EP33 Creating a Lifestyle Brand For Hearing AidsCheckable Health
What is holding your customer back from adopting your technology? What is the psychological understanding around your product and what your product offers that would benefit your customers?
These are questions our guest on today’s episode had to tackle when she took on the hearing loss space and presented a product in a market that is incredibly important yet incredibly underserved.
Nicole Cadaret is co-founder and head of design at Lively. Lively is a hearing aid technology company based in New York and is paving the way in changing people’s perceptions around hearing loss in order to promote the adoption of their cutting-edge hearing aid technology.
Of the people who would benefit from hearing aids, only 20% receive them. This is why Nicole is so passionate about Lively in that she believes that if marketed correctly, more people would adopt hearing aids which would drastically improve their lives.
She has put a ton of time and effort into researching the psychology behind why people aren’t choosing hearing aids and has created her brand around that while putting customer service and ease at the top of her priority list.
Tune in to hear a story of how passion can be leveraged to not only build a successful brand but to help make people’s lives better!
Topics discussed in this episode:
- When Nicole added members to the team after launching
- How Nicole did things differently when doing psychological research to market
- What Nicole learned about people’s perception of hearing loss and hearing aids
- How does the brand play a role at Lively?
- How early should someone start researching and testing in a product life cycle?
- Importance of consistency of user experience from start to finish
- Nicole’s relationships with her former colleagues
Connect with Nicole:
Lively website: https://www.listenlively.com/
Connect with Persevere Podcast:
Find Patty Post:
0:00:02.3 S1: This is the Persevere Podcast, and I'm your host, Patty Post, where we are helping founders create great companies and not run out of money. Today my guest is Nicole Cadoret, who is co-founder and Chief of Brand at Lively. Lively is a hearing-aid company based in New York, and they're a hearing aid and technology company. I reached out to Nicole on LinkedIn because I saw her commercial and I thought, I love her story, she looks like she knows how to deliver a great message, and I responded with a message on LinkedIn, she replied back, and now we have the interview. I hope that you find that this interview is really transformational in a sense of why is it important to know what is holding back your customer from adopting your technology, what is that psychological understanding around what your product is and what does your product offer in terms of a transformation that will benefit your customer, because at the end of the day, we want lifelong customers, so how does brand play an important role in it, as well as that user experience is critical to keep a customer satisfied and keep coming back, so with that...
0:01:25.8 S1: Let's get into it with an interview with Nicole Cadoret. Welcome to The Persevere Podcast, powered by Checkable Medical and hosted by Patty Post, a female founder, entrepreneur, wife and mother of three, doing all of the things. The strength to persevere in business is powered by passion, grit and hard work. The Persevere Podcast is for entrepreneurs and business leaders who set out to innovate and change the world with their ideas. Whether it's fundraising your start-up, product development, marketing, branding or scaling your existing business. This podcast is for you. We'll discuss everything it takes to persevere and build the business you've always dreamed of. Let's make it happen. Nicole, thank you so much for joining me today.
0:02:26.2 S2: Hi, it is a pleasure to be with you. I do wanna correct, I am not CEO, I'm co-founder and head of design. I have a tremendous CEO and a tremendous CTO who are my two other co-founders, and we make a unholy trinity, but we all do very different, distinct jobs and I’m incredibly grateful to be partnered with people with such integrity and talent.
0:02:52.1 S1: And three of you that are leading with your own category that you're responsible for...
0:02:59.4 S2: That's correct, yeah. And our leadership team has grown to eight with a chief product officer, general counsel, head of people, head of clinical, operations, like we've grown in the four years that since we've been around, I am coming up on my fourth year anniversary as employee number one and co-founder. We were acquired last December, and the leadership team grew from the three of us to now I think we're seven or eight, and it has been just incredibly fascinating to grow and scale from something that was like three people who were literally fighting for closet space to hold meetings, to being part of a billion dollar company that is GN, that we were acquired by in December. Congratulations on the acquisition. Thank you so much. Yeah, it's been really great.
0:03:53.0 S1: That is so cool. So four years, I'm sure people that are listening just like me is like, Oh my gosh, four years that is no time at all. That goes by like that. So when you founded the company, how soon after was the other group established after that?
