Reaching young adults: Leaders share marketing best practices

At national health insurance exchange summit, panelists talk marketing challenges, strategies for young adults

Young adult sign-ups surged during the last few weeks of open enrollment but the coveted population presented the biggest marketing and outreach challenge for health insurance exchanges.

"They don't consume traditional media in the same way," Jason Madrak, director of marketing for AccessHealth CT, said today at the second national health insurance exchange summit in the District of Columbia. Adding to the challenge, the topic of health insurance is a conversation nonstarter for young adults, he added.

With no one-size-fits-all approach to engaging young aduls, Madrak, joined by expert panelists Linda Wharton Boyd, director of external affairs and stakeholder engagement for DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority, and Enroll America President Anne Filipic, shared their strategies to engage the hard-to-reach consumer population.

Those included going to places where young consumers are, following consumer reactions as a marketing roadmap and using data to understand consumer behavior.

The District of Columbia's exchange enrolled the largest share of young adults. Wharton Boyd attributed its success to the motto "Let's reach them where they live, where they work, work they play and where they pray."

To that end, DC Health Link brought marketing efforts to young adults at bars, clubs and restaurants and held events at places of worship. The D.C. exchange also implemented several events that drew on the pop culture appeal of the Sochii Winter Olympic Games, the NCAA's March Madness tournament and even tailgates for DC United soccer games, Wharton Boyd noted.

For successful exchange outreach, Enroll America--a coalition working on behalf of the Affordable Care Act--kept its attention on the consumer experience through multiple conversations and interactions to support them through the enrollment process, said Filipic.

Moreover, Enroll America switched its marketing focus from considering consumer populations to creating strategies to reach those populations. For example, it zeroed in on community colleges to connect students to coverage and elementary schools to reach young parents.

The panelists also emphasized the major role data played in developing outreach campaigns for young adults. Marketing teams had to revisit their toolkit to create a strategy that went beyond mass-market ads to include digital and mobile enrollment efforts, according to Madrak. Enroll American dedicated more than $7 million to digital media, recognizing that digital allows marketers to target, track and test messages.

While marketers can target ads based on an individual's web-browsing behavior, Filipic recommended zooming out. Stepping back from cookie-based targeting, Enroll American looked at ZIP codes of likely uninsured populations and got better click-through rates and engagement with online campaigns.

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