Insurers shift marketing budgets toward individual consumers


With an eye toward the burgeoning individual market, payers have been expanding their advertising budgets and shifting their messages.

Five of the nation's largest health insurers spent a combined $366.8 million on advertising in 2011, an almost 52 percent increase from the year before, according to marketing firm Kantar Media.

The analysis on AIS Health showed that payers have begun shifting their spending on online and television ads instead of the traditional outdoor and radio ads. Except for WellPoint, the five big insurers boosted their Internet advertising budgets, with Cigna's online spending jumping almost six-fold from $679,000 in 2010 to $4.2 million in 2011. The insurer allocated $25 million last year to rebranding itself and focusing more on selling health plans to individuals instead of employers, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

In television advertising, Humana and UnitedHealth Group spent the most in 2011 with $57.5 million and $59 million, respectively. Cigna's television spending more than doubled from $5.4 million to $12.2 million.

Another change in payer advertising is the attention placed on individual consumers, with Kaiser Permanente serving as a key success story. "Fifteen million dollar ad campaigns are great, but they also have to be consistent with the everyday experiences members are undergoing," Kathleen Ellmore, vice president of consumer health behaviors at Silverlink Communications, told AIS Health. "Kaiser has had more of a consumer feel" with services like tips from a chef and help in finding local farmers' markets.

To successfully market to individuals, Ellmore says payers should focus on four key themes in their advertising--consumer empowerment, new health messages, tools and member satisfaction. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, for example, recently rebranded itself as Florida Blue and began using bold colors and aspirational messages, "setting a tone of the next generation of advertising," she said. Ellmore added that payers should determine which messages truly resonate with consumers and then adapt and target that message toward specific populations.

"Everyday experiences are the difference between what makes people happy or unhappy with their insurer," Ellmore said. Payers should make consumers "feel you are working for them and working for your brand. It's really about those touches they're having with you and how it enhances your brand."

To learn more:
- read the AIS Health article

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