When the average person thinks of Kaiser Permanente, he thinks of a huge bureaucratic system where patients don't have a personal physician and get mediocre care, market research for the HMO shows. Kaiser hopes a $40 million advertising campaign can help it overcome its bad image and attract new members.
"(The public perception) is 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," Tyson said.
The ads reflect that attitude. In one, 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 yard with the message, "Escape the gravitational pull of the couch."
Those, like all other ads in the campaign, end with the tagline "Thrive."
"They wanted to empower people to do something larger than choosing a healthcare 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."
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 Health Systems, 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," he said. "For us, it reflects directly on Kaiser Permanente."
Kaiser will campaign year-round, rather than focus on the spring and fall when most employers let workers renew coverage or switch health plans.
Kaiser has 8.2 million members in nine states -- California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Ohio, Oregon, Virginia and Washington state -- and the District of Columbia.
"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.