Aetna Rolls Out Direct-to-Employee Marketing Campaign

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Aetna Group Insurance rolled out a personalized marketing campaign this month aimed at the employees of companies that sell its insurance, targeting them by age, salary range, gender and marital status. The insurance company's campaign promotes its life, disability and long-term care plans.

As a group insurer, Aetna does not sell insurance to individuals. Rather, it deals directly with companies that, in turn, offer Aetna's plans to its employees.

The Aetna campaign uses direct mail and e-mail. Aetna has 11 million to 12 million employees at companies that offer its insurance plans to their employees. Previously, the insurance company would send the same marketing materials to everyone. Now, the insurance company is working with analytics provider Fair, Isaac and Co. Inc. to help segment employees with similar characteristics. In addition to the data Aetna gathers, such as eligibility data about its clients' employees, Fair, Isaac gathers its own data and appends it to Aetna's information.

The insurance company plans to run its target campaign all year. Its biggest seasons are January and July, when the enrollment period for most insurance plans open.

According to Janet Kennedy, Aetna's vice president of marketing, the level of segmentation and targeting employees in this campaign is not common in the market.

"It's very unusual in the group insurance world," she said. "There's an increasing trend for employers to shift the responsibility for decision making onto employees. This creates marketing opportunities for us."

The campaign provides plan sponsors with newsletter articles about subjects such as long-term care, which they can print in their company newsletters. It also provides informational materials and plan enrollment kits based on employees' demographic profile. Online enrollment options also are available.

"Our approach is to provide customized tools to help employees make the decisions they need to make," Kennedy said. "Our segmentation tools help us address employees' diverse circumstances and financial needs and generate relevant messages to appropriate audiences."

Aetna's campaign targets baby boomers, retirees, women and young married couples. For example a postcard being sent to the baby boomer demographic asks: "Is there a hole in your financial plan?" The postcard promotes Aetna's long-term care plans. Much of the long-term care promotions are aimed at women, since they tend to outlive men and are the primary caregivers in the family.

Depending on the client, Aetna either mails the marketing materials directly to the employees' homes, or sends it to the client to distribute to its employees. For some clients, Aetna provides e-mail-based marketing that the client sends to its employees' computers.

"Targeted marketing is more efficient with complex products like long-term care insurance than the traditional one-size-fits-all approach," Kennedy said. "Segmentation enables us to satisfy employees' demands for more benefits information while relieving employers of the time and expense of educating their workers about benefits."

She pointed out that with the help of Fair, Isaac, Aetna found out that segmenting employees by household income, rather than salary, was a much better predictor of who was likely to buy life insurance.

"It helped us refine our messaging," Kennedy said.

Aetna hopes to go beyond targeting employees based on demographics and target them based on attitude and lifestyle. The insurance company is developing a Web-based service to capture such data and hopes to roll it out in May.

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