Kodak Targets Benefits Managers With Dental Film

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The division of Eastman Kodak Co. that makes X-ray film for dental offices recently received a 3.6-percent response rate from its campaign targeting the benefits managers at large corporations, and it is preparing to drop a second mailing in the next few weeks. The Healthy Smiles Program is designed to convince benefits managers that encouraging their employees to visit the dentist more often can help reduce the employers' costs.

"This is the first time we've done this," said Richard W. Brown, U.S. & Canada marketing manager for Kodak's Health Imaging Dental Business, Rochester, NY, "In the past we've basically marketed to two groups: the channel and the dental community."

The company mailed 14,400 pieces in May to a list of the benefits managers at the largest companies in the United States and Canada. The fold-over self-mailer outlines the financial benefits that can accrue to employers whose workers take care of their teeth.

If employees use their benefits to get check-ups, Kodak expects that these employees will need plenty of X-rays, and that should drive up sales for Kodak. Unlike the camera film industry, in which other manufacturers offer considerable competition for Kodak's products, Brown said the medical X-ray film market is about 81 percent to 83 percent owned by Kodak.

Benefits managers who responded to the mailer via the business reply card or by calling a toll-free number received the Healthy Smiles Program kit, which includes research showing the correlation between dental health and general health and posters encouraging employees to use their dental benefits to get a check-up. Brown said that as many as 30 percent of people who have dental benefits through their employers don't use them.

The second mailing, which Brown said will be at least as big as the first one, will involve some cross-sampling to test response and also will target some different human resources personnel at the same companies as the first campaign.

The outside of the mailer has a picture of a dentist watching as a young patient examines her smile in a dental mirror, with the message printed underneath in Kodak's distinctive red-on-yellow color scheme: "Achieve Better Oral Health and a Healthier Bottom Line." Inside, the headline reads, "It pays to promote your dental benefits plan," and the copy explains that dental problems make employees miss work and outlines the correlation between poor dental health and poor overall health.

"We felt this was a message that would get some response," said Brown. "A 3.6-percent response rate from people this high up in the food chain is really pretty good."

The company followed up by a telephone call to the people who sent in the business reply cards. He said the feedback from the people who called has been very positive.

"The challenge for us is to find out what this means," he said. "We'll be watching to see if we see an uptick in product sales. But it's going to be tough to measure how much of the increase is attributable to us or to other factors."

As part of the campaign, Kodak's own top benefits manager, is sending a personal letter to his counterparts at the country's 50 largest firms, encouraging them to participate in the program. Those letters are going out before the second wave of mailers.

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