The CMO of a health-tech firm inside America's largest health insurer told us why pop-ups and celebs like Katie Couric are key to her 3-part marketing strategy

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The CMO of a health-tech firm inside America's largest health insurer told us why pop-ups and celebs like Katie Couric are key to her 3-part marketing strategy

Rally Pop up: Brenda Yang and Katie Couric

Rally Health

Rally Health CMO Brenda Yang and Katie Couric at the company's event in New York City.

  • The digital health company Rally Health, which is owned by America's largest health insurer, UnitedHealth Group, aims to help consumers understand and use their health benefits.
  • Because the company works with health insurers and employers, it's taken a creative approach to promoting itself and its services.
  • Chief Marketing Officer Brenda Yang told us about her three-part strategy, which includes pop-up events and working with celebs like Katie Couric.
  • Rally Health is one of a crop of companies aiming to simplify the consumer health experience using technology.
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories.

The digital health company Rally Health sells a tech platform aimed at simplifying the consumer health experience.

But if you have access to Rally Health, which is owned by UnitedHealth Group, you're probably not paying for it yourself. Instead, Rally works with companies that are footing the bill for your health insurance, in the hopes that you'll become healthier - and cheaper for them to insure.

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There lies the conundrum: How do you market that? And to whom?

Brenda Yang Rally Health CMO

Rally Health

Brenda Yang is Rally Health's CMO.

At the most basic level, even though Rally Health has a "complex business model," the company's marketing comes down to focusing on the consumer, Chief Marketing Officer Brenda Yang told Business Insider.

She breaks the company's strategy down into three distinct buckets: building the brand through pop-up events and partnering with celebrities, getting new users and keeping members engaged, and marketing to businesses.

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Rally Health was founded in 2010 by Grant Verstandig, a Brown University student who dropped out after an experience with the US healthcare system that left him convinced it was "ripe for disruption."

UnitedHealth Group acquired a majority stake in Rally a few years ago, and the company then became a subsidiary of UnitedHealth's Optum unit in 2017. UnitedHealth also owns the biggest US health insurer, and has a market value of about $220 billion.

Yang has been with Rally since 2014, joining after time at social gaming company Zynga and media company Yahoo!. She holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and lives with her family in Silicon Valley.

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Read more: How a 29-year-old went from dropping out of an Ivy League college to leading digital strategy for America's largest health insurer

Here's how Rally approaches marketing.

Working to sign up new users and engage with existing members

Because Rally's goal is to both get new users and engage with existing ones, it partners closely with its main points of contact with them: employers and health insurance plans, Yang said.

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Roughly 45 million people have access to Rally, but "a lot may not know about it," Yang said.

That ranges from traditional things like marketing by email to other methods, like posters in the break rooms of big box retailers that then gets employees engaged digitally via texting.

This is where a lot of people find out about Rally, through messages from their employers or health insurance plans, according to Yang.

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"So that's what makes a lot of the marketing work really critical," she said.

It's worth noting why this doesn't always work. I've been a healthcare reporter for a few years, and only just realized (while writing this story) that I have access to Rally through my health insurance.

One reason for that could be that I'm not the primary insurance holder, and thus don't typically get communications about benefits from my health plan. The information about Rally was online, but I didn't know to look before.

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Celebs and pop-up events raise awareness of Rally Health to the 45 million people who have access

I spoke to Rally's Yang as part of a bustling pop-up event in New York City on Monday that showcased health and wellness, from the meditation station in one corner to the kombucha being handed out in champagne glasses.

RALLY Health pop up event NYC

Rally Health

Rally Health recently held a pop up event in NYC.

This is what Yang likes to call the "brand-building" part of Rally's marketing strategy, aimed at increasing awareness about the company and its mission.

So the company does things like this new 9-city tour, of which New York City was the second stop, where it can showcase different health-focused activities.

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Rally also works with celebs like Katie Couric and Maria Menounos, who were both at Monday's event, because they have broad reaches and are both personally passionate about health, Yang said.

Rally Pop up Katie Couric Maria Menounos and Brenda Yang

Rally Health

Katie Couric, Maria Menounos and Rally Health CMO Brenda Yang at the company's event in NYC.

Marketing straight to other businesses

In addition to UnitedHealthcare, Rally works with health insurers like BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina and Health Alliance, as well as more than 200,000 employers. Even though their product is for consumers, these businesses are Rally's real customers.

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When marketing to those other businesses, the focus shifts. Here, it's about "understanding what a prospective client or customer is looking for, and helping them understand the value of Rally and how we might be able to solve their needs," Yang said.

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