of human-centered design that has served my career in so many ways. One of my earliest mentors, Kristen Cavallo, hired for me my first job as a Brand Strategist at Mullen in Boston, even though I had a degree in architecture and zero advertising experience. She was always on the lookout for strategists with diverse backgrounds and an inherent curiosity, which is something I always think about as I build my own team.
After Mullen I spent time at BBDO in San Francisco, also working in Account Planning across a number of accounts that included both media and creative responsibilities. Agency experience is irreplaceable in many ways, and helped me develop my skills as an integrated brand marketer while I worked alongside some of the most creative people in the industry.
From there I went client side to Nest – another amazing brand that brought unprecedented warmth and emotion to traditionally unloved products – to work in Brand Management, which eventually evolved back into leading Strategy for the creative org. I had the privilege of working with so many leaders there who encouraged me to step outside my comfort zone and broaden my expertise. It’s invaluable to have them as mentors and sounding boards even today when I need honest feedback.
How do you pick and develop the talent on your team, and ensure collaboration?
I was lucky to have a chance to build a team of brand storytellers here from scratch and develop product marketing as a new discipline at One Medical. It’s incredibly interesting to work on a brand at the tipping point between being a “start up” and a mid-sized, established company.
The cultural shift can be tricky, and bringing on new team members can dramatically change an already evolving culture. Leaning on the team’s strong institutional knowledge and combining that with new voices can help propel and evolve the company further.
I tend to look for a few specific things in potential hires: confidence in their skills and expertise, a natural tendency for collaboration, and and a willingness to work outside their job description when needed. Having that flexibility and trust in your teammates’ intentions is what brings people together to solve problems, especially when things go awry. Of course, finding the right people is always hard. Your own network of people you trust is always the best way to find great candidates and keep them in the back of your mind – even when you don’t have a specific job description ready yet.
What one thing do you need from your CMO to help you be successful?
Trust, first of all. Opportunities to stretch. And most importantly a clear, inspiring vision for the team and the organization that we should all be driving towards.
What advice would you give to marketers who are just starting their careers?
“Choose your boss, not your job.”
Some of the best advice I ever received was “choose your boss, not your job” when looking at new opportunities. The person you work for – whether it’s your immediate manager or a senior mentor in your department – is so critical to your growth and inspiration as you evolve in your career. A slightly-less-than-perfect role working for the right person or in the right organization can open up more even more opportunities and valuable experiences than a job with the ideal title.
Favorite place to vacation? My husband and I went to Japan last year and it was so magical, I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. I can’t wait to go back.
If you were a superhero, what would your special skill be? Definitely teleportation. I love to travel but I hate flying.
Name something that most people don't know about you. I have an MMA bag hanging in the middle of my living room because I practice Muay Thai.
If you weren’t a marketer, what would you be? I’d like to be an art curator. Or spend more of my time doing hand lettering and calligraphy.
What's the best thing you've read/listened to/watched recently? I just finished listening to “Homecoming” – an amazing, 12-episode fiction podcast featuring Catherine Keener. It feels like a totally new form of storytelling – you have to piece together a mystery via conversations and phone calls taking place over the background noise of a diner or crowded airport. I haven’t been that addicted to anything since Serial.