At heart I'm an impressionable consumer. A consistent campaign, or a sense of shared values, makes a big impact on how I feel about brands in the arena.
Ever since I was a kid I've had negative feelings about Kaiser. My parents plainly avoided them. And while their preferences about healthcare providers aren't topics one cares much about as a kid, one does inherit the prejudices. I admit I brought the bad vibes with me in my journey through time.
In the last year I began to re-examine those feelings. While I'd like to say it's because I've grown more mature and reflective about everything around me, that simply wouldn't be true.
The reason is its "Thrive" campaign, whose billboards are everywhere I go - mostly on BART, greeting me at the very beginning and end of my workday.
I like it. As a Responsible Adult In-the-Make, I feel it reflects many core values. Sweetness, purity and an underlying promotion of inner well-being just oozes out of the simple-things imagery.
So when I found out my company chose Kaiser as our healthcare provider, I was stoked. I felt I was embarking on an adventure. KAISER! I'm ready to fall into your clean clinical arms, nodding vigorously at any concerned assessments you'll (doubtless, thoughtfully) make.
Recently my whole body rebelled. I thought it was the flu but my parents, deathly concerned, conveyed me to the big pretty medical center Kaiser keeps near my home.
The first thing Kaiser did was hit me with a massive co-pay. That was cool, I could roll, the big guys cost more, I get it. Some girls brought me into the doctor's office and took my temperature.
"You're at 108," one said, tsk-tsking. I could believe it, I was not feeling cool.
After a few moments I heard jokes and loud laughter outside my door, then the doctor walked in. She couldn't have been much older than me. She looked at me, grinned, asked what my symptoms were, and feigned concern at my response. She seemed to be on the verge of giggles the whole time.
Finally she said, "I doubt you have it but I'm going to have you X-rayed for pneumonia. Head down to the basement."
I was appalled. I could hardly stand! Worse still, the basement was in another building on the other side of campus, where I was hit with another co-pay. And when I returned from the X-ray (all stumbly and shit), I was locked out.
A janitor eventually walked by and let me in with her spare keys. By then I was exhausted. I stumbled into the doctor's office, panting dramatically, world spinning, and collapsed across the counter. She walked in, burst out laughing and cried, "What's wrong with you?" Then she prescribed drugs for sinusitis and sent me on my way.
My parents, tight-lipped, spoonfed me back to life over the next few days. "We told you," they said about 67,000 times, shaking their heads and glaring. "We told you about Kaiser. Didn't we? Ever since you were small."
Great marketing that belies a horrible product or service is just as bad as lazy marketing. In fact, one could argue it probably hurts a company more over the long-term.
An awesome prospective ad for Kaiser:
A tower of made of splintered toothpicks, shooting high into the sky with the tagline: "We may not do our job, but we're pretty damn big, yo. Kaiser Permanente. Even inexpicably, thrive."