Blue Cross of California aims 'fun' insurance message at young people

THOUSAND OAKS, CA: Blue Cross of California is trying to make health insurance fun again.

THOUSAND OAKS, CA: Blue Cross of California is trying to make health insurance fun again.

Tonik, a low-cost health insurance plan for young adults ages 19 to 29, is the first of its kind, as is its marketing strategy.

Instead of reaching out to traditional healthcare reporters, Blue Cross of California and AOR Burson-Marsteller are targeting lifestyle sections with the message: "If you don't think health insurance is fun, look at Tonik," said Kellie Bernell, Blue Cross of California corporate communications manager.

Market research around the program began last November, and certain traits stood out with its target audience, the "Young Invincibles," who'd rather risk getting sick than pay high premiums for health insurance.

"We thought our usual advertising and marketing would not have the right look and feel," Bernell said. "Health insurance isn't the sexiest or most interesting story. This [enabled us] to get a little bit more creative."

The unusual marketing strategy was critical to the November 15 launch of Tonik, she added. The internet had a large role because the target age group spends a lot of time online.

The Tonik website, with its bold colors and graphics, resembles an online magazine more than a health-insurance site. "Here it is. Health insurance, straight up," the site announces.

"I think the website speaks for itself," Bernell said.

Spokespeople include a local snowboarder explaining why he didn't have insurance.

Blue Cross of California developed the marketing strategy in tandem with Grey Advertising and Burson, Bernell noted.

"When I say it was a collaborative effort, it was a collaborative effort," she said.

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