0:04:10.7 S2: Sure, that's such a great question. So we started, as I said, four years ago, and we were founded by, sort of by a venture studio. So while I am someone with hearing loss, I was not sitting in my garage because I live in Brooklyn, we don't have a garage, I was not railing against the industry wondering how I was going to disrupt it, rather... It was serendipity, right? I had been at a startup and was looking for a new opportunity, something that was mission-driven and specifically something in healthcare, because it is a passion, and I walked into a venture studio, and the role that I was talking with them about was just not for me and I showed them that I wore hearing aids and they went, “can you sign this NDA?” and I did. And he said, “the first product, the first company that we want to launch is to sell hearing aids online.” And I said, Oh my God, sign me up. And that really was the opportunity to be a co-founder, and as I mentioned, Patty, this is my fourth startup, so I've worked at a number of other startups, and the venture studio path was really great for me because it was a researched industry, they knew what the company goals should be, and they set out to hire a team to launch it. And so instead of founders, the more traditional route of startups, it was this venture studio who was finding people with the skills that they needed and building that. And so we were founded out of a studio called Redesign Health. They have launched a number of other healthcare tech companies, and the three of us started and it was, really the goal was to launch as fast as possible in order to learn.
0:05:59.3 S2: When we think about the trajectory of the growth, it really was focusing on building out a robust customer post-purchase customer experience. How do we mechanize that, that was not our number one goal, it doesn't matter until you have customers. We have... I have this amazing...not I, Lively, our company is blessed to work with Dr. Christina Callahan, who was, I think she was employee number four or number five. She saw a thousand patients our first year. So she was... She built out that entire experience, she got herself licensed in all the states where we needed to be licensed, and built out that very manual process of treating customers because we were really spending our money on, is this an industry that really could be served through an online experience? So kind of proving out that model was job number one, and then we were always concerned with making sure that our customers were well-served post-purchase where we weren't in the market of…our business was not mechanizing that experience yet, and that's really where we are today. How do we productize all those things that we have lots and lots of doctors doing to something that is potentially more automated
0:07:19.1 S1: And is more approachable too... I feel like your brand is so approachable versus you don't really see... You don't see commercials for hearing aids really, the only things we see commercials for are pharma, for drugs, and that's how I found out about you actually, is I saw your commercial, and that's what I wanted to talk about today was I think that your commercial is so engaging, because it does position that transformation. Like I think of it as like, get back to life. Use this product, get back to life. And from your research, I'd love to get into, how did you go through that really hard process because we want lifelong customers, we want customers that really buy into our brand and know us, and especially for hearing aids, you're not gonna jump back and forth to all of these companies, they need to be really good with it. So going back to those early years, I'm glad that you brought up your chief medical officer as well, 'cause there's research involved, but what about the psychological research and that customer experience from what you know of brand, how did you take this differently?
0:08:39.7 S2: Yeah, thank you. That's such a great question. When we first started, we were doing lots of usability testing, we had done research that was very reactive. So we would... We were launching and we're like, what do you think? And some of the feedback we got was like, medical care, a woman said, I'm not bleeding. And really starting to understand that hearing loss is not perceived as a disability for most people. Age-related hearing loss is not perceived as a disability, and it's not perceived as something overly medical. And so starting to see that feedback from the reactions of content that we put in front of people, so the website and whatnot, marketing materials, we stepped back and we spent some time with a company that we were just talking about, Galileo Research, who... We did a focus group with cohorts of people who were like 55 to 65, who knew that they had hearing loss but hadn't done anything about it, same each group with people who had done something about it, and then older constituents, and then finally, the last group were influencers, so spouses and children and best friends of people with hearing loss, whether they treated it or not. And that exercise that we went through with Galileo was very psychological, there was lots of like...
0:10:00.5 S2: Dr. Sara would ask the participants, so if you can't speak to your husband, if he can't hear you, what does that mean? Well, that means that I have to... It's a burden, I have to do all the translating for the doctor and... What does that mean? Well, it's really, you know, I'm not sure I'm getting it right, the information this is a different vocabulary. I feel overly responsible. And so what does that mean? And so really getting to the root cause of how hearing loss affects people, both the people who experience hearing loss and the people who love them. And so what we learned is that hearing loss is really equated with aging, and aging is a very, especially in our society, is a very difficult thing to accept. Our whole culture is built on not accepting hearing loss, not accepting aging, just saying we’re young forever, and so how do you from a brand standpoint, understand customers, right, but understand that that is their barrier. And how do we connect with them? And so one of the things that from the Galileo research we realized is that if I need hearing aids, I'm worried that other people will think I'm old, but the most important thing is that I will think I'm old.
