As the DNA market slows, Ancestry’s marketing leans into its family history business

Ancestry's latest campaign focuses on the women of the suffrage movement

Ancestry’s latest campaign is indicative of the company’s latest marketing strategy: focus on the ‘family’ in family history after the decline in its DNA business saw 6% of its workforce laid off.

The company’s latest in-house campaign focuses on the history of women’s suffrage. Launched on International Women’s Day but tied to the August centennial of the first American woman’s vote, the brand is encouraging consumers to trace their roots back to the suffragette movement by opening up 1,000s of new records for free.

A TVC and digital campaign will promote the initiative using photography and telling female stories from the early 20th century. The media buy is focused on reaching “politically savvy” audiences, said chief revenue officer Mike Linton, and includes placements across The View, the Today Show, NPR and the 2020 Election Debates.

Yet the campaign’s message isn’t about connecting with a new, female audience per se; it’s about finding another way to explore the multi-generational aspect of ‘family’.

“Everyone has a strong woman figure in their family,” said Paige Grossman, vice-president of brand creative and media at Ancestry. “Everyone has a grandmother or a great grandmother who was impacted by this time in history. So, the hope was to make this an invitation to everyone – it’s a new, interesting doorway that will [allow them to] connect to their history.

“I don't know that we're trying to necessarily go for any specific demographic ... our goal is just to find relevant moments that connect to you and your modern day. That's really what we're trying to focus on.”

This focus has been boosted by an investment in the company’s Family History business, which counts as one of its three core divisions alongside AncestryHealth and AncestryDNA.

Last month, however, the DNA side of the business hit a stumbling block. Alongside competitors including 23andMe, Ancestry witnessed what chief executive Margo Georgiadis described as a “slowdown in consumer demand” for ancestral DNA testing.

The pioneering family history company, which became Ancestry.com in 1996, consequently laid of 6% of its workforce “in service to sharpening our focus and investment on our core Family History business and the long-term opportunity with AncestryHealth”.

Linton would not comment on whether the lay-offs had hit his marketing team. But the strategy was mapped out not only mitigate to the downturn of the DNA business but to clarify the brand’s position in the market.

Since it began offering DNA testing in 2002 the market has become increasingly crowded, while consumers’ growing questions over personal data privacy have impacted demand.

Now, with a renewed focus on its original offer, Ancestry can more confidently stand behind its brand story and carve out a new point of difference in the market: one that understands consumers’ desire to learn about their families, and not just their own DNA.

“Our product is unique as it offers a multi-generational ‘we’ experience versus just a ‘me' experience,” explained Linton, who joined the company from Farmers Insurance last September. We live in a time where people feel increasingly disconnected and are seeking authentic experiences and real connections.

“Ancestry is and will continue to serve a fundamental human need for people to connect across generations. Our forward-looking strategy is to continue reinforcing the value of family connections that result from meaningful discoveries with Ancestry.”

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