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Julia Griffiths – Defining A Marketer’s Purpose – Episode #103
It can help to work for a mission-driven organization but, you’re going to maximize that opportunity if you have some perspective on what your personal values are...”
Always one to believe in bringing her whole self to work, Julia knows that the marketer who is deliberate in the purpose of their work will have the greatest impact.
Early in her career, personal circumstances helped Julia define her own purpose. She has learned how to drive more impactful outcomes by being on purpose throughout her career in healthcare.
Julia believes marketers who find their own purpose can enjoy professional success and personal satisfaction because of the way they do their work.
She is currently a marketing leader at Genentech and formerly a Marketing Director at Pfizer.
Questions and topics we covered:
  • The unique marketing challenges within the pharmaceutical and medical industries.
  • Why you should study other industries when trying to get new marketing ideas.
  • What does “being on purpose” mean?
  • Can marketers realize their purpose no matter which industry or company they work in?
  • Is becoming a CMO the only path a marketer can take?
  • What skills and professional qualities does a marketer need to gain in order to deserve a leadership role?
  • What’s the value of being intentional in your marketing?
  • Should marketing leaders focus on the competition?
  • Why does authentic engagement matter in marketing?
And more!
Say hi to Julia via LinkedIn –

Full Episode Transcript:

Kenny Soto 0:02  

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the people of digital marketing podcast with your host, Kenny Soto, and today’s special guest, Julia Griffith. Hi, Julia, how are you?


Julia Griffiths 0:15  

I’m doing well. How are you, Kenny?


Kenny Soto 0:16  

I’m doing very well. We are now 100 episodes in the people Digital Marketing podcast. And I’m very excited to talk to you today for several reasons. But before we get into that, I think a great place for us to start is just to get some more context on you, Julia as a professional, so why don’t you go ahead and tell us how you got into marketing in the first place?


Julia Griffiths 0:39  

Yeah, so growing up, I thought I was going to be a physician. And not to get into too many details. But that led me down a path of science in health care. And I found myself in the pharmaceutical industry. So starting with what they used to call carrying the bag, I would go from doctor’s office to doctor’s office talking about the different features and benefits of our medicines. And I did that for a couple of years. 


And then I wanted to get into broader business aspects of healthcare. And I had a really fortunate opportunity to work for a very large company at the time, it was the largest pharmaceutical brand in headquarters, and started working in marketing. And it really clicked for me, I just loved being able to take everything that I knew from working directly with customers, and apply it in a broader sense. 


And that led me down a path of, you know, different opportunities to get into different aspects of marketing. So the first one that usually starts when you come from the field and pharmaceuticals is marketing to HCPs. So that’s how you translate the clinical data, and the label that you have with the FDA into information that can help HCPs or healthcare providers make decisions about which medicines to treat their patients with. 


And then you can go in lots of different directions. But for me, I’d always been interested in the patient aspect, for a couple of reasons when the patient is what it’s all about. The second reason is, you know, just this is a digital marketing podcast. And when you think about the marketing that you can do, and the reach that you can have patients or consumers is where you have the biggest group of people to provide information to. 


And I also, you know, being a recipient of health care for myself and my family believes that as a patient, you want to be informed. And so I’ve been able to move into different areas of patient marketing. And it’s been really rewarding from both the patient healthcare aspect, but also from a technical aspect, and the different types of marketing that you’re able to do.


Kenny Soto 2:49  

You’re the first marketer that I’ve had on the podcast that works in the healthcare industry. What from your perspective are some of the unique challenges that you face as a marketer in your particular industry?


Julia Griffiths 3:04  

It’s a really great question. One of the most obvious ones is that you’re in a highly regulated industry, and I think that another consideration that you face in healthcare marketing, is the ethical evaluation of how you can market responsibly when you think about healthcare. And I think it’s a benefit in some ways because I started in this industry at the beginning of my career. 


And it’s always caused me to evaluate how my ethics and values line up with the work that I’m doing. But I think it’s something that you’re always considering. And the benefit of being in healthcare and being in a highly regulated industry like this is that you’re working with colleagues and cross-functional partners, who are always proposing different questions that might make you think a little bit differently about how you’re marketing. 


