Cover Story: Getting the Message
At 48, Ron Rowe likes to think of himself as young. And while age may be a state of mind, Rowe finally had to admit he didn't "get" the young people with their music and their gadgets.
That epiphany came two years ago for BlueCross BlueShield of Kansas City's director of small group and consumer sales. He was chatting on a Monday afternoon with Sam Meers—president of Kansas City, Mo.-based Meers Advertising—about testing 800 numbers that would be the direct response channel for some 7-year-old commercials. Could it all be ready for the JumboTrons for a Friday night concert at Capitol Federal Park at Sandstone?
"You know, Ron, 20-year-olds aren't going to call an 800 number in the middle of a concert," Meers recalls telling Rowe. "And, candidly, they're probably not going to call an 800 number anytime, because they don't call 800 numbers."
So what should they do? asks Rowe.
"Let's see if we can get them to text," Meers remembers saying to Rowe.
"How does that work?" Rowe says he replied.
Then Rowe realized more than the obvious. The venue that plays host to bands like All Time Low and Boys Like Girls would probably be too loud an environment to lend itself to business-related telephone conversations. Plus, he realized, the amphitheater probably wouldn't be filled with his demographic.
But it is filled with the demographic Rowe wants to reach—Kansas City's portion of the millions of uninsured 19- to 39-year-olds. And that Monday afternoon during the summer of 2008, Rowe made the call that Blue KC would create a text messaging program aimed at bringing young people into the ranks of the insured.
From Blues to Rock
Prior to the chat with Meers, Rowe says Blue KC's main lead generation efforts to that point—direct mail campaigns—hadn't been resonating much with the younger set.