0:11:24.0 S2: I have to accept that I have hearing loss, and therefore I'm old and... Holy smoke, that's terrible. That feels bad. And so what we try to do from a brand standpoint is build a permission structure for people to treat their hearing loss, and so look at where are the places... Aging itself has changed. People that I work with are in their 60s and 70s. They have decades of experience and they are not going anywhere, and so they just simply need the tools and the processes that are incredibly convenient that keep them engaged with the world. And so that's what we try to do is find people where they are to disrupt that vision of hearing loss means that you're old. One of the things, Patty, I think that you and I might have talked about is that people's perception of hearing loss and hearing aids begins decades before they're actually in the market, right? If you know someone with hearing loss, your vision is from the grandparent or great-aunt or uncle who had this big bulky thing in their ear, and they were kind of left out of the conversation. And hearing aids are technology, just like anything else, they have advanced.
0:12:49.9 S2: And so what we wanna do is, again, build that permission structure for people to investigate and to learn what hearing aids are today and how they can work in their life.
0:12:58.7 S1: That transformation of breaking what's in our mind, because I completely think of my grandma with hearing aids and her having to take them out because they were uncomfortable, and literally she would just sit at the table and she just was not engaged at all. And when my brother got hearing aids, he did what you were saying, he was sick of missing out on little pieces of conversation with work, and he knew he had so much more to give. He's like, I’m not quitting work, why would I step back? And he just went all in, and you have to. There are those people in the middle there that are like, I don't want to tell my friends that I have them, but even though there's so much technology in it, it seems like it wouldn't be that big of a deal, but...
0:13:52.9 S2: It's a psychological milestone. Yes, that's the thing. You really do not... The decision-making process does not start with a vision of technology improving your life, you're really looking at... I have hearing loss, I am removed from the conversation, I see this happen to other people and they are old, but I'm not old, so clearly my hearing loss isn't that bad. There's really this... You have to think about where people are on that journey, and where we really focus is the people who are ready to buy. They've gone through a lot of that journey. So the typical person with age-related hearing loss waits five to seven years from the time that they know that they have hearing loss until they do something about it. Wow. Because unlike me, my hearing loss, I experienced sudden hearing loss. In 10 minutes, I lost all the hearing in my left ear. That is very atypical, but what the benefit for me was it was like a light went out like, Holy smoke, I can't hear. I'm making mistakes at work, my husband's repeating himself a thousand times, my children are frustrated, it was very easy to see that something had changed, and I’ve worked in tech for a long time. I am looking for a tech solution to solve my problem, so it was very easy for me.
0:15:18.9 S2: But if hearing loss is gradual and you think that you're doing much better than you are, right, you’re compensating, you’re reading lips, you don't realize how many times you’re saying, “what, what, what?” That it's hard to understand, that it's gotten really bad, and often it makes a real trigger for a spouse, someone at work, to say, You need to check your hearing. We hear a lot of stories where people are kind of like an outside force, but there are people like your brother who say, I've had enough, I know that hearing loss is impacting my life, and I'm ready to fix it. And I would say so many of our reviews are like, Why did I wait so long? Truly the only barrier is themselves and their psychological approach.
0:16:08.6 S1: Changing from psychological to that brand. You have an art background, you have a passion for art as well, how does brand play a role in Lively and the perception of the customer? Can you share with us your thoughts around that and what your ideals are in that brand area?
0:16:30.5 S2: Sure, I would say so, I was trained as a visual designer in school, and I did a brief stint at a science museum, working at a science museum, which was fascinating, and I met my husband there, but when I moved to New York, I moved to New York, I'm dating myself, in the mid-90s and mid-to-late 90s, and a friend of mine who eventually became my boss and my business partner and my long-time friend, she said, You should come down to this ad agency, we're making websites. And I was like, I don't know anything about websites. She's like, Oh honey, nobody does. Because it was back in the day, it was so new and I fell in love. I just loved tech, I loved the ability to experiment and try things, and so once I started in tech, I never left, and I worked as a consultant really starting much more around brand, focusing on brochure websites and very brand-focused, and what I started to notice about myself and notice in the industry is that the intersection of brand and product design, so the rise of product design, and when I talk about product design, I don't mean hardware, but rather the customer experience. When you think about all the things that you do on the web over the last 20 years, much of it is very much user-experience driven, when you talk about user experience, there is the UI component.
0:18:04.2 S2: What is the look and feel of that? But there's also the psychological, and then at the highest level, there's that brand-emotional level, and I will tell you, I love it all. So I think I have never specialized, so there are places in my career where I've spent time in a user experience, time in brand, but being able to employ all of those skills to build a cohesive brand, I think is the thing that I'm kind of proudest of and when I think about the special sauce that I can bring is that experience across all of those things and kind of not being precious about it. Just knowing all of the life cycle of brand and experience and where you need to let loose and find out what does the brand need to do and be in shape in order to drive performance, and then where does that brand need to... You really need to raise the bar and provide a superlative brand experience. So for example, in unboxing, what does that tangible thing feel like? And that's a big investment. You wanna spend a lot of brand time there, but like some of the marketing materials, how do we attract people? You gotta play, in my opinion, play a little bit fast and loose so that you figure out what connects with customers and evolve the brand around that.
