Kaiser tries to
spruce up its image

The HMO launches an advertising
campaign to create goodwill
and attract new members

PORTLAND, Ore. >> When the average person thinks of Kaiser Permanente, the health maintenance organization's research shows they think it's a huge bureaucratic system where patients don't have a personal physician and get mediocre care.

The HMO hopes a $40 million advertising campaign can help it overcome its bad image and attract more members.

"It's the complete opposite of reality and our members' rating and perception of Kaiser Permanente," said Bernard Tyson, senior vice president of brand strategy and management at Kaiser's Oakland, Calif., headquarters.

"This (campaign) is to deal with those negative perceptions and show we're not only great when you're sick, we do a lot to help you maintain your health. At the end of the day, that's what we're all about -- helping people to live healthy lives."

The ads reflect that attitude. In one ad, a young girl dives into a pool and swims a lap, turning into an older woman at the end.

"The message is life is a journey, live it well," Tyson said.

Another ad shows a father playing with his son in the back yard with the message, "Escape the gravitational pull of the couch."

Those ads, like all the others, end with the campaign's tagline -- "Thrive."

"They wanted to empower people to do something larger than choosing a health care provider," said Mark Simon, executive vice president and creative director of Campbell-Ewald, the Warren, Mich.-based advertising agency that created the campaign for Kaiser.

"What we're communicating in the campaign is we want people to be the best they can possibly be at whatever stage of life or health they're in," Simon said.

Tyson said Kaiser faces greater hurdles to overcome than most health plans.

"It's an added challenge because we're not only a health plan, we're a delivery system. When Wellpoint (a competitor) is out marketing, the delivery system isn't tied to them, so if there's something that happens in a medical setting, you don't hear it associated with Wellpoint. For us, it reflects directly on Kaiser Permanente."

The campaign is the start of a year-round campaign rather than focusing Kaiser's marketing in the spring and fall during the period when most employers let workers renew their coverage or switch to a different health plan.

Kaiser has 8.2 million members in nine states -- Hawaii, California, Oregon, Washington state, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland Virginia and Ohio -- and Washington, D.C.

"At the end of the day, we're hoping we will attract even more nonmembers to consider Kaiser Permanente who right now might not be considering Kaiser Permanente from misperceptions," Tyson said.

Kaiser Foundation Health Plan


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