09/21/2010 12:56 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Hypocritical Brands: The Health Insurance Industry Takes Home the Gold

It must be a joke. I recently got a letter from my health insurance company that started out by saying,

Dear Valued Member,

At 'Our Company,' helping people make the most of their health is our passion, and we are privileged to be the plan of choice for many individuals, families and employees.

Then there was more about a new relationship that has formed between another insurance company and mine along with lots of hype about how great this new partnership was going to be for everyone. It was obnoxious. No. Correction. It was offensive. Here, they've got the temerity to thank 'their valued customers,' for choosing them, when in truth said customers really don't have much of a choice at all. That is, considering there is no option anywhere for affordable healthcare, fair rates and honest, humane practices. My guess is that if such a "choice" existed, my insurance company, along with all the others, would have not one single "valued customer" to call their own. What made it even worse though was the part about them being passionate about our health. Bullshit. Talk about having a set of cojones. The only thing they are passionate about is their wealth, even if it comes at the expense of the health and well-being of those dear, cherished customers of which they pretend to be so fond.

Never has an industry as a whole been so duplicitous and absent even the slightest trace of a conscience. I want to know how they get away with it. How do they paint such a rosy picture of themselves, then behave with such depravity behind the scenes, yet still rake in billions of dollars? Even as we speak, they are trying to worm out of a claim that I submitted months ago. They didn't like the code, even though the code accurately reflected my diagnosis and the diagnosis is covered under my plan.

Now, think about it from a branding perspective. It's a case study of the very best kind. Their message is one thing -- all warm and fuzzy -- while the truth of their actual practice underneath is something entirely different. They've managed to break every rule in the book of brand marketing and customer relations. As far as I know, it doesn't say anywhere that success is garnered by lying to, cheating and stealing from your customers. Even first year business students learn about the importance of maintaining the integrity of a brand, which would imply that somewhere, somehow, that brand and company have some integrity. Not so when it comes to the health insurance industry. The contradiction between what they say and what they do should have backfired by now. But so far, it hasn't. Coffers continue to swell while they continue to shovel more manure through their ads, taglines and sound bites.

So, in the spirit of being true to who you really are as a brand and being a marketer myself, I'd have much preferred that they wrote something like this...

Dear Ms. Flagg,

As a vital supplier to our profits-above-people business model, we are going to continue to screw you every chance we have because there is nothing you can do about it. We have more power, money and corrupt politicians on our side than you can ever possibly dream of. Sorry. So let us save you the valued customer speech. It's business as usual, no matter who our partner is. We don't care if you or your loved ones get sick and die because our number one priority is to get richer and richer and richer. We'll continue denying your claims for the stupidest, most trivial, fictional and irrelevant reasons we can come up with so that we can hold onto the money we owe you and keep if for ourselves. You'll run around trying to get an answer while we continue getting fatter and more grotesque.

Wishing you well... well, not really.


Your Insurance Company

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