BRANDING

Tagline Takedown: Demystifying Health Insurer Marketing

In an industry already notorious for needless complexity, few companies succeed in offering straightforward slogans or helpful websites.
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I don't think it's a stretch to say Obamacare, including its attendant website debacle, will be this be president's legacy.

A new report from HealthPocket finds Americans in search of cheaper insurance could pay as much as a whopping $6,350 deductible for individual plans and $12,700 for family plans. That amount would cause me indigestion, if not a mild stroke.

The timing is ideal to examine some of the health insurers consumers are dealing with in this new landscape. My objective: to see what insurers promised in their taglines and then, like a doctor giving a careful examination, dive into their websites to gauge whether the marketers delivered on the brand promise.

Stay Up to Date

There's nothing worse than making a bold, brash promise and not backing it up.

AmeriHealth's tagline is: "Demand. Expect. Value." But its website never told me what I should demand, expect, or value.

Instead I was greeted by tabs with headers such as "How do I save money?," "PPOs for individuals and families," and "Health care reform: Fix what's broken. Keep what works." The latter contains a list of press releases that haven't been updated since July 1. I don't want to do business with any company that isn't up to date.

When it comes to connecting a brand promise to a user experience, AmeriHealth is DOA.

Third-Party Endorsement

Amica Health Care is a textbook example of leveraging credible third-party spokespeople to tell its story. After visiting Amica's site, I came away believing the company's tagline: "We keep our promises to you."

Instead of immediately thumping its chest with comoany-written claims about its products and services, Amica greets website visitors with a tab reading, "Hear from our customers." That section of the site contains videos of satisfied Amica customers, with titles such as "Helping a Family After a Furnace Fire" and "Helping a Family Through the Claims Process."

After hearing from satisfied customers, I clicked on a tab listing myriad honors Amica had won, including 12 straight J.D. Power Awards for best customer satisfaction among homeowner insurers. There are other citations from Ward's and A.M. Best.

While these sections don't address health insurance in particular, they do reinforce my belief in the company and its brand promise. Amica's marketers know enough to let others do the selling for them. I was genuinely interested in learning more about Amica because credible customers and industry analysts first told me they do keep their promises. That should be an obvious technique, but many marketers don't get it.

Confusing Language

Aetna's arguably the best known health insurer I researched. Its tagline is: "What's your healthy?" I have no idea what that means. What's my healthy what? It seems to me someone missed a noun along the way. What's your creative, Aetna?

Aetna's website doesn't shed any light on the healthy phrasing conundrum. It's bland, boring, littered with too much content, and highlighted by washed-out color. In short, the site's anything but healthy.

Years ago, the giant insurance company sported a tagline, "Aetna, I'm glad I met ya." Based upon my website experience, though, I'm not glad I met them at all.

A Second Opinion

United Healthcare posed this marketer with an interesting challenge: I loved the website, but I hated the tagline. So, would I still consider United a best-in-class candidate? I think I'll take two aspirins, and call myself in the morning. 

United Healthcare's tagline is: Healing health care together." Say what? I'm way too time-pressed to help heal the health care system. I was so put off by the brand promise that I almost avoided visiting the website. I'm glad I gave United a second chance.

The website is beautifully organized. There's a central tab entitled, "Find healthcare insurance that works for you" and separate buttons for "Plans for everyone," "Plans for your business," "Plans if you're 65-plus," and "Plans if you're Medicaid eligible."

It's simple, even elegant. I found everything I needed to know quickly and almost effortlessly. So two thumbs up for United's website experience. But I'd euthanize the tagline ASAP.

Understanding My Pain

Kaiser Permanente understands me. Its tagline sets that expectation with the word "Thrive." Who doesn't want to thrive in every aspect of his life?

K-P's one-word tagline connected me to a simple, intuitive website. The tab on the homepage is entitled "My health manager." I liked that. It spoke to me.

Beneath those words were three buttons, entitled "Shop our plans," "Find a doctor," and "Locate a facility." When I clicked on find a doctor, I was invited to enter my state. I was then greeted by a video of a Dr. Calhoun, a warm, caring fellow who sold me on how I'd thrive as a Kaiser customer. How smart is that?

Keep it Simple, Stupid

One of the main reasons Obamacare has received so much criticism is its complexity. You would think that health insurers, sensing that challenge, would emphasize simplicity in their messaging and online experience.

In fact, I'd argue the KISS principle was invented with Obamacare marketing in mind. Now, if only some of the health insurers would practice it, the politicians would embrace it, and the website engineers would finally grasp it, who knows? Maybe we'd actually have a working healthcare system.

Last updated: Dec 11, 2013

STEVE CODY | Columnist

I'm a climber, comedian and dog lover. But not necessarily in that order. I also happen to be co-founder and CEO of Peppercomm, a strategic communications firm headquartered in NYC, and with offices in San Francisco and London. I publish RepMan, a daily blog, and have had the opportunity to appear on CNBC, MSNBC, NPR, and a host of other top tier media over the years. scody@peppercomm.com

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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