28 Mar Branding Long-Term-Care
More than 6 million Americans receive some form of long-term care because they need help with two or more activities of daily living, or are experiencing cognitive decline. The number of Americans expected to need long-term care by 2050 is 15 million. Yet most people remain unaware of the cost and complexities of long-term care. This article by Cynthia Cruver, released in the Spring 2019 issue of ASA Generations Journal, looks at how to brand and communicate the essential elements of long-term-care financing reform in a way that is engaging and accessible.
by Cynthia Cruver
Can marketing help make LTC financing reform into a topic that people can understand clearly and rally around?
More than 6 million Americans receive some form of long-term care because they need help with two or more activities of daily living, or are experiencing cognitive decline. The number of Americans exposed to need long-term care by 2050 is 15 million (Benz, 2017).
Yet, despite a fifty-fifty chance of needing long-term services and supports (LTSS) in later life, despite watching relatives and friends go through difficulties finding and paying for LTSS, despite even experiencing some level of need, and despite finding out that most of us are not covered by LTSS, most Americans do not plan for the possibility of needing (and having to pay for) these supports. They do not even want to talk about it.
Can this topic be brought to the surface and discussed? Perhaps the field of marketing can offer some ideas that would normalize talking about functional and cognitive impairment, the need for assistance and supports, and how to pay for these services. If LTSS can become an acceptable topic of conversation, perhaps people will begin to understand the basics of long-term care and policy makers will be more inclined to address the challenges of financing reform.
A State of Emergency
The long-term-care industry and the millions of Americans who depend upon it, now and in the future, is in a state of emergency. So, how to effectively communicate the urgency of this situation? From the 65-year-old who believes she or he will never need long-term nursing care and the 50-year-old who has not thought about how she or he will help a parent in crisis, to the Millennials (and future generations), who will be left holding the financial bag for the baby boomers, consumers–and policy makers–need long-term-care literacy now more than ever.
The challenge is this: Most people are reluctant to talk about the possible need for long-term-care–for themselves or their loved ones–and they will not be enticed to learn more about something as dry and unappealing as “Long-Term Care Financing Reform.”
Find a target audience and identify the “what”
After meeting client for the first time, many experienced advertising or marketing professionals will begin to brainstorm. While all of the information gleaned in the meeting is important, what matters most is the target audience. We brainstorm how to engage the people in this audience, and how to convince them to engage so that they listen long enough to understand the core message.
The same process should work with long-term-care financing reform. The first step is to identify the target audiences and build an affective communications strategy. The second step is to identify the “what.” What do you want the audience to feel? What do you want them to do: Make a call? Write a letter? Vote? Talk to their friends? Save money for later years?
Sample audience profiles
The following are a few examples of target audience profiles:
Maury is an active 70-year-old who still drives. His $300,000 house is paid off and he has a little bit of saving. Maury is not one to splurge and he doesn’t particularly like paying taxes. Although Maury receives a Social Security benefit, he believes that government programs are badly managed and that he will never need long-term care. He doesn’t know this yet, but he will eventually undergo cancer treatment and need to move to an assisted living facility and then a skilled nursing facility towards the end of his life. His life savings will last about six years.
Stephanie is a 45-year old real estate professional with a fast-paced life. She moved from her hometown of Chicago to Los Angeles for the sun and for the lifestyle. Dazzled by the cars, the money, and the fashion, Stephanie is not a saver and doesn’t think too much about the future. Her father has passed away and her mother lives alone in the family home on a conservative retirement income. Stephanie doesn’t know that in a year’s time, her mother will have a stroke and the she will be faced with providing long distance care to her mother, using her mother’s very small nest egg.
Matthew is a 50-year-old legislator from a swing district. He’s a moderate, but has to garner conservative votes to win elections. Although Matthew understands the gravity of the demographics of the aging population and the already stressed systems of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, he feels his hands are tied by a lack of public understanding and governmental leadership on the issues of financing related to an aging population.
What do these people have in common? When boiled down to the most basic level, it is simply that “they’re human.”
Branding Long-Term Care: One Approach
Humans wants to laugh, to feel good, and to be entertained. They like playful ideas and to be inspired, and they are willing to poke fun at themselves when information is delivered in the right way. Facing uncomfortable realities is difficult. Therefore, a branded campaign that is fun and educational could garner some attention.
The following is an example of how long-term-care financing reform could be branded.
The first step is to come up with a name. It could be called Hourglass or TLC: Tender Loving Care (a play on “LTC: Long-Term-Care”)–any combination of words or phrases that can become the siren call for the long-term-care financing reform movement. From there, the moniker must be humanized and personalized in a catchy, engaging way–possibly even with a non-human “spokesperson”. This would be a creative exploration along the lines of “School House Rock” or iconic brands that use brand mascots, such as the GEICO Gecko, the Travelocity Gnome, Monopoly’s Uncle Pennybags, or even Barbie and Ken (but older, of course).
This is only one way for how the challenging subject of long-term-care financing reform could be branded and presented in a way that the public can wrap their heads around, without making it too threatening or depressing. First, we capture the public’s attention, get the public to understand and identify with the issue, and then the conversation can begin.
Cynthia Cruver is principal at 3rdThird Marketing in Seattle, Washington.
Benz, C. 2017. “75 Must-Know Statistics About Long-Term Care.” Morningstar.tinyurl.com/y8z8p466. Retrieved December 14, 2018.