President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law on March 23, 2010. That’s 1,288 days between the law’s enactment and it’s main effective date, October 1, 2013. In that time period the law has been upheld by the Supreme Court, President Obama was re-elected running (in part) on the law’s passage, and the House of Representative’s voted 42 times to repeal the law.
What didn’t happen in those 1,288 days was any coherent effort by the Obama Administration to promote the law, build awareness of its various provisions and deadlines, or explain its benefits. Oh, sure, various Administration officials have appeared on Sunday morning talk shows over the last three years to explain or defend the law. That might be helpful for the nation’s pundit class, but most Americans don’t watch these programs and couldn’t be bothered about the political battles over a law that hadn’t even taken effect yet.
What Obamacare needed (and still needs) was a full-scale marketing and branding campaign, similar to any new product launch by a company. Advertisements explaining the law should have been as ubiquitous as McDonalds (“Obamacare: I’m Lovin’ It!” or maybe “Obamacare: the ultimate health insurance machine”). A hundred million dollars a year in advertising and branding (chump change for government spending) would have gone a long way toward creating awareness and support for the law.
The absence of positive messaging about Obamacare also demonstrates a truism about communications and marketing: if you aren’t telling your story, someone else is telling it for you. In this case, those who oppose the law have been aggressively “explaining” to the American public why it’s such a bad idea for people to have health insurance. It may not make sense, but it’s been effective and is one of the reasons why the Republicans feel emboldened enough to shut down the federal government completely.
Marketing Obamacare: it should have been what the doctor ordered.