American Marketing Association of Las Vegas

How One Health Insurance Company Truly Engaged Millennial Customers

As a group, millennials will keep growing over the next 20 years. But will health insurance marketing adjust? One Wisconsin health insurance company is trying to.

Health insurance marketing hasn’t exactly millennial-friendly, as much of the focus has gone toward the older (and larger) group of baby boomers.

However, the predicted number of millennials will reach 81.1 million in 2036, with more regularly using their health insurance benefits as they get older. And, according to a 2014 survey from Communispace, millennials are reluctant to engage with the healthcare system, with only 55% saying they would go to the doctor right away if they found a lump on their neck. Less than half consider health insurance to be part of maintaining overall health and wellness, the survey found.

One Wisconsin health insurance company is trying to find the right ways to engage with millennials and other young health insurance users. Melanie Draheim, director of marketing at Network Health WI and a millennial herself, said the company created a program that curates ideas, content and materials directly from consumers called CoCreate.

“I think a lot of companies do focus group sand those types of things, but CoCreate is about taking that a step further and not just internally deciding for ourselves what we think is best for customers,” she says. “Not coming up with the ideas ourselves and presenting them, but really asking customers for those ideas, what they’d like to see, and creating something new together.”

Marketing Health Services spoke with Draheim about the CoCreate program and the future of marketing health insurance to millennials.

Marketing Health Services (MHS): Your company’s approach marketing to millennials works differently from most other health insurance companies. What have you found in speaking with millennials over the past year?

Melanie Draheim (MD): At the start the process, we didn’t really go out looking for feedback about a specific thing. I think that was one thing that actually helped us, and really the questions we asked when we went out to the public was not focusing on specifically our members, but really anyone and asking in general about the industry, “What do you think health insurance companies can do better?”

We went out and weren’t sure if people were really going to talk to us or care, but one of the first surprising things we noticed was that they were willing to talk to us and they were actually pleased that we were asking. For example, we’d go out to our local farmers market here … asking “We know we can do better, what are your pain points [in health insurance]?” A lot of what we heard was “I wish my health insurance company would ask me what I think, it’s nice you guys are actually listening to what we have to say and our ideas”

MHS: Millennials often feel like they’re forgotten by health insurance companies. Why is that?

MD: I think part of is that health insurance companies might assume that millennials don’t really care about health insurance. But I think as things have changed over time, especially with reform, they may have been on their parents plan but now they’re on their own. They have their own family, they’re entrepreneurs, and they want to understand what it is. I think it’s kind of a personal product in some cases. It affects your health. It affects your budget

I think it might be a misconception that they just don’t care about it. When we were out talking to [millennials], it was clear that they want to help make it better.

MHS: It makes sense, it seems like millennials like being reached out to like any other group. Did you find anything in your research of where other health insurance companies went wrong?

MD: I think not reaching out is one thing, but I think just kind of assuming that millennials can’t be engaged is another thing. Or thinking that they’re not loyal. But I think what we found was that they can be engaged and when they are engaged, they’re loyal. But they’re not loyal unless they’re engaged. It takes more work for companies to engage them.

MHS: You’re a millennial yourself; what have you seen from marketing materials you receive? Where does it fall short?

MD: I think partly because it takes more work to engage with myself as a consumer, it’s kind of easy to get into the habit of [thinking] well, they just want everything online, they want everything to be automated, they don’t need a [person to speak with], they just want to do everything on their phone. For myself, that’s not so much the truth. I want it to be consistent across different devices. I might be on my computer at work, then I’ll be on my phone, then I’ll be on a tablet; I want a consistent experience across all of those.

The other thing, we were looking for feedback on customer experience, do they just want look for all their answers online? Really, people say “If I have a question of issue and it’s about my health insurance, I just want to call and I want someone to know what they’re talking about and be able to answer my question right away,” which is a simple thing. I think we do a good job of that here at Network Health, so that was good to [know] we’re on the right track.

MHS: Is there anything you guys have had to adjust from when you started?

MD: Yeah, one of our biggest things we did was we offer wellness products as part of our plans that reward people for being healthy … They can earn gift cards and they’re working toward different goals. What we found is that across different platforms, we had a disconnect. … We had a portal, but it wasn’t engaging and no one was really using it.

We spent almost the bulk of a year asking [people] what they thought about it. … We relaunched the wellness portal site, optimized for all devices so it tested a lot better on mobile, tablets and desktop. We did some things like they can go on there and they can their submit health risk assessment on the desktop computer, as they probably wouldn’t want to do that on their phone, but they might want to submit an appointment or submit [healthy] activities. That’s something we’re looking at going forward—fining the right channels for the different things people want to do. …

It’s more engaging, they actually want to go in there more to see where they’re at, which I think then increase loyalty to the program.

MHS: Is this the way you see health insurance moving in general? Especially with millennials and generation Z getting older, is the industry going to need to make changes?

MD: I think so. For many years as an industry with health insurance, it’s been very highly regulated. It’s kind of been, well this is just a requirement, there’s nothing creative we can do about it. But we’re needing to work to make things better and easier to use and easier to understand too.

Another project we’re working on is feedback around going to the doctor you get this thing in the mail called explanation of benefits and it doesn’t make any sense, so revamping that and making it easier to understand [for everybody]. Internally, we may know what all those things mean but the average person doesn’t use that kind of language. I think that’s where things need to be heading.

Author Bio: Hal Conick is a staff writer for the AMA’s magazines and e-newsletters. He can be reached at or on Twitter at @HalConick.

Categories: Healthcare,Marketing.