0:19:33.2 S1: How early should all of that type of research and work... How early in a product life cycle should it begin?
0:19:42.1 S2: I would say start with foundational research and launch. You could spend all day researching, but what... It's incredibly important, but you have to stop and you have to make something and you have to see how the world reacts because we really encourage at Lively big swings. I am wrong as often as I am right. And it is incredibly important that you never stop the research and the testing, but getting something out there. Having an awesome pitch deck is not gonna get you as far as having something in market that you can point to and evolve and grow. In my opinion.
0:20:26.5 S1: I completely agree. Just get out there and do it.
0:20:29.3 S2: You gotta get it out there. There's a lot of proof of concept that you're able to do, being able to show investors, customers what the experience is going to be is incredibly important
0:20:43.9 S1: When you look at the product positioning and messaging and the brand personality, how do you think that aligns with the early foundational work, because it seemed for us at Checkable, we keep going back to that first brand audit that we had. The brand identity that we set out, and it's amazing how, even in a few months, we can even get a little off track. Like wait, we're sort of being who we didn't set out to be, is this really right? When you get the brand and the creative and the marketing and business development, things can go off track. Does that resonate with you? Do you have anything that comes to mind when I say that?
0:21:31.6 S2: Yeah, definitely. So we are just, I would say the last year, building out a product-marketing function. Tat was definitely something that we would, the CEO would work on it, I would work on it. I said I was getting my associate's degree in product marketing. We were working with our manufacturing partner to really look... For example, we launched a new product, working with our manufacturing partner to understand the product benefits, talking with our audiologist on like, how would you counsel someone? How would you articulate those, so kind of taking the hardware specs and then the medical specs, and then working with marketing to kind of wrap that into something that is compelling to an audience. And I think that from a brand standpoint, we had very strong visual guidelines and I think that we really know who we are and what our product offering is more through these touchstones of marketing messaging that we've kind of developed, but I'm not being articulate here, I would say that it evolves just like you're saying, and that you go back and you see if it aligns with where you were, and you evolve where you were to where you are now.
0:22:54.1 S2: And I think, in thinking really critically about the impact to the customer and the impact of the business, is this still where we want to be, is this still serving the right people, are these messages serving this new cohort?
0:23:08.7 S1: And that aligns with... You have such a strong technology play with your app, even with your website, that ordering process, your brand has to stay consistent from start to finish of that user experience. Is that how you look at that?
0:23:25.9 S2: Definitely, definitely. I would say that when we think about the user experience, it is from typically, there's two big channels, they're social, and we are fast and loose on social. What is working is really very performance-driven, and then we are on TV. We say TV is our audience’s, our demographic’s Instagram. That is where they are, and so we have this kind of brand positioning that we push out, and then when they're on the site, being consistent, keeping that scent of information, what did we tell you on TV or what did we tell you through marketing messages that when you get to the website, those questions are answered. That scent of information remains, and then when you get the box at home, you have just spent anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 on a medical device that you bought online, like Holy smoke. Yeah, for a lot of people, it's a very uncharted territory, and so I think that brand experience that's very rich, feels very premium, helps people to feel confident in the decision that they've made and to kind of make sure that we're not getting buyer’s remorse like, Oh my God, I got this, I bought this thing, I don't know what to do with it.
0:24:42.7 S2: How do we build confidence that you can do this? And so that whole experience where we're thinking about brand, what we're really thinking about, when I talk about brand, we're really thinking about the customer, how the customer feels. A lot of our briefs are like, what is the customer supposed to feel? Right, sure, what do we want them to take away? But how are they supposed to feel about it? Is it confidence? Is it excitement? There are different moments in the brand experience where you want to telegraph different feelings
0:25:12.7 S1: And you want them to have an exceptional experience, so they tell their friends. I would assume that in that demographic that they tell their friends what's working and what's not.
