Appeal to individuals' aspirations to build health plan brands

August 1, 2012

Insurers move toward a consumer-facing, retail marketplace.

Fortunately, best practices from successful consumer products companies can provide benchmarks. Automobile and sporting-goods companies are exceptionally good at developing sophisticated marketing methodologies to drive consumers to action. In particular, consumer segmentation, mass customization and appealing to consumer aspirations can help insurers position themselves in the retail marketplace.

There really is no "mass" audience. Consumers are wildly diverse and naturally divide into groups that share similarities in lifestyles, values and beliefs. Consumer brands have found success by focusing their marketing efforts on the things that make consumers different rather than what makes them the same.

Understanding what drives highly engaged groups of consumers-whose members share deeply held interests and beliefs-is the key to identifying relevant needs that generate high levels of interest and adoption. Global packaged-goods leaders use segmentation to understand the values and desires of their most critical consumer types and to identify breakthrough innovations that likely would never have been discovered with simple broad-based consumer understanding.

In a retail market, health insurers might be able to dramatically improve the success rate of new products and services by fulfilling the underlying needs of specific consumer segments.

MASS CUSTOMIZATION

Today's media- and technology-centric culture has spawned a new breed of consumer: those who seek individuality and who surround themselves with people, brands and objects that reflect their unique lifestyles. This egocentric focus can present challenges when a brand is trying to speak to thousands or millions of people simultaneously.

Consumer goods companies, however, are experts at mass customization, that is, creating products and experiences that relate strongly to a specific, targeted audience yet have little or no relevance to another. Such companies use unique channels, products and messaging. For example, Toyota might create dramatically different consumer experiences for Lexus than for its flagship Toyota brands.

Considering how personal the concept of health is to consumers, the health insurance industry must consider a mass customization approach.

To inspire people to take action or change their behaviors, marketers also need to activate the motivation of consumer aspirations. Successful brands know how to appeal to these aspirations, generating feelings of fulfillment, affinity and reliance, for example.

Consider health management. Plans might inspire members to play a sport they've always wanted to play because it helps them be who they want to be. This is one way the industry can motivate healthier behaviors and reduce utilization.

Consumer goods companies have used consumer segmentation, mass customization and consumer aspiration to motivate consumer action and build powerful brands on a global scale. These methodologies can be reapplied to drive change within the retail health insurance space and improve health and wellness.

Chris Heile is executive vice president of Hyperquake, a brand evolution company.