3 Marketing Flubs Limited Latino Enrollment in CA Exchange

In a state where Latinos are a percentage point away from the dominant ethnicity, California made some critical mistakes in rolling out its Hispanic marketing campaign for the state’s healthcare exchange, Covered California, according to a report from Kaiser Health News (KHN).

Despite the $5 million spent in 2013 (and a projected $7 million in the first three months of 2014), Spanish-speaking people remain woefully under-represented in the exchange at 7% considering the fact that Hispanics comprise 38.2% of the population, according to 2012 U.S. Census date.

Three key mistakes were made, according to observers:

  1. Wrong Focus.  A key consumer benefit of ACA is its prohibition on denying healthcare coverage based on pre-existing conditions, yet many Spanish-speaking people targeted by the exchange never had or applied for insurance before, so the pitch fell flat.
  2. URL Instead of Phone Number. All of the early TV adds included a web address instead of a phone number or physical address, which is the preferred way of shopping for Hispanics, particularly for a complex product.
  3. Direct Translation of English pitch to Spanish. Experts say that the Spanish translation of the tagline in the English-speaking ad (Welcome to a new state of health. Welcome to Covered California.) was grammatically correct but not as catchy.

One of the follow-up ads for the exchange was criticized as boring—the music, the message and the actor in the ad—but that’s a faux pas in any marketing campaign.

Nonetheless, the state has a lot riding on its bid to attract more Hispanics into the exchange. Latinos are seen as a critical component of the actuarial pool for the California exchange, because they are on average younger and healthier than the general population, according to the report from KHN.

"We don't think we've done a good enough job yet," Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California told KHN. "Relative to our ambitions and our aspirations, we don't stack up well enough yet, and so we're going to be doubling down.”