Zocdoc is the latest, but certainly not the only, tech startup to put on a minty new face. 

On Wednesday, the on-demand doctor bookings site announced a new logo and app design in an attempt to shift its marketing focus to patients. Zocdoc has ditched its previous logo (of two cartoon doctors). Its new, animated mascot is called "Zee" -- in the shape of the letter "Z," with two adaptable dots for eyes, plastered on a bright yellow background -- which the company hopes will come off as a warm image.

"I think the reasoning for this rebrand is really about bringing up our brand more in line with the company that we are today," says Richard Fine, Zocdoc's vice president of marketing. "When you think about the other large sets of health care companies, they have different stakeholders, whereas we only work for the benefit of the patient."

The makeover is also a response to the fact that about 50 percent of the company's business will come from mobile this year, Fine tells me. The new strategy also brings in "cleaner search" features, including a horizontal homepage bar, round provider headshots on search pages, and better markers for in-network and out-of-network providers. 

It's unsurprising that Zocdoc, with a fresh infusion of $130 million in venture capital, is spending a portion of that cash on fresh marketing--one that largely targets Millennial patients with meager funds, who would otherwise avoid seeing expensive health care providers. 

Consider that Millennial spending power is expected to exceed $1 trillion by 2020, according to a recent report from  Accenture. Back in December, leading up to the deadline for Americans to register for health care, President Obama had singled out Zocdoc and Oscar, another New York-based health technology startup, to help encourage more patients to adopt Obamacare. At the time, about half of those uninsured patients eligible for Obamacare were between the ages of 18 and 34, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

"If you think about the user we most appeal to, it's often younger employed, often female patients," Fine says. "As a company, we are absolutely looking at growth. It [the rebrand] is meant to help us attract and retain." 

Launched in 2007, Zocdoc has quickly grown to become one of the highest-valued tech startups in New York City. It now serves six million patients each month, or about 60 percent of the total U.S. population through its network of healthcare providers. In addition to booking appointments online, users can browse in-network doctors, find and leave reviews, and fill out paperwork online. Zocdoc, for its part, takes a $3,000 annual subscription fee from participating doctors up front.

The news of the rebrand comes just months after Zocdoc's original co-founder and CEO, Cyrus Massoumi, stepped down from the top role and appointed co-founder Oliver Kharraz as his replacement.

"In our next chapter, we will scale our business and accelerate our growth through new products, robust marketing efforts, and deeper enterprise partnerships with health systems," Kharraz said at the time.

Those infamously difficult-to-attract Millennials may not be Zocdoc's only obstacle to further growth. In recent years, competition in the on-demand bookings sector has increased, with the advent of startups like Amino Health and Better Doctor, as well as with the insurance companies rolling out similar features. At large, more than $11 billion was invested in health care technology in 2014, a figure that's likely to creep upward this year.

Kharraz doesn't seem too worried, though, largely because of the company's unique ability to aggregate health care plans, and because of the nascent status of the competition. "We are a place where people can search insurance and find in-network partners. That's something an insurance company could never do," he explains.

"It's not a thing that's easy to get off the ground," he adds, speaking of the business model. "If you look back in time, you see a wave of competitors come and go."

To be sure, Kharraz recalls that in the early stages of the company, a lack of both doctors and patients on the platform made for a less-than-ideal customer experience. (He used to personally visit patients with a bouquet of flowers -- plucked from New York City bodegas -- to apologize for late cancellations or other booking snafus.)

Today, with operations in more than 2,000 cities nationwide, that's a practice that Kharraz has thankfully retired. For the foreseeable future, he says he'll be working to expand Zocdoc's presence in less-cultivated markets, such as Cleveland.

"A lot of tech companies can come out of the gates blasting," he adds. "But there's no way to short-circuit these market-building dynamics that need to happen." 

It's worth pointing out that Zocdoc had allegedly landed on the wrong side of a  lawsuit back in 2014, when a former employee cited gender discrimination, and an overall "frat house" culture within the company, as Business Insider first reported. The new strategy may speak to a desire to start over fresh, though the company declined to comment on that point. 

Published on: Feb 17, 2016