Joining In: 5 Questions With Aetna VP of Enterprise Marketing Wendy Wahl


Aetna family

For Aetna, the journey to a healthier world doesn’t just include insurance, it includes real people and families. Determined to represent and reflect America each and every day, the network of Aetna employees—almost 50,000 strong—is as diverse as the consumers they serve.

Ahead of the Modern Marketing Summit in New York, we had the chance to catch up with panelist Wendy Wahl, Vice President of Enterprise Marketing at Aetna, who will highlight the importance of women’s leadership across all industries. With 76% of Aetna employees being women, and 33% of them holding executive positions, the company is committed to building a culture of diversity and inclusion, reflecting the communities it serves.

Wendy Wahl — VP of enterprise marketing, AetnaWahl (right) is responsible for the Aetna brand, leads the company’s full-service in-house advertising agency, in addition to overseeing its national media strategy and local marketing strategy. Putting members at the core of the business, under Wahl’s leadership, in 2017, Aetna introduced a new brand promise and tagline, “You don’t join us, we join you” as part of its commitment to help members realize the joy of achieving their health ambitions.

Aetna - We Join You tagline

Find out more in our conversation below:

Wendy, what does your new platform and tagline—“You don’t join us, we join you”—mean for the brand, your employees, stakeholders and clients?

We are on a journey to transform from a health insurance company to a healthcare company. As part of that, the new brand vision has become a rallying force for Aetna—one that is helping to reshape the innovation, training, investments and changes in policy the company is driving.

We’ve pivoted internally, reimagining how we service our members, designing new products and expanding our digital footprint. We’re putting our customers at the center, looking at where they want to be and where they already are

For instance, we now offer services that allow us to go into our members’ homes and help them after they’ve had surgery to make sure they have food in their refrigerator, or even a ride to their next doctor appointment. We are truly joining our members on their health journeys, wherever they are at that current time.

Aetna - We Join You tagline

You’re speaking at the MMS conference this week about diversity. What is Aetna doing to foster and support diversity?

At Aetna, we have all rallied around building a workforce that is as diverse as the members we serve, while fostering a culture where everyone is invited to bring their unique perspectives to the table. For example, we were the first plan to cover same-sex healthcare benefits, nearly 15 years before it was mandated.

Another example is the work we led to update our photo library as part of our brand strategy launch. When we launched our visual identity in 2017, we created a new look and feel for the images we use in our marketing materials. We wanted to show what real life looks like today. For the photo shoot, we asked people to come in their own clothes, and we didn’t over-style them. It’s important for us to showcase what real families and individuals—and real health—looks like today. We feature people who may not look like they’re ready to run a triathlon, but they are healthy in their own individual ways.

Our CEO, Mark Bertolini, has always put diversity and inclusion front and center, from reinforcing the importance of women’s leadership to supporting human rights. As a female executive, I’m proud to see Aetna inducted into the National Association for Female Executives (NAFE) Hall of Fame as a top company for women executives. For the past 16 years, we’ve also been recognized by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation with the highest possible score on the Corporate Equality Index (CEI), an annual benchmark that analyzes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) workplace policies, benefits and practices in America’s top corporations.

I always jump at the chance to be a part of a discussion about the advancement of women. I have two young daughters and I want them to see me—and all women—as role models. It’s critically important that we all have someone we can look up to so we can see what opportunity and success looks like.

Aetna has made the future of healthcare—and a more consumer-centric, service-oriented approach—a priority. How are you doing this?

We aim to be a part of our members’ lives and their journey to their best health. To do this, we’ve implemented many new processes around our customer service operations and enabled our teams on the front line to better connect with our customers through enhanced technology and policies.

Our CMO, David Edelman, also created an Office of the Consumer, which looks at the end-to-end customer journey and has the charter to make the customer experience more streamlined. This has moved the needle on many unexpected aspects affecting our members. By creating this consumer-centric model, we have learned how to best communicate with them throughout their health journey—whether that’s making it to the mailbox after knee surgery or running their first marathon—or anything in between. That’s where we want to be.

How do you maintain a cohesive brand when so much of what you do varies state by state due to laws and regulations?  

We are a national company with a commitment to connect locally with our members. And, in doing so, we must also operate as a unified, integrated organization. As such, in 2017, we implemented a brand strategy with the goal of helping our members realize the joy of achieving their health ambitions. A core part of the strategy was reimagining our visual identity to illustrate our brand promise, and ensuring our employees were on board. We created an internal Aetna Brand Center where employees can access all of the tools, templates and photos they need. A massive undertaking, these efforts have allowed us to go to market as one brand, with one voice, look and feel.

In addition to building internal alignment, we have also taken an active approach to connect with our local communities. Location plays a critical role in determining the health, well-being and life expectancy of 325 million Americans. For example, the Aetna Foundation recently formed a partnership with U.S. News & World Report to explore how communities across the United States are working to improve the health of their residents. The platform informs citizens, healthcare leaders and elected officials about the local policies and practices in place that drive better health outcomes for all.

Aetna employees receive a wellness reimbursement for the Apple watch so they can understand mobile and health firsthand. What are you learning?

The work that we’ve done with Apple is a great example of how employees can better manage their health and wellness activities. I’m someone who considers myself to be healthy, as I spend a lot of time thinking about what I eat and how I exercise. But when I got my Apple watch as an Aetna employee, I saw that I was sitting too much. Now I stand up in meetings, and it’s becoming the norm in our culture for others to do the same. With the incredible technology of the watch, people are becoming more and more mindful of their personal health.

Below, watch Aetna’s “We Join You” ad campaign:

Get more insights in our Q&A series and subscribe to our newsletter for more.