Moderna’s Kate Cronin on Humanity and Innovation

Imagine a brand going from being completely unknown to appearing in every newspaper overnight. That’s what happened to Moderna amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

Initially recognized for its vaccine endeavors, the company found itself presented with a unique opportunity to craft its brand narrative at a time when its identity was widely recognized by the public.

To delve into the expedition of shaping its narrative, Suzy founder and CEO Matt Britton sat down with Kate Cronin, chief brand officer at Moderna in the latest episode of The Speed of Culture podcast. Cronin discusses her career journey, the unique circumstances of building a brand story for a company already in the public eye and the challenges of communicating complex scientific concepts to consumers.

In her role as chief brand officer at Moderna, Kate Cronin is responsible for leading the reputation, communications and enterprise brand strategy. Her main priority is building and amplifying the Moderna brand through thought leadership, customer experience and engagement.

Learn more about creating the brand story for a company already in the public eye by exploring the key takeaways from the episode.

Key highlights:

  • 01:24 – 03:52 – A leap from science to PR – Cronin’s career began as an electron microscopist, where she studied the rat hippocampus. However, due to the isolating nature of this work, she shifted gears into the field of PR, taking a position at Porter Novelli. Here, her task involved translating complex scientific concepts into understandable terms for the general public, particularly for prominent pharmaceutical firms. It was during this phase that she developed a deep appreciation for the creative dimensions of her role, eventually guiding her into a career focused on marketing.
  • 09:12 – 12:17 – Crafting the brand story of a known brand – Cronin joined Moderna in 2021 when the company was widely recognized for its Covid-19 vaccine. She was tasked with crafting a story for a brand everyone recognized but knew little about. Before Covid, few consumers knew their vaccine manufacturers. However, the discussions about various vaccines led to a sense of pride among those who had the Moderna shots. Cronin aimed to strengthen this connection with consumers. As Covid became endemic, Moderna’s goal was not just to be remembered, but to involve consumers in its ongoing journey with mRNA technology and future health advancements.
  • 12:28 – 14:38 – Building out brand equity pillars – At its core, Moderna is a platform company with mRNA as its driving force. When Cronin joined, the company lacked a specialized brand team. Recognizing the need to refine its brand presence, Cronin reshaped the team, focusing on media relations and enterprise branding. Moderna’s strategy emphasizes being where its customers are, transitioning to a consumer-centric brand. Recent sponsorships, like the U.S. Tennis Open and sumo wrestling in Japan, underscore this approach. The company aims to share Moderna’s expansive narrative, spanning infectious diseases to global public health.
  • 14:38 – 18:36 – Communicating the brand story – Moderna is currently launching a new ad campaign: Welcome to the mRNAge, which tells the enterprise brand story and shows that mRNA is the future of medicine. To get its content out there, it is working with publications like The Atlantic and The Washington Post, participating in paid partnerships and also creating its own video content and documentaries. It’s what Cronin calls “edutainment”—a mix of education and entertainment. People will remember more if they’re being entertained versus lectured at. 
  • 21:41 – 24:10 – The target audience of the mRNAge – According to Cronin, nearly everyone qualifies as a potential vaccine recipient, but the real question revolves around identifying those most inclined to receive it. While its focus is undoubtedly on prioritizing the vulnerable and immunocompromised, the company acknowledge that not all individuals perceive an immediate need for vaccination. Its target audience also includes those who might delay vaccinations. The objective is to enlighten those individuals about the benefits of preventive vaccination and tailor its messaging to target this audience. 
  • 27:00 – 29:32 – Give your all and be uncomfortable – Cronin strongly believes that fighting for what you believe in is crucial to success, and that is one of her biggest pieces of advice. The second is to always be uncomfortable and never let yourself get complacent. Take a risk and throw yourself into whatever comes your way.

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