How this Australian fertility clinic changed the IVF marketing game
Infertility affects approximately one in six couples globally, impacting as many as 186 million people worldwide.
Genea, a world-leading fertility clinic in Australia, wants to change those stats.
Since its inception as Sydney IVF more than 30 years ago, the company has become a pioneer in fertility treatments with a focus on in-house research and technology development.
But how do you market such a challenging and complex product to the public? Nicole Papoutsis is Head of Brand & Marketing at Genea. She recently made the 2018 CMO50 list, which recognises Australia's most effective and innovative marketing leaders.
We asked her about her approach to developing a tailored marketing strategy for the brand and how she's taken a clinical topic and helped make it more human.
1. Genea have used quite a few non-traditional channels to market the clinic. One of which is a highly successful podcast called Modern Babies that focuses on the struggle to conceive, and how fertility treatment can help. Where did the idea for this podcast come from?
Although we’ve wanted to do podcasting for a long time, the idea for Modern Babies came out of the long-running and integrated partnership we have with Nova Entertainment. It was a big leap into the unknown as a communications channel for us, but on the flip side it was an absolute no-brainer for our audience type and communication challenges.
The response has been better than we ever could have hoped for. Apart from the industry accolades, consumers have really engaged with the content - our listen-through rate is extremely high and we have experienced a halo effect across other channels. Audio is a tough medium to measure in general but for us it isn’t about someone listening and then clicking “buy”, so that changes the measurement thought process quite a bit.
The journey through trying to conceive can be a very long one, sometimes years. Our Modern Babies content is a brand-based comms strategy and the evergreen nature of the content and topics means it is continually feeding the top of the funnel.
2. Fertility can be a challenging topic, but Genea have taken a compassionate, human approach to its marketing – especially around live events. How did you come up with the idea for the Exhibition of Life event in Sydney?
The Exhibition of Life was an extension of the launch of our Grow by Genea app. Patients at Genea had the ability to watch their embryos grow in the lab from their mobile device so we wanted to extend that experience to the wider community.
The event was both educational and promotional - providing a unique “fallopian tubes” view on how we all come into the world, how an embryo develops, time-lapse video and fertility facts, as well as showcasing the amazing technology Genea’s patients have access to. We had staff available to answer questions, which gave that human connection and care aspect.
We even had one of our revolutionary Geri incubators at the gallery so visitors could get up-close-and-personal with the lab technology. It’s not something you get to see every day unless you’re lucky enough to work at an IVF clinic, so the feedback was fantastic and we are looking to recreate it in the other cities we operate in.
3. In your profile in CMO 50, you talk about “bringing to life the science behind what we do”. How would you say the current marketing strategy for Genea does that?
The challenge with IVF is that at it’s core it is science, it is numbers, it is statistics. As a team, we are very attuned to the fact that scientific messages can come across as cold and clinical, so we make a conscious effort to push the boundaries on how we communicate that crucial point of difference.
Finding that emotional lens and creating a tangible connection is a formula we work with quite a bit. Going through IVF is often talked about as being an unnatural process, so bringing humanity into the mix also really fits with our brand as a premium clinic – it’s the science and care together that makes the difference.
Healthcare practitioners such as GPs are also an important part of a patient’s journey so we make sure we are continually bringing them into our world by educating them around the science, taking them behind the scenes and connecting them with our Fertility Specialists – putting a face to the name.
We take a leadership position around education in both the consumer and healthcare practitioner space. It’s all about empowering people to make informed choices and they’re only going to listen if you can cut through the clutter and misinformation, which is rife when it comes to fertility. We are lucky to have such passionate and experienced people right across the business, so we really take advantage of that by giving them a voice in our written, audio and video content.
4. Genea is ‘Australia’s first egg freezing clinic’. What kind of challenges did you come up against being first to market?
Our egg freezing clinic evolved over a period of about two years. As a business we tried a couple of different models along the way and finally rested on the highly successful Genea Horizon offering. The biggest challenge really was building momentum in the category, which I’m proud to say we have been very successful at. Although egg freezing was topical because of the celebrity effect, that didn’t immediately translate into enquiries because it was an entirely new concept to consider for many women.
There was definitely an element of latency before even booking that first appointment or attending one of our info nights. One of the other unfortunate sides we’ve had to deal with is the social chatter and how to respond to some of those misconceptions and judgements that people place on other women considering egg freezing. Understanding where our authority is on that is something we’ve navigated very carefully and continue to do so.
5. You’ve said that ‘Hearing from patients about how Genea has made a difference is humbling’. How have you used this feedback to influence your marketing strategy?
The fact that we play such a pivotal role in our patients' lives is something my team are very conscious of. The trust that someone puts into a brand like ours when they’re at their most vulnerable is a real consideration for every single piece of communication we craft. Who we collaborate with is also really important and we are hyper-sensitive to even the smallest discrepancy that could erode that brand trust.
There are very few brands that can say they have true “brand love” from their customers, so we definitely don’t take that responsibility lightly. That radio ad they heard on the way to work the morning after another negative pregnancy test has to immediately instill trust, the story they tell our Fertility Advisor that they haven’t even told their Mum has to be received with empathy and understanding. Every single touch point my team is responsible for is poured over in detail to respect the importance of this moment in their lives.
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A proud Kiwi, living in Sydney with my English husband and two Aussie kids. An avid fan of music festivals, and keen ocean swimmer; I relish connecting talented people, and seeing the magical results they create for clients.