Staff Reporters
Sep 14, 2023

The CMO's MO: Cigna Healthcare's Larisa Beckhouse on why AI's clinical trials continue

With healthcare under the microscope in a post-pandemic world, marketers face new pressures to evolve and innovate. But with data and diligence it's all possible, shares Cigna Healthcare's APAC CMO.

The CMO's MO: Cigna Healthcare's Larisa Beckhouse on why AI's clinical trials continue

The CMO's MO: 9 questions with dynamic APAC marketing leaders, insights and personalities revealed. 

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In a post-pandemic world, there are few sectors with as many pressing issues as the healthcare industry. Whether it's the quality, efficacy, availability or price, the health business has never been under the microscope of scrutiny and discussion quite like it is in 2023.

So, what are the challenges for marketers trying to wade through this unprecedented era of medicinal transformation, and what newfound responsibilities do CMOs in this space face? 

Larisa Beckhouse, the chief marketing officer (Asia-Pacific) of insurance giant Cigna Healthcare, is no stranger to navigating this territory. In this edition of CMO's MO, she shares her insights on the new world order of marketing insurance in the health industry, what steps they're taking to thrive, not survive amongst a sea of competitors, and why marketers needn't rush to prescribe AI without considered due diligence. 

Larissa Beckhouse, APAC CMO, Cigna Healthcare. 

1. What are the three biggest marketing challenges for your brand right now?

We have a large market share in providing high-end health care and the priority now is to take this to a wider group of businesses while retaining our DNA of improving the health and vitality of those we serve and ensuring that our products continue to be affordable and customised to their needs.

Insurance is a competitive market and landscape with companies constantly battling for market share and breaking through the noise of their competitors. At Cigna, we have a unique value proposition and it is important that we continue to communicate effectively to our customer base to demonstrate the value we offer and what makes us different from other firms. 

As marketers, we know that marketing is a core engine for growth, building loyalty and shaping perceptions. However, when it comes to measuring the success and ROI of our strategies implemented to help drive these pillars, we still face several obstacles on quantifying marketing impact.

As marketers, we love data and insights, but sometimes struggle to obtain it. 

2. What are the three biggest opportunities for your brand?

Being a marketer today is incredibly exciting due to the rapid evolution of technology and its impact on consumer behaviour. The digital age offers an unprecedented array of tools and platforms to reach a global audience, enabling marketers to create innovative and personalised campaigns that can yield immediate feedback and measurable results. 

Furthermore, the integration of social media and influencer marketing allows us to create authentic connections with consumers and foster brand loyalty and advocacy. Being in such a dynamic landscape, there are endless opportunities, but broadly in line with our objective of targeting a new market segment, the three biggest opportunities for Cigna Healthcare include:

  • Educate: Ensure that the new segment of potential customers we are targeting are aware of our value proposition and how we are different from other players. 
  • Enhance: Continue to adapt and provide customisation through our ethos of improving the health and vitality of those we serve while ensuring that we remain unwavered in providing valuable and affordable healthcare.  
  • Evolve: Rising healthcare costs, changing demographics, consumer preferences and the shift towards preventive care demand marketers to evolve in order to remain competitive and ensure long-term sustainability. 
Cigna Singapore Employees getting ready for the HYROX event which will take place on October 7th 2023 at the National Stadium. Cigna Singapore is the title sponsor of the event.

3. 2023: survive or thrive? Elaborate.

This is a question I constantly see and hear being discussed and personally, I don’t think it’s one or the other. Looking at Cigna—we have been around for over 200 years, during that time there definitely would have been years where we did better, but it depends on how we measure success. 2023 is most certainly a year to thrive. We are currently in an environment that is undergoing a significant transformation with the continuous advancement of technology and data driven strategies. This presents an exciting opportunity for marketers to reach and engage with their target audiences more effectively. 

4. Where are you investing your marketing budget this year? In what areas are you increasing or cutting spend?

Increasing in research and insight: For us and specifically my role, knowledge is power. The more we can obtain and understand what our clients want and the pain points they experience, the better solutions we can design to better suit their needs. Data and insights is the backbone of modern marketing.

Outdoor visibility: Avenues such as transit ads and displays continue to have an unmatched ability to reach a diverse and captive audience and can leave a lasting impression on passerby and commuters. We want to be investing in this space and think about strategic ways that allow us to continue engaging effectively with potential customers and foster brand awareness and loyalty in a dynamic and compelling manner.