And so I’m a pretty big believer in getting lots of feedback along the way, taste and tone are really big things. And you always want to have different perspectives that cause you to pressure test what you’re going to market with.


Kenny Soto 4:18  

I’ve asked guests in the past, whether they believe it’s important to specialize in a role or to be a generalist. What I want to ask you is, to what degree are you finding benefits from being in one industry throughout your entire career?


Julia Griffiths 4:37  

Interesting. For me, the commitment to healthcare is based on the purpose that I started my career with, which was healthcare and helping people in that medical realm. But for me, it’s also become somewhat personal given circumstances that have happened, both with my father and with my son And, so for me, there’s really no question about it, I will be honest about it that I think there is so much to learn from reading about other industries. 


And I’m especially right now fascinated with CPG. consumer packaged goods. We were at the beach the other day, and we met the well, I shouldn’t say but the founder of a very specialized ice cream company, who was based out of Columbus when he started it. And, you know, Columbus is where you have, like big CPG brands. 


And it just got me thinking, I think there’s a lot that you can learn from keeping your eyes and ears and your network open and being curious about other industries. But for me, the benefit is that there’s a personal purpose. And I feel like I’m able to keep a commitment that I’ve had to myself by staying in this industry.


Kenny Soto 5:55  

For it, dive into some other questions that I want to go into, can you give us more context into your current role today, and what you’re doing in your current company?


Julia Griffiths 6:05  

Yeah, so I work in the patient realm, I do DTC marketing, and we work for the brands that I work on. They’re very big markets. And so we do mass advertising for patients. And that means that we work across different channels. So not just your, you know, like baseline digital channels, but we also do DTV, Direct TV, TV, consumer advertising, and use both linear TV and nonlinear TV. 


Kenny Soto 6:43  

Marketing, in my opinion, it is one of the best professions anyone can ever get into. But finding your purpose in marketing can be a little difficult, especially when you’re first starting off in your career. What does being on purpose mean to you?


Julia Griffiths 6:59  

So being on purpose, to me, is that you understand the decisions that you’ve made to get to where you’re at and have an eye towards the future and what you want to accomplish. I think when you’re first starting out, it’s really hard to know what your purpose is. And I think that’s really okay. And I guess one thing that I would want to message is that, really, it’s okay, you’re figuring things out. Some of us have different things that happened to us growing up, that helped us realize our purpose earlier in life. 


And some of us don’t, or maybe are unaware of the different circumstances that we’ve gone through, that will eventually help us realize our purpose. Somebody shared with me an anecdote that somebody had told them. This was back when I was in business school, so it was probably five or six years into my career. And what they shared was in your 20s, you want to learn in your 30s, you want to earn in your 40s, you want power and in your 50s. 


It’s about legacy. So I was in my late 20s. I thought about that. It really resonated. I check myself every couple of years or a couple of months, and just think about where I’m at in my own career journey. But I’ve always since heard that I had this eye toward the legacy aspect, right? You know, when I was starting my career, we had the Enron scandal, and different things were happening in the healthcare industry that made me very aware of different ethical dilemmas that people could face and the decisions that they might make that would cause them to get into some type of quagmire, which could lead to a negative legacy. 


And I was really cognizant of that and didn’t want that to happen. That being said, I had to go through some personal journeys to understand what my purpose was. As I shared earlier, I think that my purpose today is to be able to impact health care. Right now, I’m focused on neuroscience, but that could evolve. I think that we can all evolve our purpose, but it’s having that initial purpose, an eye toward the future and your legacy and then continuing to iterate on it. 


Kenny Soto 9:08  

Do you think marketers can realize their purpose, no matter the company they’re in or the industry they’re currently in?


Julia Griffiths 9:16  

I think they can. I think it can help to work for a mission-driven organization. But you’re going to maximize that opportunity. If you have some perspective on what your personal values are, as you’re developing that purpose


Kenny Soto 9:33  

Is becoming a marketing executive, VP of Marketing, Head of Marketing, CMO, etc, the only path a marketer can take.


Julia Griffiths 9:42  

I don’t think so. I think marketing is there. I will say this before I answer the question. I always tell people that I don’t think being a great marketer is about the amount of schooling you’ve had or the number of experiences you’ve had. I think it’s about being able to solve problems. 


