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Persado Helps Humana Members Shoo the Flu

In fact, the right words could help save the lives of many Humana Inc. members this flu season. That is, if they click their emails.

It’s easy to throw away a “Shoo the Flu” postcard reminder as just more junk mail or delete an emailed flu shot reminder as yet another inbox annoyance. After all, “You need to get your annual flu shot” is a predictable and uncompelling call to action.

But it’s too important a message to miss. 

In December 2019, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported elevated levels of flu-like illness in all parts of the United States for the 2019/2020 flu season. There have been up to 3.7 million cases of flu and up to 3,300 related deaths by December 7, 2019, according to the CDC. And it expects flu activity to continue to increase as the season peaks from December to February. 

Humana began using the Persado AI platform to send flu-shot reminders starting in 2017 to protect its members from the virus and its potentially serious complications. In a December article from The Wall Street Journal, Humana Chief Marketing Officer Jennifer Bazante said the nation’s fifth-largest health insurer believed it did a solid job reaching out to its members to encourage them, but it thought it could improve the messaging to boost its engagement rates.

After analyzing the phrase with its cloud-based tool, Persado recommended a subtle but impactful change to: “[First name] we’re serious about protecting you this flu season.”

Persado had previously helped Louisville, Ky.-based Humana on more than 40 campaigns, including the successful optimization of a prescription refill email campaign to make it easier for customers to get their medications. Now, Humana wanted to see what AI could do for its annual flu vaccine email pitch.

Humana proposed “Be sure to protect yourself and your loved ones this flu season” as the flu-shot reminder email subject line. Persado fed that phrase into its platform, which understands language and breaks phrases down into narrative, emotion, descriptions, calls-to-action, formatting, and word positioning. Using natural language generation, it tapped its knowledgebase of more than 1 million tagged and scored words and phrases to create the best message where every word can make the right emotional appeal.

After analyzing the phrase with its cloud-based tool, Persado recommended a subtle but impactful change to: “[First name] we’re serious about protecting you this flu season.

Bazante told The Wall Street Journal the phrase “we’re serious” gave Humana’s subject line “a sense that the company had committed to its members’ well-being.” She also noted that adding an emotional element made its members respond because it created a sense of trust.

Humana CMO Bazante also noted that adding an emotional element made its members respond because it created a sense of trust.

The results are nothing to sneeze at.

“The Humana message had an open rate of about 20%, while the Persado message had an open rate of 31%,” The Wall Street Journal reported. “And more people clicked through. The Persado message had a click-through rate of 0.83%, more than double the rate for the original Humana message, 0.41%”

Bazante said Humana is still crunching the numbers to see how many more members actually got their flu shots, but the improved click-through rate implies members were indeed more engaged with their health.

Getting the messaging right always makes a big difference in marketing creative. But in this case, the right messaging impacted Humana members’ health and potentially saved people from getting the dreaded flu. Up next for Persado and Humana, the duo has plans for 20 more campaigns using AI to get the right message.