Health insurers are starting to follow other industries, exploring the potential of paid partnerships.
One question facing many of our clients is how to design effective consumer engagement strategies in an evolving media landscape. As market intelligence analysts, we keep track of innovations in consumer engagement and pay close attention to competitor activity in this area. We also look for indications of potential changes on the horizon within our clients’ industries and market landscapes.
For our clients in the health insurance industry, influencer marketing hasn’t been a major disruption like it has in other industries. This might change, however, and we’re starting to see early signs of health insurers partnering with social media influencers.
While the concept of paying somebody who has fame, prestige or social capital (such as a celebrity or athlete) to endorse a product isn’t new, the social media influencer started to gain a distinct concept sometime around 2015 or 2016.
The term influencer now is commonly used to refer to people with some degree of social media clout who have managed to gain a following (whether a thousand people or a million) of people who put some stock in their opinions or recommendations.
Of course, there are no precise metrics for defining “influencer” status. On one end of the spectrum are figures like Kylie Jenner, who has over 100 million Instagram followers and is rumored to get $1 million for every sponsored post. On the other end, there are “micro” or “nano” influencers who partner with brands in return for payment or free products. Rather than blowing their budget on a few posts by a top influencer, some brands enlist the services of a greater number influencers with smaller followings. Doing so might allow them to saturate the feeds of their target audience by partnering with several influencers within a given niche.
Those working in the health insurance industry might be tempted to dismiss influencer marketing as a tactic relevant only to those in the fashion or beauty industry. Could this strategy work in an industry where the products (unlike statement necklace or a bright shade of lipstick) can’t be flaunted in a mirror selfie? The jury’s still out on whether partnering with influencers is a viable path for health insurers – or rather, the jury hasn’t even convened yet.
Companies from other industries you wouldn’t expect to take this kind of approach have already launched aggressive influencer marketing campaigns. Take the financial industry, for instance – brands like Bank of America and Chase are partnering with influencers to promote credit cards and financial wellness services.
Insurance has been more cautious in trying out these techniques. For one thing, part of influencer marketing’s power comes from its ability to sway individual consumer to make a purchase. The insurance industry doesn’t really allow its consumers to make impulsive decisions about whether to purchase a certain plan based on a social media post. Rather, coverage is often mediated through employers and has to adhere to regulated exchanges. For those buying individual plans, such as those within the popular Medicare Advantage market for seniors, generational preferences impact marketing strategy. While an influencer marketing campaign might be a great way to target Millennials and especially Gen Z, it’s probably not a safe bet for reaching retiring Baby Boomers.
One exception is Oscar Health, the insurance startup known for targeting Millennials not insured through their employers. The insurer partnered with a series of influencers with small- and medium-sized followings on Instagram. Some of these posts feature personal stories about the importance of having a health plan. To get around the problem of promoting a non-visual product like insurance in a photo-centric platform, the campaign gets influencers to incorporate the blue “I’m covered” band-aid that Oscar uses in much of its branding.
Was the campaign worth the money? It’s hard to say. One thing that’s clear is that the sponsored posts made up a very small part of a large-scale marketing campaign. In any case, health insurers looking to compete for the attention of younger demographics might want to keep an eye on how insurance companies as well as other industries are experimenting with untraditional marketing campaigns to get an idea of where the industry might be heading – and how they can get ahead of the curve.
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This article was originally published on ShiftCentral, now part of LAC Group.