Building, coordinating and maintaining a single brand can seem like a never-ending challenge. Now imagine juggling over twenty brands in just as many states, each one having its own distinct personalities and idiosyncrasies. For many, this might be daunting but Dave Minifie, CMO of Centene, a multiline care enterprise, it’s just another day in the office.
After over a decade of experience working at P&G, there are two things Dave isn’t worried about: learning the ins and outs of a new brand, and connecting with the people he meets along the way. Maybe that’s why Dave’s legendary people skills earned him a President’s Circle Award at The CMO Club’s CMO Awards. In my interview with Dave we dissected not only how to make sure every brand he markets is furthering larger goals, but also how a strong peer network is critical to his success.
Drew: How did your nearly 13 years of experience in various roles at Procter & Gamble prepare you for the role of CMO at Centene? What are the biggest challenges you have overcome in your transition, and how did you overcome them?
P&G effectiveness at building marketers and business leaders remains grounded in its “brand building framework.” This model works in every category I’ve worked in – whether toilet paper, dog food, or health care – and the challenges I’ve experienced at each transition in my career have been overcome in the same way: learn the culture of the organization; assess the landscape of the category and your competition; understand, articulate, and drive your point of difference; and ensure your resolve to getting the basics done well, first, never wavers.
Drew: When you take on a new senior marketer role, what are your top priorities? Do you have a first 100-day plan?
I strive to execute a 90-day plan as quickly as possible. At Centene, I was able to start executing after about the first thirty days. In fact, two and a half years later, we are still executing against that vision. My top priorities are three-tiered. First, I assess the landscape, both internally and externally. What are the drivers of the business? What is our point of difference? Does my organization have the right culture, capacity, and capability to accomplish everything that needs to be done? Second, we strive to execute all the basics well. Finally, we can work on accelerating the business.
Drew: Several of Centene’s subsidiaries, such as MHS Health Wisconsin and Sunshine Health, have undergone rebranding under your leadership. What are the most notable changes you’ve made, and how do you foresee these changes benefiting the subsidiaries, as well as the overall Centene brand?
I mentioned earlier how important it is to do the basics well. When I arrived at Centene, each subsidiary had a different name, different mark, and different look and feel. This was vital to Centene since we know all health care is local, and must be delivered locally. In fact, this commitment to the local markets is one of three core brand pillars for company. However, as we seek to drive scale efficiencies (we’ve gone from $5bn in revenue to $15bn in three years), it quickly becomes apparent that we could move to a common visual identity across the enterprise for each of our health plans. That’s what we are doing now: updating look and feel, based on our company purpose, and incorporating consumer-driven insights into how connect with our members. We anticipate all eighteen health plan subsidiaries accomplishing their rebrand by the end of next year.
Drew: How do you drive loyalty in your category?
At Centene, we focus less on brand loyalty or retention than we do on positive health outcomes. To drive positive health outcomes, we educate our members on pro-active health management techniques, and conduct outreach to members who may need additional assistance. This includes programs for expecting moms, as well as programs for members trying to quit smoking or dealing with other addictions. We believe this approach not only improves outcomes, but also lowers our medical costs and increases member retention.
Drew: Marketing budgets are getting increasingly complex as new options and tools become available. How as CMO are you staying on top of budget allocation and optimization?
Budgets are always tight and always getting squeezed. We have proactively taken steps to better understand ROI on all aspects of our marketing mix, and where we can assess “real time” with some of our digital out-reach, we constantly test, learn, and reapply.
Drew: Do you think it is important to spend time on your personal brand and if so, how do you do this without being in conflict with your organizational goals?
Personal branding is not important to me. I do focus, however, on self-awareness and business results. I think too many marketers get caught up in their own “brand” without understanding their own motivations, strengths, and weaknesses. Without having personal insight, how will you improve? If you don’t improve yourself, how can you push your organization forward? Also, if your business isn’t growing, isn’t taking share, then your “brand” gets tarnished anyway. In other words, grow your business while improving yourself, and your reputation or brand equity will take care of itself.
Drew: How important is having a strong peer network to your ability to do your job well? (explain benefits) Can you describe an instance in the past year when your peer network helped you?
Having a strong peer marketing network is critical to success. At P&G, it was easy to talk marketing and grow personally, because everyone at P&G – even the R&D guys – understands brand building. In a non-CPG industry, “getting fed” is more challenging. I need an external marketing network to keep me on top of trends, to test my thinking, and to help me get better. A recent example is a big idea we are toying with right now. I’ve tested the idea with several of my close friends and trusted marketing advisors and identified both flaws and opportunities inherent in the execution phase, and we are retooling the idea to make it stronger.