So I think marketing is a great training ground for identifying opportunities, taking insights and information you have about your market or your target customer, the value prop of whatever it is that you’re promoting, and being able to triangulate, put all those pieces together and come up with a path forward. Now different aspects of marketing, like in healthcare marketing are where a lot of strategies sit. And so you’re constantly dealing with different dilemmas and solving problems. 


And you’re solving problems that are about how people are going to be able to access healthcare. And so that can be really rewarding. But I guess what I’m trying to say is, I think no matter which industry you’re in, marketing can be a really great start for helping you get into the mind of the customer, and be able to solve those business problems in a purposeful way. I


Kenny Soto 10:55  

I recently came across a term called executive presence, and I aspire to be a marketing executive one day. But to be honest, I don’t know what kind of path to take to get there, I have some idea of the skills and specifically the soft skills I need in order to be a team leader. But I want to know, from your perspective, what are those soft skills and or hard skills that marketers should be developing? Now, if they do intend to be an executive one day?


Julia Griffiths 11:27  

Yeah, I can share what my journey has been in the soft skills that I think have helped me be a better leader and a better marketer. But I do want to caution you, I think everyone has their own behaviors, personality, experiences, and things that will end up honing their secret sauces. 

So I think, you know, high level, the secret, or the opportunity in terms of executive presence, is the pause. Are you listening? Are you giving people space? Are you allowing space and being open, not only in that presence but in your mind, so that you’re welcoming different opinions, and different perspectives, we all have something to bring to the table. Now, when I think about my own journey, I would say that the soft skills that I honed in on our empathy when I was early in my career, I was probably much more technical, tactical, and all about executing. I’m assertive. 


But I’ve realized through time, that empathy and that space, and welcoming other voices in is what makes for the best out of it. I don’t have all the answers, nobody does. And I don’t have a lot of patience for people who think that they do. I also think it’s really important to have those soft skills and be welcoming of those other voices, people will manage it in different ways. 


As I mentioned, I am a little bit assertive. And what that translates to in this evolved, Julia, who’s a little bit softer in her presence, is that I will be very transparent and provide real-time feedback. But I’m doing it to help not to assert power, right? It’s something that I want people to do I want people to be transparent with me, I think we can get to better solutions faster. If we’re all being transparent, being honest. Speaking with candor.


Kenny Soto 13:43  

What’s the value of being intentional in your marketing?


Julia Griffiths 13:49  

So I think you need to know what you’re trying to drive. Are you just trying to sell the product? Or is there an opportunity for that promotion? So like, I’ll give you an example. When we think about health care, the COVID pandemic has elevated our awareness of health inequities, which means that we all have an opportunity to promote health equity. 


How do we do that? Well, it depends on which market you’re working in, what your target population is, and what your different prevalence or epidemiologic data are pointing to in terms of the opportunity around health equity, but there’s a huge opportunity to be representative of different populations, whether that’s like race, ethnicity, age, gender, like social demographics, and do that in a really credible way. 


So to me, that’s one aspect of intentional marketing. The other aspect is that you’re trying to have that right taste in tone, right? So we’re talking digital marketing here. I mean, there is a lot of good stuff in the digital marketing space, but there are also a lot of opera attorneys for being responsible and being intentional in how we do that.


Kenny Soto 15:06  

Why does authentic engagement matter in marketing?


Julia Griffiths 15:12  

For me, authentic engagement means that you’re keeping an eye on that customer. So it’s not just that you are trying to sell the product, if you want to authentically engage the customer, you want to represent them in a way that is realistic to their life. And I won’t go into specifics. But they have definitely been big. I mean, I think at the end of every Super Bowl, you have all the really good campaigns that are launched but you also have some big aha around where the mark might have been missed. 


And so I would, I would point all of us to think that way, when we think about what that opportunity is, and just how we’re representing people, it’s really important when you realize that mass marketing, digital marketing, share voice during the same message over and over again, yeah, that’s going to drive your product, but you want to be responsible in the way that you’re doing it, you want to have the right taste and tone, and you also want to be represented in a really credible way.


