If you’re a StoneArch client, you may have noticed a new face in the Zoom gallery: StoneArch’s new Vice President of Strategy, Angie Churchill.
Given the many, many events that have kept us more than a little busy these days, we missed giving her a proper introduction when she joined StoneArch earlier this year.
So, without further ado, we finally sat down with Angie to talk strategy—why healthcare, why StoneArch and what our clients can expect for the future of strategy at StoneArch.
Angie, tell us a little about your background. What brought you to the intersection of marketing strategy and healthcare?
After I graduated from the College of St. Benedict & St. John’s University with a major in strategic marketing and minors in psychology, Spanish and communications, I started my career as a change management consultant for Ernst & Young.
This was in the late ’90s, during the rise of internet companies like Amazon and Orbitz. I became fascinated with how these companies disrupted stale industries like brick and mortar retail and hospitality. These companies broke all the rules in a way that was invigorating—it inspired me to think about challenging the status quo for the good of others.
I joined Carlson Companies and spent years building brands and loyalty programs before being recruited into Optum, a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group.
Initially, the healthcare space felt a bit foreign, having built consumer brands and helping people find the joy in traveling, for example. But I recognized that, like Amazon had disrupted retail, healthcare was ready for disruption—and I wanted in on it. I also yearned for a greater sense of purpose to my work. Helping people live their best life is an incredible purpose, and that’s what we do in healthcare— help others live their best life!
Many strategists, marketers and creatives can feel that the healthcare space is stale and restrictive. What about this industry keeps you engaged?
One of my first healthcare projects was to create demand for a low usage, high margin nurse line product. It’s a 24/7 service for health plan members to call and get answers to a variety of health questions.
I started by digging into the data. Who was calling? Why? What business objectives were we trying to achieve with this product? How could we connect other programs and products like weight management and coaching?
The result was a campaign called Super Foods—a product extension for members vs. a complete repositioning. Members could call the nurse line for health information and receive a super-food recipe book if they spoke with a nurse and inquired about other programs (this was before Pinterest, so recipes were still a great incentive).
The campaign was a huge success: Our team of 5,000+ nurses could hardly keep up with the call volume, and we had to reprint our recipe book three times to meet demand.
The point here is that I discovered very early on in my career that marketing strategy works—even within healthcare, the most complex and highly regulated industry.
In terms of the industry and its needs for marketing strategy, what do you think has changed the most since you started your career?
The Super Foods campaign proved to me that the notion of creating demand for a product or service in healthcare felt novel. This was an industry that never needed to think about creating brands, experiences or demand for services, because people came when they were sick, they were served and the value chain was relatively simple.
That’s all changed. Consumer expectations have changed. The value chain is complex, business models are rapidly changing, and yet the adoption of marketing strategy and the science behind marking is still in an evolutionary vs. revolutionary state. This is what keeps me here, rooted in healthcare.
What brought you to StoneArch?
The opportunity to transform healthcare is immense, but it can also be maddening. For years, mentors have told me I’m ahead of my time and that hopefully the industry will catch up. But I feel that the time is now—that healthcare companies don’t have time to wait. And that’s what moved me to join StoneArch.
I’ve partnered with many agencies over the years—even started one inside the walls of Optum called Carrot—but something struck me about StoneArch. The breadth and depth of healthcare experience of my colleagues here and the incredible client base of purpose-driven companies is extraordinary.
The passion my teammates have for our clients’ business shows in the work. One would think we have a team of clinical experts and chief medical officers on staff, but we don’t—at least not yet!
We’re people who believe in humanizing healthcare, in telling the stories of brands and leaders that are helping to improve lives. We have people who want to challenge the status quo for the good of others. And the same holds true for our clients. That’s what attracted me to StoneArch, along with the opportunity to prove to the industry that there’s true value in marketing strategy and that it can accelerate your business performance!
Now that you’re leading the charge of strategy at StoneArch, what can our clients expect?
We’re on a mission to make strategy joyful and exciting. Because when you do it right, it can be energizing and inspiring. Good strategy opens your heart and mind to what’s possible for your brand, business and those you serve.
My philosophy is centered on People, Purpose and Performance:
People is the humanizing component that grounds any work in the real, human context of health.
Purpose—why a brand exists—is that higher order element that makes this world a better place, and it’s what creates the love factor for brands.
And finally, Performance. I’m a maximizer and an achiever, which means I need to see results in order to feel our hard work has a payoff.
The work of strategy is just the beginning of our job here at StoneArch. Strategy is the current that brings energy to hardworking creative and great storytelling. It makes me so very happy to see all of these pieces come together and truly brighten a brand. And every brand has a story to be told. We are blessed here at StoneArch to have the privilege to tell so many great brand stories in the most inspiring yet underserved industry—healthcare.
What’s your healthcare story? I’m all ears and would love to hear it. 😀