Highmark Educates Consumers On Health Care Through Branded Storefronts

The Affordable Care Act has caused a stir among consumers, and they’re seeking education and resources to help them understand how the new law will impact their lives.

Highmark engages with customers face-to-face through its storefronts, which are called Highmark Direct locations. These stores are marketed across channels with help from HackerAgency, a digital marketing agency.

“We saw some trends in the industry toward an individual market, followed by changes in health care laws that meant consumers would soon be facing a complex decision-making process about which coverage would be best for them,” said Mike King, Director of Retail Marketing and Operations at Highmark. “And making such decisions would soon be mandatory. So we wanted to provide a place in the community to help people navigate this process and become actively involved in their health care.”


Using a “call, click or visit” call to action, Highmark has seen a tremendous boost in consumer interest across Western and Central Pennsylvania. In fact, there have been up to 340,000 visits since the stores first opened in 2009, and 106,000 in 2013 alone. Due to its success thus far, Highmark is exploring new expansion opportunities.

“Our Highmark Direct retail stores are an excellent way of sharing this information: Consumers can walk in, talk to a real person and be guided through the process in plain language,” said King in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “This is particularly appealing to consumers too intimidated to go online or make a phone call. At our retail stores, they’re able to engage in conversations at their own level and speed and then be confident in their decisions.”

Non-commissioned associates are educated on insurance packages and product offerings, and can help consumers find the insurance plans that best fit their needs and budgets, King explained. Highmark also holds events at its 10 retail locations, covering topics such as wellness, health care reform, Medicare, insurance products and healthy eating.

Highmark selected HackerAgency as its agency of record for Senior Markets following an extensive RFP process in 2008. After seeing positive results from new data-driven tactics and more personalized messaging strategies, Highmark expanded HackerAgency’s involvement to work closely with the Individual and Family Plan marketing team.

Both parties implement tight geographical targeting around all store locations to reach potential customers. Outreach is done through direct mail, digital advertising, local print and broadcast channels.

Beyond the Highmark Direct locations, the company also sells via phone, independent brokers, online and through the federal health insurance marketplace.

“For these, outreach gets especially complex, with a matrix of marketing vehicles calibrated according to channel, target customer, place in the sales cycle and current healthcare mandates,” explained Tom Reid, Executive Director of Account Services at HackerAgency. “We then continuously analyze and optimize every element of every advertising vehicle and message.”

HackerAgency has maintained the relationship with Highmark “through an emphasis on testing, measuring and continually optimizing the media mix to both maximize response and lower cost of acquisition,” Reid said. “The disruptive force of health care reform has deepened the relationship, as we collaborate on crafting new market outreach strategies in a new and changing environment.”

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