5. Are you missing the AI boat? What’s your C-suite AI strategy?

We are dedicating significant time and resources to form an in-depth understanding of AI and the benefits it can bring to healthcare. 

For instance, the integration of AI into healthcare and health insurance can potentially enhance medical diagnosis and treatment by analysing vast amounts of patient data and providing more accurate and timely insights. This can pave the way for better and earlier detection of diseases and personalised treatment plans which can lead to improved patient outcomes and reduced healthcare costs. 

However, we are also experiencing an AI race where companies and organisations are rushing to implement AI systems as quickly as possible to ‘stay ahead of the game’, but often at the risk of not fully understanding the potential downsides and negative implications. As part of our company ethos of prioritising our customers and clients, it is critical that we strike a good balance with our C-suite AI strategy between harnessing the associated benefits for our customers and clients while ensuring that their interests remain aligned as part of the strategy.

The AI boat will be at the dock for a long time, but we’re consistently doing sufficient research and due diligence to make sure that the needs of our customers come first.

Cigna Singapore Marketing, Sales and Client Management Employees at one of our Cigna Broker Appreciation Events, June 2023. 

6. What do you feel separates your brand culture from others?

At Cigna—of utmost importance to us is the health and vitality of those we serve. Our whole ethos is being able to be there for our members during their most stressful times—when they or their families need to find a healthcare provider or are starting on their health journey.

We have been around for over 200 years dedicated to partnering with companies on their growth journeys. We know that people, employees, are more productive and engaged at work when they feel that their employers are invested in their growth. When they feel they are a priority in a team, the company becomes a priority for them. Caring for each other strengthens relationships and builds loyalty. When companies focus on the health and vitality of their employees, employees focus on the health and vitality of the business. Health is the most underestimated growth multiplier in a business today.

7. What needs to change in your industry when it comes to working culture?

Embracing a more empowering approach with employees should be priority if we want to unlock the true potential of the workforce. Trusting employees with autonomy and decision-making authority and providing them with the resources to be successful fosters a sense of ownership and accountability which leads to higher productivity and creativity. Even things like giving them the option to choose whether they prefer to work in a hybrid way or in the office full time—giving employees the power to make these decisions for themselves shows the trust that a company places in its employees and will be rewarded. 

8. Tell us one personal thing about yourself that others might not know.

Healthcare has been a deeply ingrained passion of mine since my early years, having faced numerous health challenges throughout my life. From being born with a displaced hip which necessitated the journey of relearning how to walk at the age of nine, to enduring tumors and undergoing major surgeries just 18 months ago, I have experienced first-hand the invaluable role of healthcare in shaping lives. 

This personal connection has fueled my strong desire to work for a healthcare company like Cigna Healthcare, as I firmly believe that without the unwavering support of dedicated health providers, I would not have overcome these obstacles and be where I am today. Embracing the healthcare industry has not only fulfilled my aspirations but also allowed me to contribute meaningfully to an area that has profoundly influenced my life journey.

9. What’s your favourite brand campaign that you participated in or wish you had?

My favourite brand campaign that I have participated in has got to be the See Stress Differently campaign that we launched back in 2019. 

The objective of this campaign is to raise awareness of stress and encourage people to talk to their medical professionals about stress with the end goal of creating a clear plan for people to better manage their stress levels and its side effects.

As part of this, we developed an innovative way for people to visualise their stress—a stress portrait— to fully understand the impact of stress levels on the body and mind and how that can look like. Partnered with digital artists, doctors and technologists, the campaign developed proprietary stress visualisation kits which includes the use of an electroencephalogram headband that detects alpha and beta brainwave activity, a heart rate sensor and a galvanic skin response sensor to measure stress-related skin conductance. These readings then flow into an algorithm which interprets the data into an artistic motion portrait that dynamically changes shape and colour in real-time to reflect people’s overall stress at that moment.

Alternatively, individuals who do not have access to the stress visualisation kit can take a quiz to generate their unique stress portrait and create a stress care plan to understand what Cigna resources they can tap on to manage their stress. 

This campaign is an example of how innovation in marketing is needed to creating impactful outcomes and I hope to continue being part of such meaningful campaigns in my time here at Cigna Healthcare.

Campaign Asia

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