Celebrity endorsements and product influencers are everywhere these days — including in Medicare advertising. Over the past few years, we’ve noticed high-profile celebrity influencers featured in cross-channel advertising for both insurance agencies and insurers.
Our partners at Deft Research discussed the impact of celebrities in their 2021 Medicare Shopping and Switching Study. For Original Medicare only (OMO), 26% of survey respondents said celebrity endorsements prompted them to look into health insurance. For MedSupp, 19% mentioned celebrity endorsements, and Medicare Advantage members came in at 16%.
In recent years, celebrity influencers for Medicare campaigns have included:
- Joe Montana for Wellcare
- Joe Namath for the Medicare Coverage Helpline
- Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz for MedicareAdvantage.com
- Joe Theismann for easyMedicare.com
High profile celebrity recognition, coupled with large ad budgets, can contribute to Medicare enrollee education. In fact, Deft found that 54% of respondents learned about the Part B Premium Giveback through the Medicare Coverage Helpline spots featuring Joe Namath.
The success of the influencer often depends on the size and finances of the company. Big name, recognizable celebrities are very memorable and impactful, but they come with a price. The financial investment required for celebrity influencers is hard to justify for many regional health plans. But that doesn’t mean smaller payers are out of luck.
Regional health payers can turn to brand ambassadors to create as much or more connection with the audience for a fraction of the cost of celebrity influencers. In recent years, social media has evolved to elevate the voices of “regular” people. TikTok, which has a growing senior user base, puts the content of everyday users in front of many more eyes, so creators no longer need a celebrity-size following to reach a large audience. Plus, ambassadors with strong community connections and genuine passion for plans may carry even more weight and generate trust.
Effective brand ambassadors are relatable, engaging, credible and authentic. Their lives are similar to the lives of the health plan’s audience. In fact, some payers source ambassadors from their audience by inviting members or employees to join an ambassador program and serve as a brand representative among their own family and friends.
Take Fidel Soto, for example. Fidel is a local TV personality and brand ambassador for Aspire Health Plan (client). Not only is Fidel an actual member of the plan, but he also lives in the community, is a familiar face and is able to connect with the Spanish-speaking population in the area. Fidel’s personal experience as a member gives him increased credibility when he endorses the plan.
Credible endorsements can also come from within the company. For 2022 AEP marketing, MVP Health Care (client) selected two brand advocates, Emilia and Paul, from its customer care team. The two representatives are effective because of their company knowledge, their experience in customer service and their relatability as regular people, not actors or celebrities. Emilia and Paul offer a relatable and personal connection to the brand.
Convinced? Here’s how to add brand ambassadors to your health plan marketing toolkit.
- Find a few passionate brand advocates who are representative of the audience you want to reach. It is also important that the ambassadors’ enthusiasm about the payer is genuine — the audience may be able to tell the difference between a paid actor and a “real” member.
- Determine what you will ask of the ambassadors. Do you want them to periodically share their experiences on social media? Host a virtual happy hour to discuss their experience with their friends? Appear in TV commercials? It’s important that you lay out your expectations for the ambassadors before you ask for their commitment to the program.
- Decide how you will thank the ambassadors for their time and contributions. There are many ways to acknowledge the hard work of your brand advocates. Consider offering discounted tickets to local events, free “swag” with the payer’s branding, or access to ambassador-only events.
- Finally, ask for feedback. Brand ambassadors are often very engaged in the community and hear feedback from members that doesn’t reach the ears of health payer employees. It’s important to remember that brand ambassadors offer payers an exclusive look into the minds of their members.
Brand ambassadors and celebrity influencers remain a popular and fruitful tactic for health insurance companies, and we expect that to continue as they prove to be successful and cost-effective for regional payers and start-ups, as well.
For payers on the fence, we encourage you to start thinking about potential brand ambassadors of your own! Who are the members who proactively provide positive feedback? Which knowledgeable employees also have strong community connections? File that information away for the day you decide to start your own brand ambassador program.