Health exchange readies challenging marketing effort |

Health exchange readies challenging marketing effort

John Seelmeyer

The product is abstract and complicated.

The target audience prefers simple language and down-to-earth stories.

Half of the target audience is convinced it doesn’t need the product at all. Much of the target audience is suspicious and resentful.

Against that backdrop, the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange is nearing the July launch of the first phase of a major marketing effort for its health-insurance marketplace, a requirement of the federal Affordable Care Act.

It’s a complicated marketing effort spearheaded by Reno’s KPS3 Marketing — an effort that will combine traditional and digital media advertising with lots of personal relationships developed by a small army of outreach workers.

The target: Nevadans who don’t have health insurance but face a tax penalty beginning in 2014 if they don’t enroll in a qualified health plan, either through the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange or a private insurance carrier outside the exchange.

“We have some tough audiences,” acknowledges Stephanie Kruse, principal in KPS3.

Among those tough audiences is a group that marketers describe as “Young Invicibles,” a largely male group aged 18-33.

Says C.J. Bawden, communications officer for the Exchange, “They believe they don’t need insurance because they’re never going to get hurt.”

Adds Kruse: “They don’t believe in insurance. You want a challenge? There you are.”

Another key audience for the exchange is low-income families with children.

That group, which includes a large number of Hispanic families statewide, presents challenges of its own, says Rob Gaedtke, vice president of creative services for KPS3.

They often are suspicious of government. They’re focused on moment-by-moment survival and don’t think about the future. They want their information in a simple and straightforward fashion, often with stories and examples.

So far, this is the strategy that KPS3 and the exchange have taken:

The program has been branded as “Nevada Health Link,” a name that plays down the connection to the state government. The Spanish-language version, which translates as “Nevada Health Insurance Link,” is even more direct about the program.

“Most everyone wanted a literal name,” says Bawden, who watched as the brand was tested with four focus groups last winter.

More than 70 percent of the research participants favored the logo selected by Nevada Health Link, picking the brand identity from an initial field of about 15, Bawden says.

The advertising messages for both target groups are likely to emphasize family relationships. For Young Invincibles, Kruse says, the message will focus on the costs that failure to carry health insurance can bring to their families. For uninsured families, the message will focus on the protection of children.

Gaedtke says KPS3 is paying close attention, word-by-word, to the language in the advertising, removing complexity in favor of simplicity at every turn.

The agency has the benefit of extensive testing and well-funded research as it prepares to roll out the campaign.

Katie Coleman, a senior account manager with KPS3, says the testing includes cutting-edge sessions overseen by Steven Hayes, a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Nevada, Reno. Those sessions use technology to gauge the unfiltered reactions of consumers.

After a couple of months of educational advertising, the marketing campaign will move into its second phase in October. Through the autumn, uninsured consumers will be encouraged to take action to get health insurance, whether through the exchange or through a private carrier.

That work, Kruse says, will rely heavily on an cadre of outreach workers who will work in booths at community events as well as more informal settings such as community potlucks.

That outreach is important, she says, because research shows that personal relationships are particularly important as low-income and young consumers make financial decisions.