Simplifiers Interview: Carol Kruse, SVP and CMO at Cambia Health Solutions

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Behind every brand delivering simpler experiences for customers is a leader who recognizes the inherent value in keeping things simple. Here I interview marketing leaders and founders of brands that have performed well in the Global Brand Simplicity Index and /or that we deem as simplifiers based on a review of the brand. In this Simplifiers interview, I speak with Carol Kruse, CMO at Cambia Health Solutions.

MM: What does you brand stand for and how does it deliver on that promise?

CK: Cambia is guided by our True North, our Cause, to transform health care to make it person-focused and economically sustainable.

Since our founding in 1917, when we enabled loggers to pool funds to help with medical needs, we’ve put people at the heart of everything we do as we work to provide solutions that make health care seamless, personalized and more economically sustainable for people and their families. Today our portfolio reaches more than 70 million consumers across the U.S.

MM: What role does simplicity play in delivering on that promise?

CK: Healthcare is an extremely complex industry. There are few industries where as a consumer you don’t know what all your options are at the outset, or how much a service is going to cost. In healthcare, this is compounded by the challenges in navigating among providers, hospitals and insurance. We’re working to bring simplicity and transparency to people. It’s part of what we stand for as a company.

MM: How does your organization strive to create simple experiences?

CK: Cambia is constantly in transformation. We strive to make the healthcare industry more consumer-oriented and to integrate solutions that are easier for people to understand, offer seamless navigation and more personalization.

Each year, Cambia has an internal initiative to focus on fixing 10 pain points in the end-to-end consumer experience, determined from our satisfaction surveys and our member service professionals. We’ve made these pain points a core component of our company-wide employee bonus plan. Our solutions teams use human-centered design principles, like customer journey mapping, that incorporate a simplicity dimension, to address the 10 customer pain points.

MM: How does technology help you simplify?

CK: Data and technology are key to improving the health care experience for Americans and their families. As such, Cambia uses data science to understand and anticipate peoples’ needs, and the power of technology to deliver a simplified and relevant consumer experience. To bring new products to market, Cambia has both a product development team and a venture arm, Echo Health Ventures. A recent innovation, Med Savvy, came from an employee pharmacist who wanted to give people a better understanding of the drugs their doctor recommends, as well as alternative drugs, their relative efficacy and cost. MedSavvy.com empowers patients to look up medications their doctor is recommending and have an informed conversation about alternatives.

MM: How do you strive to keep things simple for your marketing team?

CK: To help the marketing team, and our colleagues in other departments, empathize with people, we use “consumer journeys” based on significant research and insights. These journeys highlight the paths people take through their health and wellness experiences, as well as their emotions each step of the way. This storytelling helps us walk in others shoes, understand their experiences and determine how we can improve them. This approach is a great way for all cross-functional team members to develop a common understanding, language and goals.

MM: How do you lead as a simplifier?

CK: I encourage those around me to always bring their thinking back to the consumer and to feel empathy for their situation. Focus on the person’s holistic needs, not just a single situation or data point. In health care, people often talk about “adherence”—why are patients not “adhering” to their health care plan? This word frustrates me because it shows a lack of empathy. Instead we should ask, what are the barriers preventing people from following a treatment plan? As a simplifier, I’m always asking simple questions that get to the heart of the consumer’s experience.

MM: What are the changes organizations need to make to build this culture of simplicity?

CK: Center your organization around a cause or mission, and work with people who are passionate about that cause.

Cambia is a purpose-driven organization. Most of our employees joined to make health care better for people by delivering innovative solutions. All aspects of our company ladder back to our Cause. We tie fixing pain points to our employee bonus plan, we invest in cause-focused initiatives like palliative care and underprivileged children’s health, and we make it easy for our employees to volunteer to help those in our communities.

MM: How do you sustain employee commitment?

CK: Cambia’s compassionate Cause touches the heart, our emphasis on innovation (through research, data and technology) challenges the mind, and our encouragement of employee community service makes it easy for them to live the culture.

MM: What do you think are the biggest mistakes brands make in regard to simplifying?

CK: I think the biggest mistake brands make is not being fearless about stating what you are not going to do. It’s easy to say yes, we’re going to stand for that, and that, and that. To simplify, you have to be willing to say what you’re not going to do or be, so you can be successful in what your brand stands for. If you try to do everything, you’re not simple or focused.

MM: What does simplicity mean to you?

CK: Simplicity means having a true focus, and grounding everything we do—our marketing, our product development, our execution—in that singular focus. Our Cambia Cause, to transform health care to be person-focused and economically sustainable, is simple and focused.

MM: What are the indicators, if any, which suggest simplicity is a driver of your business?

CK: All you need to do is talk to consumers. Within the past 12 months, we’ve conducted 100 pieces of primary research on consumers in healthcare and heard consistently that people are overwhelmed by the complexity of the healthcare system. We’ve made it our mission to make the patient experience simple and transparent.

MM: Thank you.

This is this an ongoing Simplifiers series. See interviews with Managing Director of The Nature Conservancy, Geof Rochester, Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer of Motorola Solutions, Eduardo Conrado, EVP; SVP, Chief Marketing & External Affairs Officer at Abbott, Elaine Leavenworth, GE CMO, Linda Boff; McLaren Automotive Head of Brand Marketing, Stephen Lambert; Ascension Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Nick Ragone; Hertz CMO, Matt Jauchius; Direct Line Group Marketing Director, Mark Evans; McDonald’s CMO, Deborah Wahl; Jet.com President, Liza Landsman and VP Marketing, Sumaiya Balbale; Target CMO, Jeff Jones; Spotify CMO, Seth Farbman; Ally Financial CMO, Andrea Riley; Gannett CMO, Andy Yost; CVS Health CMO, Norman De Greve; Dunkin’ Brands CMO, John Costello; Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh; Southwest Airlines CMO, Kevin Krone; and Google CMO, Lorraine Twohill.

Know a simplifier or would like to be included in the series? Please recommend an executive for my next interview: mmolloy@siegelgale.com

Margaret Molloy is global CMO and head of business development at Siegel+Gale. Follow her on Twitter: @MargaretMolloy and Instagram:@MargaretMMolloy

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