Kenny Soto 16:21  

Do you spend any time observing what your competitors are doing? Yes. Now, when you aren’t doing competitive analysis, what are the specific things that you’re looking for?


Julia Griffiths 16:37  

The things that I just mentioned, like taste and tone. When I’m thinking about the digital space or different media channels, I want to see where they’re engaging, and where they’re investing. I also want to see what we call it q ti quality target indexes, are they hitting the right demographic? are they hitting at a frequency that we think is the optimal frequency? And if you know, you asked the question, do you pay attention? The answer is yes. 


But I’m also a really big believer in doubling down on what you’re doing and focusing on your own strategy and feeling really confident in that. So when I say yes, I’m aware of what my competition is doing. I’m probably spending 10% of my time thinking about that. There are different times in the media planning cycle when I might spend a little bit more time or ask our media partners to do a little bit deeper analysis so that we can think through the strategies. Now as I mentioned earlier, I don’t always have the answer. 


And I don’t expect my whole team to always have to answer. So I would be remiss if I didn’t want to know what my competition was doing, and look at something that they might be tracking, that we’re not thinking about, and then do a really critical evaluation of whether or not we think that’s a good strategy, or we think maybe they’re not quite sure what they’re doing. So I do pay attention. There are different parts in the planning cycle where I might pay a little bit of extra attention


Kenny Soto 18:07  

Two more questions for you. What’s the biggest marketing challenge your team is facing this year?


Julia Griffiths 18:15  

Without going into details, I would say the regulations of our industry, we have to be super, super responsible to make sure that any claims we’re putting out into the market, match our label. So that’s our prescribing information. And I think that that always can be a black box about an A doesn’t mean black box in the pharmaceutical or FDA sense, I mean, black box in terms of, you don’t know what type of safety signal might come up. 


You don’t know like, you just don’t know, you don’t know when you’re going to get a new indication. You should know when you’re gonna get a new indication, but you don’t always know how that’s going to manifest in the label and how you’re going to have to map back to the claims that you’re making out to the market.


Kenny Soto 18:57  

I used to work in FinTech. And we always had to pass a lot of our campaigns through legal just so that we didn’t get flagged by the SEC, do you think because of the regulations in your industry, some of your campaigns, or maybe just the business overall, when it comes to marketing have to move a lot slower compared to businesses and other industries?


Julia Griffiths 19:20  

I think it’s hard to answer, considering that I haven’t been directly involved in campaigns from other industries.


Kenny Soto 19:27  

That makes sense. Now, Julia, my last question for you is hypothetical. Because time machines don’t exist. But if they did, and you can go back in time, about 10 years into the past, knowing everything you know, today, how would you specifically accelerate the speed of your career?


Julia Griffiths 19:43  

It’s such a good question. I would have taken more risks. I would have been more open-minded when people came to me with different opportunities, recognizing that I had an agency to say no if I wasn’t willing to take the risk, but I would have been more open had I ended up listening to what the opportunities were. 


And just really trying to gauge that I have been fortunate, I’ve worked for really big, reputable organizations. And part of that was by choice. My parents had their own business. And it was wonderful, right? Like my upbringing was wonderful. And I would say it was somewhat privileged, but they were always dealing with the issues that one deals with as a small business owner. 


And so I think to some extent, I am a little bit risk averse. And I wish that I am not saying it would have changed my path. But I wish I’d been more open to when people had representatives and different opportunities to meet.


Kenny Soto 20:44  

Thank you, Julia, for your time today. And if anyone wants to say hello, where can they find you online?


Julia Griffiths 20:49  

They can find me on LinkedIn. I’d love to hear from them.


Kenny Soto 20:52  

Perfect. I’ll put your profile in the show notes. And again, thank you, and thank you to you the listener for listening to another episode of the people digital marketing. And if you haven’t done so please subscribe on whatever podcast platform you’re listening to this episode on. And if you have any guest recommendations, we aren’t taking them. 


So if you’re hearing this today, you can definitely send me a message on Twitter, or LinkedIn, what have you searched for Kenny Soto on Google? You’ll find me. Send me some recommendations if you have and we’ll do our outreach. And as always, I hope everyone has a great week. 


Bye bye.

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