0:25:24.7 S2: It's so funny, for hearing aids, people are... A discrete model is incredibly important. People feeling like no one's gonna know, and then when they buy them, they tell everybody, they out themselves. I did the same thing. I have incredibly short hair and when I got them, I thought people were being nice, I thought they were pretending that they didn't notice, and I showed them and they were shocked. They were all Awesome, good for you! I'm so glad. But you do, there's this kind of very private experience around purchasing the hearing aids, but once they get them, myself included, we tell everyone you know. And I think one of the fun parts of Lively is because we are innovative and we are kind of disrupting the traditional model, is it allows our customers to kinda be the cool kid. Like, I got these hearing aids, I got them online, they were so inexpensive but they're awesome, and it allows them to kind of be like the hero for their friends, it's kind of cool.
0:26:31.1 S1: That goes back with associating yourself with a brand that is high tech too, like, Hey, I might be old, like thinking of my mom who's 81, but I'm an early adopter, I remember when she pulled out her app and she was showing us everything and the grandkids, and we did, it was a way for her to relate to younger generations as well.
0:26:52.3 S2: 100%, I always say, with the app controls, you can instead of fiddling behind your ear, you can just play on your phone like everybody else at the restaurant. The technology fits into your life pretty much the way all other technology does.
0:27:07.9 S1: I love it. So easy to incorporate. So we'll wrap it up, but I'm curious what types of groups that you're associated with being an executive and living in Brooklyn. If you're involved in any women organizations, women in business, or med-tech organizations that you could share and potentially promote. I'm actually not active in any specific organization, I stay very tight with former colleagues, incredibly impressive women that I worked with, especially the woman I mentioned that, who was my boss, my business partner, and is one of the co-founders of a huge user-experience agency so I'm having dinner with next week. Many of the people that I worked with at Quincy, which was the parent company of diapers.com, that was my first startup. And being able to connect with these women who have gone on to be CEOs of Vimeo, co-founders and CEOs of Chief, people who are CMOs at Walmart.com, all of those people, it's much more... I'm very fortunate that it is a very organic relationship.
0:28:24.5 S2: It's not all women, but it's a lot of women. What I say to people that I know and people who work with me is, careers are long. We just had a going-away party for someone at Lively and I treated it like it was 2019, let's all go out. And so yeah, we got a bunch of the people who are in the New York location, but then I just invited a bunch of people who used to work at Lively. Because it’s a part of this experience, and so I think it's just doing the work of maintaining relationships, and for me, that's been incredibly valuable from a networking perspective, but also from just a career growth like, Oh, I’m kind of going through this thing... Have you done that? And it's a little more organic. So unfortunately, I don't have anything to promote other than Chief. My friend Carolyn is co-founder and CEO of that. Very cool. That's a fantastic organization. Yeah, my relationships are more organic.
0:29:25.6 S1: I think that's great advice, Nicole, and a great way to end, because a lot of times we can leave, leave a job or a group and you can potentially burn a bridge, and my dad always said, never burn a bridge. And don't burn a bridge but also invest your time into those relationships because having those intimate relationships, I completely agree, they go a lot further. And it rings true to me. It's why I started the podcast. I feel so fortunate to have met you and to know you, I hope that we can continue to know one another. I found you on LinkedIn Nicole, how would... If we want to follow you, can we... What's the best way to do that?
0:30:09.8 S2: I guess on LinkedIn.. So maybe I need a career coach on building my personal brand. I don't... I really don't have that infrastructure, I will tell you what, I eat, sleep and drink, selling hearing aids. It really is, it's such a passion for me, the hearing space. I just think it is incredibly important, it is such an underserved market, when you think of the 80% of people who would benefit from a hearing loss never get... Never get hearing aids, and it's like, Holy. I could sell hearing aids all day long and never be done, and so that's truly where I focus my time.
0:30:46.5 S1: Such an inspiration. So anyone that's listening to this, you are a testament to go after something, be in a category that you love, and it won't feel like work. Go after it.
0:30:58.8 S2: It's been such a pleasure to talk with you today, Patty.
0:31:01.1 S1: Nicole, thank you so much. And to all of the audience listening, thank you for taking the time to listen to this wonderful interview, I always ask please five stars as well as check out our other interviews that we have, and I recently hosted for individual podcast where I just talk about my journey as an entrepreneur, and if you know of another female founder that I should interview, please direct message me on LinkedIn, I'm Patty Post, or Instagram PattyPostCEO, and I will be sure to get in touch with that woman and would appreciate anyone that is introduced to me, so with that, everyone, keep on persevering in business, don't quit. We are all supporting you. Thank you for listening to The Persevere Podcast, powered by Checkable Medical. Head over to perseverepodcast.com for notes, links, and additional resources from today's show to continue hearing insights and gaining knowledge from those persevering, succeeding, and making their dream a reality, be sure to subscribe through your favorite podcast app. Now go make it happen.
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