What Was Wrong with “Avocado?”

What’s in a name?

Plenty if you’re the California Health Benefit Exchange, which plans to have a website operational by September displaying the various health care plans several million individual Californians without coverage and the operators of small businesses can purchase beginning January 1, 2014.

A key part of the exchange’s mission is to ensure more uninsured Californians become insured.

To do accomplish that, a great deal of marketing will be required. Lucky, the exchange has been given $90 million for outreach. How that $90 million will be spent — and how effectively — remains to be seen.

Unknown-1But Step One, creation of a name that resonates significantly more strongly with consumers than “California Health Benefit Exchange,” has been accomplished.

Effective the tail end of October, the exchange became “Covered California.”

Part of the $90 million in outreach will be used to inform consumers that what will be covered is, in fact, their health care needs.

“The brand name will never exist on its own in a vacuum. It is just one part of (a) big system. There will always be supporting creative (stuff?) surrounding the name that will provide context and added meaning,” notes Chris Kelly, senior advisor, Marketing and Outreach, for “Covered California” in a September PowerPoint presented before the exchange became “Covered California.” (See Page 5 of the PowerPoint.)

This choice of name was no whim. There were public hearings. Testimony. Written comments. Focus groups. To better understand the attractiveness of “Covered California” – as opposed presumably to “Uncovered California” — consider the rejected alternatives.

“CaliHealth” and “Healthifornia” sound vaguely like something former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger might say or the title of a new Red Hot Chili Peppers CD. “CaliHealth” was subsequently eliminated as an option based on “serious concerns about being able to trademark” it, as a result of an investigation by the exchange in conjunction with legal counsel from Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, Kelly reported to the “Covered California“ board in October. Again, this was prior to official conversion of the exchange to “Covered California.”

Ogilvy is being paid at least $900,000 by “Covered California” to help with issues like finding the best new name for the entity formerly known as the exchange. “CalAccess” and “PACcess” were rejected, perhaps because they are even vaguer than “Covered California,” begging the question, “Access to what exactly?”

Also nixed was “Wellquest,” no doubt due to it sounding too similar to Grover, the Washington DC anti-tax crusader.

“Eureka,” California’s motto, also hit the cutting room floor despite its very apropos translation from the Greek, “I’ve found it.”

Would “Avocado” have made other states green with envy over their failure to stumble upon so clever a name?

As to the rejection of “Ursa,” which was one of the top four names chosen by September focus groups in Los Angeles and Sacramento, there’s simply no accounting for taste.

Kelly told the board in October, the same investigation aided by Ogilvy that led to the elimination of “CaliHealth” uncovered “language/translation concerns” regarding “Ursa.” Game over.

 Something called “Quanti-Quali testing” of the remaining names – with proposed logos — was conducted in San Diego and Sacramento on October 23 and October 24.

Here’s when “Eureka” was rejected.

“The name of “Eureka” did not test well but when presented with logo and tagline there was wide acceptance,” Kelly’s October PowerPoint to the board says. “ ‘Eureka’ was more often seen as a ‘private program’ compared to ‘Covered California,’ which many saw as a ‘public’ program.”

Hispanic respondents found “Covered California” or “California Covered” to be “particularly appealing.” Two-thirds of all respondents also liked either of those two names best.

Apparently, part of the attraction of “Covered California” was the ability to incorporate the two “C”s in the logo.Unknown

The 228 “Quanti-Quali” people — 70 of whom were married and 158 single, Kelly’s October PowerPoint notes – examined four options for the “Covered California” logo and selected the “inverted double ‘C’s logo” as their favorite.

“Many observed that it felt ‘safe’ and protected, especially respondents with families,” Kelly told the board.

“Covered California” is, of course, focused on more than merely sifting through the naming choices of focus groups.

While the coverage options for consumers won’t be posted until September, bids to offer coverage through “Covered California” are already being accepted. January 4 is the cut-off.

There’s negotiations between submitters and “Covered California” for the first half of 2013. Contracts will be signed with the winners “on or around June 1st,” according to “Covered California’s” timeline.



Filed under: State Agencies


  1. Greg, They should contract with a thoughtful, well experienced reporter who has seen it all and then you could tell them how many ways that their new name and logo will be belittled, shamed, embarrassed, and satirized in the future. bill

    Comment by Bill Leonard — 12.14.2012 @ 6:05 pm

  2. It seems like the design could have been a little more energetic — who can really see the double Cs in it? But the title is good, I think, and will catch on and help people find the info they need.

    Comment by JoAnn Anglin — 12.14.2012 @ 7:27 pm

  3. I thought that was the name of the CDC’s condom distribution program

    Comment by Richard Marx — 12.14.2012 @ 9:59 pm

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