OK, so this probably isn’t your first open enrollment rodeo. And you know the ins and outs of the open enrollment process like the back of your hand.

But do you take the time to craft a compelling message that motivates your employees each and every year to act and engage when it comes to choosing their benefits?

If so, you can stop reading here and move to our next tip. If not, this tip is for you.

Out with the Same Old…and In with New, Compelling Messaging

It’s very easy to let your expertise and years of experience lull you to sleep when it comes to creating new and motivating messaging, and it’s even easier to just go back to what’s been used in the past. After all, employees all know the drill and they’re jazzed up to pick their benefits every year, right?

Yeah right. If only it were that easy.

Just because open enrollment is required, don’t fall into the trap of assuming that everyone will pay attention and all you have to do is publish (and re-publish) the deadline. And just like every advertising campaign’s message needs to be refreshed/reworked/stopped after it has run its course, your open enrollment campaign messaging should be refreshed to be relevant and action-driving every year.

Your campaign message will not only help keep open enrollment top of mind and fresh with your colleagues, it will also serve as your rallying cry throughout your benefits communication cycle. It will be part of (or closely connected with) every message that you deliver. So don’t be boring by going with the same old messaging that your employees will likely tune out. Be bold and get noticed!

Mimic Great Advertising Campaigns

But don’t fool yourself: creating a campaign message IS NOT EASY. Your challenge is to create a campaign message for open enrollment that has the characteristics of great advertising campaigns; namely, they

  • are memorable and simple
  • are personally relevant
  • show how the marketed item or service makes a person happier, safer, more fulfilled or wealthier and
  • drive action

Geico has a great and enduring campaign message: “15 minutes can save you 15% or more on your car insurance.” It’s simple, memorable and direct. It’s relevant to me as a car owner. It’s easy to figure out how Geico can improve my financial situation and for a commitment of only 15 minutes of time. Geico pounds this message over and over, and it drives millions of people to contact them.

Conversely, a good campaign message for open enrollment is NOT “Open Enrollment is here again. Sign up for your benefits. Hurry, the deadline is in four weeks.” Why not? It’s not memorable, it’s not simple (the average employee probably doesn’t know what ‘open enrollment’ is), it’s not relevant to any one person or group of people, it doesn’t explain why someone should care (‘benefits’ is too generic, and not something that people are jumping up and down to sign up for), and the call to action is weak. The only thing that’s good about it is the deadline urgency messaging, but even that’s not specific enough.

So, how can you develop a campaign message that rocks for your benefits communication during open enrollment? Here are some tips:

1. Start with a good motivator – Philosophers tell us that people have two motivators: fear and love. Well, marketers motivate people in two similar ways as well:

  • Fear of missing out (or of making a poor choice) and
  • Opportunity for gain.

(Incidentally, I prefer to focus on the opportunity for gain, but that’s just me). Your open enrollment campaign and call to action should focus on one of these two motivators.

2. Shift the focus from the standard, regular messaging such as “choosing your benefits” – a task that’s riddled with feelings of boredom, brain pain and tedium – to something that’s more outcome/upside related. A tried and true method is to focus on savings, just like Geico does. After all, who doesn’t like savings or making more money?!

So perhaps a message like “See if you can reduce your health care expenses by up to $XXXX? Act now” or “Increase your take-home pay by up to $XXXX. See how.”

3. Play up any changes that you may be making to your plans by leading with your primary motivator, rather than leading with the change itself. For example, maybe you’re introducing a new HSA. Some benefits communicators might lead with: “NEW Health Savings Account. See how you can put away money pre-tax to pay for expenses later in the year.” The statement itself is true, and some (small number of) people will understand what it means. But it’s not very inspiring, motivational or tangible. A message like “Want to lower your tax bill by up to $XXXX? Check out our brand new program now” is more focused and universally appealing.

If you’re looking for some message inspiration, check out the following links: 10 Greatest Marketing Campaigns of All Time and What Is the Best Advertising Campaign of All Time?

And here’s the first ever ‘Just Do It’ ad from Nike, from 1988 for even more inspiration:


Bottom Line: Stand out with your benefits communication campaign and be bold – every year. Follow the lead of great advertisers, be direct and show how your program has the potential to make your employees happier, wealthier or safer.

If you haven’t read our prior post, here’s Tip #1: Begin with the End in Mind.