What Humana Can Teach Every Healthcare Brand About Better Marketing

Humana is a truly massive healthcare corporation. With over 52,000 employees and stock traded on the New York Stock Exchange, it’s one of the largest insurance brands worldwide.

These past few months have brought some major shakeups for the industry giant. For starters, they agreed to be bought out by an even larger competitor, Aetna. Additionally, they also began a major effort to focus their marketing in the digital space.

It’s easy to compare the size of Humana to your own brand and conclude their marketing has nothing to offer in the way of actionable insight. But, by focusing on the major principles driving their success, we can pull out important lessons applicable to much smaller healthcare companies.

Valuable Lessons for Brands of Every Size

Humana has put a stronger focus on digital marketing for several years now. In 2015, they hired the advertising firm BBDO to help with this transition. They also brought on in-house talent like Digital Enterprise Vice President Jeff Reid, a major catalyst for their efforts online.

With a massive team and money to spend, there’s no denying Humana’s situation is a lot different than the typical smaller, cash-strapped healthcare brand. But as Reid describes in an excellent interview at Marketing Land, a significant part of their success comes from philosophical principles we could all emulate. Their massive team and resources affect scale, certainly, but not necessarily success itself.

Here are a few strategies Humana is using to focus on digital marketing. As you’ll see in just a second, you can adapt them to fit your brand–even if it’s a small fraction of Humana’s size.

Using Digital to Embrace the Fundamentals

Reid describes the principles that drive Humana’s digital efforts in a single sentence: “Know me, show me you care, make it easy, and help me.”

Those can be applied by brands massive and tiny alike. They cut to the core of what great marketing looks like. Notice how there isn’t anything in there about specific tools or technology? That’s because the principles transcend whatever marketing tools are in vogue at that moment.

To Humana, digital tools are just that. They’re efficient vehicles to carry out great marketing. But they don’t change the nature of what it looks like altogether.

One way Humana is succeeding is by broadening their focus beyond specific insurance-related interactions. Traditionally content included insurance trends or details about paying a premium or making a claim. But Humana’s digital marketing reach is much more than that. By focusing on health and wellness as they relate to everyday life, they show customers they care about more than just dollars and sense.

Humana even has an entire manage your health section on their website, which features helpful (and easy to find) articles about how to live a healthier lifestyle.

Here’s one of their commercials, “Birthday,” a slice-of-life vignette about a man who gets exactly what he wants for his 67th birthday after making some healthy changes:

Notice how the commercial focuses on the human impact of better health? It touches on what good health can do for us–things like enjoying family time and dream vacations. It also features an elderly couple representative of their core demographic.


Humana is trying to do a lot more than find customers; they’re actively involved in building communities.

Community-building is vital online, as fragmented audiences search for a place to connect with like-minded people and bond over similar health experiences. It’s also a long-term path to increased credibility and trust in a world of scams and (understandably) skeptical customers.

One of the best ways Humana is building that community is on social media. Their twitter handle, @Humana, publishes a nice mix of content. They share video blog articles they’ve created, and they also feature customer support and user-generated content.

Here’s one tweet for example:

This tweet is a short video about an elderly woman who beat cancer and who now competes in the National Senior Games. It’s inspirational for viewers, and it also helps foster community because many can relate to what she has gone through.

An emphasis on health and wellness tips and user-generated content (instead of aggressive sales pitches) gives customers ample reason to not just follow Humana’s social media accounts, but to check back often for more information. This information is valuable for everyone, not just customers.

Humana also uses social media to listen to customers and offer support, much like Apple does. They even created their own customer support Twitter handle: @HumanaHelp

A Focus on Simplicity

Another one of Humana’s major focuses is to simplify the often overwhelming process of finding the right insurance plan.

As healthcare products and regulations become increasingly complex, it’s vital to streamline the information as much as possible. We can’t expect a busy, distracted consumer to navigate a maze of complicated information just for an answer to a basic question.

This commitment to simplicity is captured perfectly in Humana’s website. What was once around 50 different websites (one for each business within the Humana umbrella) has shrunk to one. The interface, content, and menu structure make it simple for visitors to find the information they need right away–and navigate quickly to the appropriate page.

Here’s a look at the homepage:

There are also plenty of small touches that help save visitors time. One of the most impressive is the Member Resources section, which is linked prominently at the top of the homepage.

One can only imagine just how many wasted hours and swear words are avoided here! Instead of calling up a Humana representative, confused customers can simply jump to the information they need. It’s easy to view claim information, make payments, or search specific plans whether they’re an employer or employee.

You don’t need a massive team or budget to simplify, either. You are probably already aware of the most common customer questions, complaints, and hurdles to doing business with you. If you can design your website where that information is readily available, you’ll save your team time while improving the customer experience.

A Bold (and Measurable) Vision

By the year 2020, Humana has a vision to improve the health care in communities they serve by 20 percent. They’d like to do that by adopting an integrative approach to their company.

That vision is bold enough to inspire great marketing talent. But it’s also quantifiable. Humana marketers can measure their progress and make adjustments as needed.

A vision is powerful, and it’s also free. Even the smallest healthcare brand can have a vision just as compelling as Humana’s. Once you define that vision and articulate it to your team, it’s easier for everyone to row in the same direction.

Having a vision makes it easier to assess different marketing tactics (like blogging, email marketing, social media, etc.) to see whether they’re leading you closer to success–or further away from it. It can also help you rank which tactics are working best.

A good marketing partner can do wonders here. While you probably have a vision in your head, a seasoned partner will help you crystallize it, get it down on paper, and express it to your team. It’s much easier to get where you want to go once you settle on a specific destination!

Your Turn

You might not have a 150-person team of digital marketers or millions of dollars to play with. But you can still adopt some of Humana’s strategies to better connect with customers. Working with the right marketing partner, someone who truly understands digital tools and how to use them to bring you closer to your vision, will help you prioritize what to do now and make the most of every dollar spent.


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