HEALTH PLANS: Wellpoint/Anthem branding mystery

Tom Leith is perplexed about the nation’s largest health plan’s branding strategy:

Have you noticed Anthem is re-branding some/most/all of its Wellpoint operations as “Anthem”? Look at all the “Anthem BCBSs” you see popping up. Is it because Wellpoint destroyed its brand, or what? Or maybe this was the plan: Anthem buys Wellpoint, but keeps the Wellpoint name to mute criticism until… now evidently. Hmmmmm. What do you make of it?

Any ideas for Tom?

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10 replies »

  1. they did have a slide that showed that the Blues name recognition was about 3 times higher than any other health insurance brand.

  2. As a whole, I don’t think it does any good for various specialties to be finger-pointing at each other. That is not where the problems lie. It’s with the patients themselves.
    Everyone wants concierge medicine at no extra charge. So many believe that their particular problem demands immediate attention. They want to wait until 10pm on a Friday night, and then be seen. NOW. Scheduling doctor appointments is a hassle, so they wait until some routine complaint seems more acute, then want to be seen. NOW.

  3. Thanks to everyone who commented. We shall have to see what shakes out of this.

  4. jd,
    I’m not sure. It was only about a 30 second conversation after the formal presentation and Q&A broke up. During their formal presentation, however, they did have a slide that showed that the Blues name recognition was about 3 times higher than any other health insurance brand. Perhaps you could get some clarification from their Investor Relations Department.

  5. Barry, did you get the impression that they intend to use Anthem as a brand in all of their markets? It would be big news if they are going to start using the Anthem brand in markets where it didn’t exist before, namely NY (Empire) and the old WellPoint markets (CA, etc.)

  6. I attended a Wellpoint presentation at a healthcare investors’ conference this morning. I asked the CFO the question after the meeting. His answer was that the Blues name has very high (and generally favorable) name recognition but Wellpoint can only use it in the 14 states where they are licensed to use it. There are 38 Blues plans nationwide. So, they prefer to have Anthem BCBS members use that name which is also well recongized among providers. Since Wellpoint is involved in several other businesses, the Wellpoint name is the one that investors use and focus on as it includes all of the company’s businesses.

  7. They probably were using the Anthem name, several years ago, when the health plans were first approved by the various states. They would be required to use that “legal” name. It probably is a pain in the butt to change the name in all the contracts, regulatory filings, etc.

  8. I did a story on this. Even asked WellPoint/Anthem about it, and they refused to discuss branding strategy with me. I got a broker to shed a little bit of light on the situation in Missouri, perhaps their most confusing market of all, where they have BCBS of Mo, now known as Anthem BCBS. But they also write a lot of business under the HealthLink brand and UniCare, too, in the same state. Oddly enough, they are not doing away with either one. For now, anyway.

  9. I guess I’ve noticed the opposite in Colorado. Anthem was very well branded here, and after the merger I hear “Wellpoint” a lot more and see it in a lot of their communications to brokers and clients.