Mountain Health CO-OP

Brand design and advertising help health insurance CO-OPs find success

Is anything more confusing than health insurance? If you’re not good with numbers (or fluent in the doublespeak of insurance), selecting a health plan can be challenging—even for folks with college diplomas. And now, thanks to healthcare reform, many who would have dodged insurance altogether are compelled to buy to escape a tax penalty. What’s an insurance CO-OP to do amid all this confusion?

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The Challenge

Mountain Health CO-OP came to life as an offshoot of Montana Health CO-OP. Their early success earned them an invitation from the federal government to expand into Idaho in 2014. In the age of 24/7 marketing, making a dent in people’s consciousness with a new brand is never easy. But because this brand was health insurance, raising awareness alone wasn’t enough—they also needed to build credibility quickly.

The Solution

We began by refashioning Montana Health CO-OP’s existing branding for Idaho. Using our brand identity development process, we created a new brand story, values, personality, and tagline, while visually simplifying the parent company’s existing brand identity. We created a strong website and engaging TV, radio, and outdoor that focused on the unique CO-OP approach to health insurance: member-run, with profits used to lower premiums and expand benefits.

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The Results

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In just its first year, Mountain Health CO-OP enrolled more than 20,000 members, earning the second highest market share among five other established competitors.

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In Montana in year two, enrollment is up north of 70 percent to more than 24,000 and counting.

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More than 20 percent of MHC website traffic came from mobile devices.

Building a strong, easy to use website

Most people research insurance choices online, so a strong website is critical. We created the new Idaho and Montana sites from scratch, using responsive design to improve usability across all devices while reducing the number of choices that confront (and often confound) users on the homepage. In keeping with their member-driven approach, a photo contest promoted on the site has generated scores of submissions from MHC members that we are using to update the site and other marketing materials, saving the CO-OP thousands in photography fees.

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Redesigning the brand from the ground up

Using our brand identity development process, we created a new brand story, values, personality, tagline, and manifesto for both Idaho and Montana, while visually simplifying the parent company’s existing brand identity. Through mood boards, we developed a look that captured their brand values and personality with a laid-back, local feel. Instead of the usual polished stock photos common in health insurance marketing, we drew from the Instagram accounts of friends and family to provide imagery with an air of reality.

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Meet the client

Karen Early Client 1
Karen Early, Director of Marketing, Mountain Health CO-OP

Formerly the director of corporate communication at Blue Cross of Idaho, Karen Early now leads the marketing and communication efforts for the Mountain and Montana Health CO-OPs. Karen is a long-time health communications professional, working for Highmark BlueCross BlueShield Pennsylvania and Empire BlueCross BlueShield in New York City before moving to Idaho.

What is one thing you can’t live without? 

My dogs.

Do you have pets? 

Yes!

What’s the best advice you’re received professionally? 

Be very careful anytime you put something in writing.

kearly@mhc.coop

More about this project

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  • Building awareness and credibility for a new brand

    Mountain Health CO-OP came to life as an offshoot of Montana Health CO-OP, an insurance CO-OP that sold its first policies to Montanans in 2013 and went on to capture a sizable chunk of the health insurance market there. This success earned them an invitation from the federal government to expand into Idaho in 2014. MHC selected Oliver Russell to help them launch the new Mountain Health CO-OP brand in Idaho.

    In the age of 24/7 marketing, making a dent in people’s consciousness with a new brand is never easy. But because this brand was health insurance, raising awareness alone wasn’t enough. There was also a strong imperative to build credibility quickly. Early on, we recognized an opportunity to upgrade Montana Health CO-OP’s existing branding and refashion it for Idaho.

    Redesigning the brand from the ground up

    Using our brand identity development process, we created a new brand story, values, personality, tagline, and manifesto for both Idaho and Montana, while visually simplifying the parent company’s existing brand identity. Through mood boards, we developed a look that captured their brand values and personality with a laid-back, local feel. Instead of the usual polished stock photos common in health insurance marketing, we drew from the Instagram accounts of friends and family to provide imagery with an air of reality.

    Building a strong, easy to use website

    Most people research insurance choices online, so a strong website is critical. We created the new Idaho and Montana sites from scratch, using responsive design to improve usability across all devices while reducing the number of choices that confront (and often confound) users on the homepage. In keeping with their member-driven approach, a photo contest promoted on the site has generated scores of submissions from MHC members that we are using to update the site and other marketing materials, saving the CO-OP thousands in photography fees.

    Simplifying and consolidating printed sales lit

    Rather than creating individual brochures for every plan MHC sells, we designed a single printed piece that folds out into a poster that lets readers compare all of MHC’s plans side by side, in a single view, saving everyone time and trees.

    Creating a cohesive campaign across broadcast and outdoor media

    To generate awareness, we created ads for TV, radio and outdoor that focused on the unique CO-OP approach to health insurance: member-run, with profits used to lower premiums and expand benefits. To avoid confusion, we kept the concepts relatively simple and easy to understand, and featured real people from the community.

    The result: MHC more than triples its membership

    The final tally is still being counted, but the results are already strong. In just its first year, Mountain Health CO-OP enrolled more than 20,000 members, earning the second highest market share among five other established competitors. In Montana in year two, enrollment is up north of 70% to more than 24,000 and counting, with their cost of customer acquisition down my more than half.

    Some things we learned along the way:

    • No matter how simple you think you’ve made web content, it’s probably still not simple enough when it comes to health insurance. Based on user feedback, we’ll be redesigning a page or two on the MHC websites to make them absolutely foolproof.
    • Nothing can help localize a campaign and add human interest like user-generated content. If you ask nicely (and offer a new iPad as an incentive), your customers are more than willing to share their personal images and videos.
    • The medium is still the message. Yes, people have misgivings about some of the commercials they view on TV, but the simple fact that you are on TV says a lot about your organization, especially when you’re new to the market.
    • Responsive design is critical for health insurance websites. More than 20% of MHC websites’ traffic came from mobile devices, including a disproportionate share of new visits. If your insurance website is hard to use on a phone or tablet, you’re missing a critical opportunity. 

    Supporting an important player in health insurance

    CO-OPs like MHC are providing critical competition in markets where little existed before. Their low-cost, low-overhead model is helping to keep premium annual hikes at record-low levels, making insurance more affordable for everyone. Last year, Idaho and Montana led the nation in reducing their percentages of uninsured residents, and that's something every can feel good about.

    I like the way you work.

    Let's Talk.

    Please enter your first name.
    Please enter your last name.
    Please enter a valid email address.
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