Hims’ chief marketing officer is building out the health startup’s internal marketing function, with an eye to extend the success of its media strategy of "pure experimentation" into the UK and beyond.
The direct-to-consumer brand, known for selling beautifully branded erectile dysfunction medication, hired Melissa Waters as its first chief marketing officer in April.
The former marketing vice-president of Lyft joined months after the startup had ascended to unicorn status; its offering of telehealth, ‘millennial Viagra’, and a female sub-brand – Hers – racked it up nearly $200m in VC funding and achieved a valuation of $1bn.
The cash poured in throughout 2018 as Hims’ above-the-line media plastered New York City’s Subway with phallic shapes, raising eyebrows and sparking debate in the process.
The work came out of trendy New York branding shop Gin Lane. But while the creative was bold, the media plan was arguably bolder.
Before it even hit its second year in business, the brand had invested not only in the usual search and social media buys but in out-of-home, inflight video, TV, radio, podcasts and more. It is continuing this strategy in localized areas of the US today in order to speak to its “target customer with the right reach and frequency and the right breakthrough creative, no matter where they are”, according to Waters.
“We are constantly experimenting on many, many channels,” she told The Drum. “The way that we approach media is pretty channel agnostic. Our strategy thus far has been one of pure experimentation, and experimentation is just a pillar of our organization, being a young startup.
“We will continue to push on new channels ad push to optimize current channels, doing so with a high degree of test and learn.”
Aside from the brand awareness and earned media garnered by the Subway posters, Waters notes that radio and podcasts – and the detailed explanation those ads allow for – have delivered “tremendous impact”.
Hims will continue to invest in those platforms as it aims to drive both awareness and familiarity, while Waters has the green light to grow her team to do the same.
“We're building on a lot of functions in house so that we have the capability to scale with the business. building out, paid, owned and earned media teams in San Francisco,” said Waters, adding that this will build on the “formidable” paid media acquisition team that laid the groundwork for the marketer.
She’s also currently hiring an executive creative director, a marketing director to lead Hims in the influencer space and a head of offline to bolster the brand’s presence on radio, TV and across OOH.
Waters is confident that her expanded in-house team will continue to work with agencies, however, in a bid to balance internal “nimbleness and flexibility” with an outside perspective on campaign and brand-building strategy. Gin Lane remains on Hims’ roster and will eventually be joined by specialized agencies on a project-by-project basis as the brand grows its team and its marketing budgets.
Across the pond
There’s also a chance Hims will be hiring a UK agency in the near future, too.
After its official launch across the pond in January, the brand has begun to build out a dedicated marketing team in London led by (and UK employee number one) Henry Allan. The general manager is “fairly opportunistic” about the roles he expects to hire for. But right now, he’s on the lookout for a UK marketing director who empathizes with Hims’ experimental approach to media planning.
“We try and not to lean too heavily on [Facebook and Google] because they're so easily accessible by anyone,” he said. “We like to try and hunt for value in unique and interesting places. Competition is really incredibly fierce. To be perceived as a really powerful brand, you need to be seen in lots of different spaces, not just on an Instagram feed.”
Waters expects the UK team to keep in “lockstep” with her own in San Francisco, however, noted she believes “in the power of localized support to help with country nuances” with regards to agency partners. She added that the regulation tied up in the health industry across marketers further warrants an external partner.
In any case, change is sure to come fast and thick as Hims builds an internal marketing team big enough to take on the heritage brands ten times older than this tech-driven startup.
“I keep forgetting, given how much has already been done, that we're still less than two years old,” said Waters. “We're still super early in our journey and that means we've got a lot of room on the table to continue to drive this effectiveness forward.”