With the debut of health insurance exchanges less than a week away, some health insurance plans are ramping up their marketing efforts to convince the younger, healthier population to enroll.
That demographic is significant to HIX success. According the Congressional Budget Office, 2.7 million people aged 18?34 need to enroll to make the exchanges affordable. Nearly every player involved in exchanges has been laser-focused on attracting a younger consumer since marketing began earlier this year.
Oregon, Minnesota, and other states have already rolled out television ads that are clearly aimed at the young, hip, and healthy with fun music and eye-catching mascots, like Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox . California's commercials for its Covered California HIX feature young families, as does Nevada's advertising campaign for its Silver State HIX.
The federal government is buoying efforts to reach this population with its Healthy Young America video contest, in which budding filmmakers could enter a video that shows the benefits of having health insurance when they're "young and invincible." The winning entries are picked by popular vote; not incidentally, voting begins on Oct. 1, the same day exchanges begin enrolling.
Of course, Oregon, Minnesota, and California are among just 17 states that opted to establish a state-based exchange. For the 27 states that defaulted to a federally based insurance exchange, encouraging enrollment in exchanges will be harder. But some insurers are picking up where the state government can't or won't.
For example, Philadelphia-based insurer Independence Blue Cross (IBX), which is participating in Pennsylvania's federally run HIX, began an advertising campaign in July called "Live Fearless," aimed at engaging the younger crowd.
"We need to align our brand with consumers in ways that we never have done before," says John McClung, vice president of advertising and creative services for IBX. "We did a study of consumers, and the older the consumer was, the more willing they were to pay for Blue Cross Blue Shield coverage. As you get younger, that margin gets smaller."
McClung says their research showed that once consumers reach their 20s, they view picking health insurance akin to picking airfares, with the cheapest price winning.
To capture the attention of young invincibles, IBX is reaching out to them where they live, physically and digitally. The insurer has built out a tractor-trailer with exchange info and Internet capabilities that is driving to neighborhoods where their targeted demographic lives. Dubbed the "Independence Express," the truck goes to community events such as the Kennett Square Mushroom Festival and Greenfest Philly, to be an educational tool that helps consumers learn about HIX as well as promote the brand with IBX materials and interaction.
"The younger demographic isn't necessarily willing to pay more for Blue Cross coverage, so we need to position our brand as providing [a] different value," says McClung.
IBX is also cross-promoting HIX with local sports teams, the Philadelphia Phillies, 76ers, and Flyers. And it's using social media for a major push of the "Live Fearless" campaign.
IBX's newest social media push is a photo contest called #LiveFearless that encourages residents to post pictures on its contest site showing the embodiment of what it means to live fearlessly.
"The 'Live Fearless' theme is not to live your life in a bubble wrap, but to have confidence to live your life with the security and stability of the Blue brand behind you," says McClung.
Contest participants can enter their photos by signing up through Facebook or Instagram, either via a PC or mobile device. The contest began on Sept. 9 and will run through Dec. 1. Winning photos are being chosen by community votes each month. The strategy is clever because photos are one of the most popular things posted on social media. By encouraging voting by friends and family, who have to register with an email address to vote, IBX is growing its raw engagement numbers exponentially. Who doesn't want to vote for a friend's picture?
The contest and campaign enter into IBX's social media goals. McClung says IBX has been actively engaging consumers on those channels for years, and its effort to garner attention for HIX fits perfectly with its Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram efforts. He says IBX wants to see its Facebook fan base increase by 1,000 per month, as well as develop deeper customer connections and, most importantly, grow its customer base through the insurance exchanges.
"They [the federal government] are banking on the fact that they need to get the younger demographic into the exchange to make everything work from a cost perspective," he says. "We're looking at it the same way. We're interested in that younger demographic who really doesn't have the brand allegiance to us. Contests like this make them feel like they can identify with this brand."