Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Educate and Inform, No Failing Grades

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I thought I'd share this analysis in the NY Times on a new marketing campaign by the health insurer, Cigna. Now while we are talking about a health insurer, I think looking at the tools and different aspects of the campaign can provide some strategies for those of you in the ePharma marketing space. Recently Cigna launched a new educational program that combines online courses, an online game, social networking and charity. Called Cigna University "...it is composed of three courses: “Back to the Basics,” the equivalent of Health Insurance 101; “What’s Your Plan,” outlining the ins and outs of health care plans; and “Take Action Now,” examining the health care platforms of the Democratic and Republican Parties."

Some of the unique aspects of the campaign is not only is the course material available on the primary site but across multiple sites including iTunes, Facebook, YouTube and Flickr. I had to stop and think for a moment - Flickr?? and then I remembered that it now offers users the ability to post videos along with photos.

I think the real unique value to the campaign is the combination of an online game with a charity offering. Cigna offers to make a donation to a charity called Water for People based on the number of correct answers you make. You not only can track your results on the site, but also through your Facebook profile. Now there's a powerful combination in my opinion. Easy access to information, combined with a fun, interactive game that not only feeds into your competitive nature (showing off your score on Facebook) but also your philanthropic side. A winning combination I think. What's unique I think is the use of casual gaming along with aspects of an alternative reality game (ARG) that has become increasingly popular tool for marketers in other retail product spaces and being applied to a product segment not usually known for using such tools.

Now if you are familiar with ARGs, I agree, this example from Cigna is not quite what some marketers have in mind when they think ARG, especially when you compare some of the great ARGs in recent years such as this one and this one. I actually remember my first experience with an ARG, it was for a Sony brand of televisions that was running a campaign that incorporated blogs, online puzzles and cyphers and cryptograms. It was very convoluted to say the least, but for several weeks it had me going back and searching through the material repeatedly.

Nevertheless, what makes an ARG isn't just the complexity of the game itself but the social aspect of it. Here I think is a great take on it. Traditional online or casual games are typically you against the machine or you against another live player. But what takes the ARG to another level is that some aspect of the game can be shared to a broader audience more than just the invitation to play. That's why I think Cigna has found a great combination of the social through sites like Facebook while providing a powerful incentive by combining it with a worthwhile charity. And most importantly - it avoids the typical direct marketing sell, the sites "...are not branded Cigna and the Cigna logo is not all over them,” (sic)Sheila McCormick, director for consumer education at the Chicago office of Cigna, adds, to underline that the initiative is “not to sell product but to educate people”.

It's worth looking at, and its success I think can provide some examples for Pharma marketers to consider as they develop an interact campaign. I've tried to find some similar examples with no luck, if anyone has any, please share and I'll update the post with it.
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