Health Insurance Marketing Getting Funny and Targeting Youth

Here’s a side of health insurance that most consumers haven’t considered.  Aside from the occasional hilarious or inappropriate commercial that you see, you probably don’t remember many of them.  But as Americans get closer to the date where health insurance coverage is federally mandated, look for insurance companies to amp up their advertising campaigns in some interesting ways.  Kaiser Health News’ Sarah Varney discusses how “Marketing health insurance may be funny business” in the days to come.  Kaiser spoke with a viral marketing agency in New York City to find out where the difficulties lie for health insurance marketers and what you can expect in the upcoming months.

Many customers will start shopping for their health insurance coverage in the online insurance exchanges.  Others will take more traditional routes, but the overall landscape will be different.  Before the Affordable Care Act, people were turned down for insurance coverage because of pre-existing conditions and they are still angry about that.  Some customers saw premium increases up to quadruple what they had originally paid for their health insurance.  Regardless of what they have done in the past, good or bad, many consumers have negative opinions about insurance companies and how they treat their customers.  It’s a perfect time for insurers to catch the eye of consumers in a good way and get a positive perception out there.

It can be difficult to tell one insurance company from another sometimes.  Whether it is Care First, Anthem, or PacifiCare doesn’t necessarily matter to most consumers.  What matters first is that insurance companies get their name out there and then take good care of their customers.  In order to get their name to the general public, health insurers may start following in the footsteps of car insurance companies by using humor.  Everyone knows Geico’s gecko and Progressive’s Flo, but who can name a health insurance company “mascot?”   The marketing expert believes that we will see a lot more of the humorous and comical when it comes to our health insurance ads.

He also points out that ads are going to be targeted a lot more to young and healthy people.  They have been the least likely to buy individual health insurance plans partly because some think they are unlikely to get sick and partly because they make less money and are not willing to spend it on insurance.  The benefit isn’t as obvious as it may be with older consumers.  But with the government requirement impending, insurers might start marketing their names and logos in places where the youngest, healthiest people will see it.  Perhaps you’ll see an Angry Birds character or a Jersey Shore-like show advertisement related to drinking.  In addition to being inundated with a new type of advertising, we will probably see insurers offering more reward programs for staying with their company.  You might get an i-tunes or Starbucks gift card for maintaining good health and sticking with your insurer for five years.  It costs a lot of money to find a customer to replace you.

As customers become even more valuable to health insurance companies, consumers will be a little more in control over their plans.  Expect insurance companies to fight to get you and fight to keep you.

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