Bravery with foundation: Genea's outgoing Nicole Papoutsis reflects on marketing lessons learnt

Head of brand and marketing departs IVF company after a 12-year tenure that included the launch of the breakthrough 'Where babies come from' marketing program

Taking a brave step as a marketer does pay off when your foundations are right, says Nicole Papoutsis, who is now looking towards her next professional endeavour after departing IVF business, Genea.

The head of brand and marketing officially left Genea at the end of 2022 after a 12-year tenure. She initially joined in 2010 as brand and marketing manager, taking up the leadership reins in 2016. Previous roles included customer experience management at St George Bank, as well as marketing at Firstmac, Harvey Norman and GE.

Papoutsis told CMO that after 12 years, she knew it was time for a fresh professional challenge.

“Twelve years is a long time in any organisation and although I've seen lots of change during my tenure and continued to grow in my role through many opportunities, I felt it was time to pass the baton and take a leap of faith,” she said.  

Among milestone achievements for Papoutsis during her tenure is the more recent and ambitious brand work for ‘Where babies come from’. Launched in 2020 as a breakthrough program of work to differentiate the brand from the pack, the aim was to position IVF as a natural extension of the conception process. The work was designed to do this by connecting with prospective parents who feel IVF is ‘abnormal’, while addressing stigmatism by making them feel they’re understood and included.

Four key elements of the campaign ensued: A new brand line and identity to embody a new position, ‘Where Babies Come From’; an actual commitment to being where babies come from; a pricing offer; and a children’s book and a cheeky film for adults to get people talking and normalise infertility and IVF. Genea achieved its aggressive brand awareness targets in three months against a six-month target and won a number of awards for the work including from Cannes Lions, Spikes and the Effies.  

“Differentiating to the degree that we did was a big brave step to take in a traditionally conservative category. But our insights were solid and CHEP brought some brilliant work to the table,” Papoutsis said. “My favourite piece of that work would have to be the children's book we published for IVF kids. Breaking down the taboos around infertility and IVF and empowering people with the right information at the right time has long been a focus for Genea's marcomms, but this just took it to another level.

“Seeing all of the Insta stories come through of parents reading the book to their kids was just so beautiful. It felt like such a shift in the narrative, a sense of pride for having gone through something that would have only ever been discussed behind closed doors.”

The program of work was also a contributor to Papoutsis being recognised among the 2021 CMO50 list of Australia’s most innovative and effective marketing leaders.

Another major achievement for Papoutsis was branding and helping launch Genea Horizon, Australia's first egg freezing clinic. She noted this has seen significant growth since it launched at the end of 2017.

“It was designed for those who want to break the rules of what society expects of them. I was so proud Genea was leading the charge – and continues to – for these women,” she commented.  

There are of course plenty of other lessons in modern marketing leadership Papoutsis has picked up along the way. Her first is that taking a brave step does pay off when you have the foundations right.  

“Not all crazy ideas will work but when they're centred around a brilliant human insight, you're definitely in the best position you can be,” she said.

The right team and partners are another critical factor in success. “But you need to be the visionary and champion for the cause every single day without fail,” she continued.

“Cross-functional relationships and respect for different skillsets and thought processes can also be your make or break.”  

What’s also clear is the skill of lateral thinking should never be underestimated in marketing leadership, Papoutsis said.

“It's crucial you empower all levels of your team to foresee potential roadblocks and opportunities,” she said. “And it’s about empathy, always.”

Papoutsis is now taking some time before jumping into her next professional challenge. “I feel really strongly about that because I want to give my next step 100 per cent as I have done with Genea over the last 12 years,” she said.

“Fighting the urge to sink my teeth into something new straight away has been a bit of a challenge. Healthcare is certainly a passion but I'm not closing the door on any opportunities. I'm excited by so many brands out there doing amazing things.”

New Genea marketing leader appointed

Genea has confirmed Melanie Reiter as its new head of brand and marketing, effective from January 2021. She joins the IVF company with a strong background in healthcare as well as sales and marketing, including senior leadership positions with companies such as ResMed, IDEXX and Johnson & Johnson. 

“I am thrilled to be joining the Genea family which brings me back to my roots in embryology, and take over the reins of this innovative and cutting edge brand and business, as it continues to evolve and provide personalised fertility care where patients are at the heart of everything we do," Reiter told CMO.

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