An executive interview with Diego Vaccarezza, VP of Enterprise Media at CVS Health
Editor’s Note: CVS is redefining health care in North America. Once known as the neighborhood pharmacy, CVS has grown to become one of the leading health solutions companies in the United States and is uniquely positioned to help tackle some of the country’s most pressing public health challenges. Part of this journey is reshaping what marketing means within CVS. The company has adopted the approach to connect its marketing with a purpose and is driving innovative and impactful initiatives by “putting its heart into every moment of health” for its customers. Broad vision statements like this come to life by digging into the details of the message. The Wise Marketer connected with Diego Vaccarezza, VP of Enterprise Media at CVS Health to talk about how CVS is accelerating its journey towards customer centricity.
The Wise Marketer (WM): Let's set a baseline for the conversation. What is the substance and ethos behind this topic title? What, in plain language, should marketers and businesspeople (as well as consumers) know about what CVS Health is doing here?
Diego Vaccarezza (DV): As we at CVS Health more clearly define ourselves as a health and wellness company, the products we carry, the services we provide and the initiatives we drive are all inspired by our purpose: bringing our heart to every moment of health. That purpose has evolved over the years through impactful decisions that are rooted in transparency and desire for change – from becoming the first national retail pharmacy to stop selling tobacco products in 2014, to challenging the beauty industry on the negative mental health implications that photoshopped images have on young girls and women with the CVS Beauty Mark nearly 5 years ago, to launching our Tested to be Trusted program that tests the vitamins and supplements we sell in 2019.
We also committed the full strength of our enterprise to address the critical needs around COVID. Additionally, we remain passionate about health equity, including the disparity faced by women. As there are systematic health and societal barriers that create meaningful gaps in women’s overall health and well-being, we recently launched a new enterprise initiative, HERe For Her, and are taking bold steps to address those issues.
WM: Purpose-based marketing has gained lots of attention since the pandemic. There are many reasons for this depending on what you read and who you listen to. Common to most views is that the consumer is placing more emphasis on aligning personal values with what a brand represents. How do you frame this up and what thinking led CVS to this approach?
DV: Consumers are often selecting brands that are not only based on value, but that are based on their own values, as well. As a company, clearly articulating our purpose and infusing those values into our campaigns is more important than ever, as it differentiates us from our competitors and also drives brand choice.
We recognize the opportunity we have to reshape how consumers experience health care, and we believe that our closeness to our customers in terms of proximity, reach and relationships uniquely positions us to deliver solutions that meet their evolving needs. During the pandemic, we had a tremendous responsibility of adapting and listening to our customers. We had a clear opportunity to deliver on our purpose – to help people with their health wherever and whenever they need us, and to bring our heart to every moment of health – all while being a one-stop destination for our customers and patients. In fact, during this time, new audiences were introduced to us as a brand because we served as an important resource for COVID-19 testing and vaccine distribution – which served as a first-ever interaction with CVS Pharmacy for many.
What we learned during the pandemic was the importance of working and building with agility, being able to pivot and flex to match the needs of the marketplace, and ensuring that as a company, we’re effectively delivering on those needs.
WM: Will this mission be reflected in print, mail, in-store promotion, etc.? Will there be an omnichannel approach to delivering the message?
DV: Our mission is reflected in everything we do across CVS Health. We touch millions of lives with our in-home, in-store and virtual care services, as well as through our commitment to underserved communities, and we continue to work to keep our customers connected to us by ensuring they are part of our ongoing communications efforts that tell the broader brand story.
Our forward-thinking marketing strategies are aimed at providing greater quality, simplicity, and choice – meeting people where they are with personalized solutions that are seamless, connected and increasingly digital. This has been especially apparent since the start of the pandemic, as there has been a shift toward online and mobile transactions. We’ve leaned heavily into our digital capabilities and are leveraging strategic partnerships to expand our offerings to address this shift and meet our customers wherever, whenever and however they need.
A great example of our omnichannel approach is the CVS Media Exchange (cMx), our data-led, technology-driven media network that enables advertisers (CPG brand suppliers) to reach CVS shoppers through a variety of digital platforms, including CVS.com, social media networks, programmatic displays and off-site search engines.
WM: What points of engagement will be introduced to make sure people (customers) understand CVS? How will CVS gain consumer involvement and buy-in for this message?
DV: Our marketing team represents the voice of the customer, ensuring their needs are always the focus of the work that we do. It’s our goal to make sure that the customer’s journey, experience and points of engagement are clean and friction-less, the message resonates, and customer feedback is absorbed to better inform our strategy moving forward. As we collaborate on this cross functional level, we’re constantly evolving our marketing strategies to be even more laser-focused on connecting brands with real people on their wellness journey.
For example, to further our connection and engagement with customers, we’re especially proud of our partnership with IBM Watson Advertising. We’re partnering with them to develop a connection with consumers that drives awareness of flu shot offerings, cough, cold and flu medications, and to position our company as a trusted health partner. Using IBM Watson’s AI-powered tool, we’re able to predict flu risk down to a U.S. ZIP code, which enables us to leverage predictive illness data, promote awareness and recommendations for flu prevention in at-risk communities and reach consumers with targeted messaging to help them access resources from their local pharmacy.
WM: What do you think is the biggest healthcare challenge to US consumers and how is this mission providing to address the challenges?
DV: One challenge that U.S. consumers face is health equity, and we believe that everyone should have a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible. To us, health equity is not a series of programs. It is a way of doing business, which is why we are committed to leveraging the totality of our knowledge, assets, and expertise to advance health equity for our colleagues, consumers, clients, and the communities we serve.
Women face serious health care gaps, from systemic barriers created by high health care costs and access issues to health challenges related to a greater risk of chronic conditions. The COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened these challenges. As part of our recently launched enterprise initiative, HERe For Her, we’re taking these steps to address these disparities:
- We are reducing CVS Health brand period products by 25% or more
- We are covering the cost of the tax on menstrual products in 12 states
- We are taking an active stance on the ‘Pink Tax,’ ensuring fair and equitable pricing for men’s and women’s like products
- We are offering new menstrual and menopause services through Minute Clinic as well as launching virtual care services 7 days a week
- We are providing access to mental health support through Aetna when it’s most convenient to her
WM: Anything else that we didn't mention here?
DV: Our marketing team acts partially as the coach and the quarterback of our broader team at CVS. It takes a village for an enterprise campaign that highlights the value of our integrated products and service offerings. We are a health care company with a retail pharmacy, a retail clinic, a health insurance offering, a PBM, a Specialty pharmacy, at-home and virtual care, and a score of other resources that can support consumers on their health journey – and we’re proud to continue building a world of health care around each and every person we serve.
To do this, teams in the field and across digital, legal, and clinical, creative, media and PR are all aligned towards that common goal, and I’m looking forward to all of the great work we have in store for the future as we continue working towards our purpose.
Executive Bio: Diego Vaccarezza, Vice President Enterprise Media, CVS Health
As Vice President of Enterprise Media for CVS Health, Diego is responsible for leading the team that create the media strategies and manage the execution of paid media campaigns in support of all business units including Pharmacy, Front Store, Minute Clinic, Health Services, and Enterprise Brand.
At CVS Health for over eleven years, Diego has led the evolution of media from a primarily Retail print circular-driven organization, to an Enterprise that executes multi-channel campaigns with sophisticated audience segmentation and strategic use of data and technologies. He has played a leadership role in proving the value of marketing investments in effectively driving core business KPIs in an ROI-positive manner leading to increased investments year over year.