Our approach was driven by balancing an aggressive timeline while coordinating with a national rebrand done by another firm. I realized that we would have to work closely with all stakeholders internally and the architect in order to fast track and coordinate with the various initiatives.
We knew the president of Blue KC wanted four to five locations by fall 2013 in order to cover the metropolitan area. We cautioned against opening so many without prototyping and testing out at least one location. In the end, we were able to start with one concept that opened within 9 months to test our design approach.
A User-Experience Approach
We began our process by understanding the customer personas. Blue Cross Blue Shield had invested significant research in segmentation. We identified people in each segment and conducted ethnographic interviews to understand key motivations according to functional and emotional needs. After charting various customer journeys (as shown below) we were able to prototype potential experience options.
Our team visited and toured similar concepts across the country to learn best practices and opportunities for improvement. We observed how users interacted with spaces and talked to the operators to understand how things could be improved. We realized that in order to attract people to our new concept, we would need a lure that was meaningful and authentic to the Blue KC brand. We also understood that it had to be easily managed, staffed and flexible to adjust to each customer’s needs and health trends.
Next steps involved developing the business model for the retail concept. Along with the architect, CEO and Blue KC retail group, we considered various combinations of retail community space and sales functions for the new location. For inspiration, we studied concepts in banking, personal finance, health and wellness and upscale restaurants.
We also looked at other recently introduced Blue KC concepts across the country. One environment we considered was a full-service sales and customer service destination. Another imagined a large community “third space” that groups could reserve and where members or non-members could register for cooking or fitness classes and seminars, maybe even meet with a life coach. All of these options were vetted against limitations of space, budget and regulation.
The Roadmap for Design
After we established a business model and clear positioning strategy, we were able to hone in on a name "Live Blue." Working in tandem with the client's agency of record, SHS and the national BCBS association we explored the identity in conjunction with a brand identity redesign that was occurring concurrently by Landor. Lots to juggle with a tight window for design/build of the initial concept. To make sure we avoided any surprises or roadblocks we worked closely with the client, the agency, and the architect.
What came from this exercise was a symbiotic balance between a community gathering place focused on wellness and an information and support center for guidance through the complex world of health insurance.
Willoughby developed a communication platform and theme for designing and communicating the space: Be Inspired. Be Informed. Be Well. The word “inspired” was the goal for developing relationships with Blue KC members to encourage others in their quest for better health. This is part of the long-term brand build.
We explored various names and extensions of the more corporate Blue Cross Blue Shield brand system. Our intent was to make it more accessible and consumer facing. We also wanted to maintain the equity of the iconic Cross and Shield. After exploring a range of names, from the straightforward “The Blue KC Store” to metaphorical “Living Room”, we selected Live Blue. It reinforced the brand, connected to a new Blue KC “Live Fearless” campaign, and made the space more approachable as a lifestyle center instead of simply a storefront.
The “Living Room” concept still guided the design parti and programming. Locations were selected based on pedestrian traffic as well as proximity to neighborhoods and other retail destinations. The team wanted an inviting space that didn’t look like a used car sales floor. The architect selected finishes that were clean, modern and inviting.
Willoughby integrated the iconic Blue Cross and Blue Shield logo throughout the space in unexpected ways using sports equipment including jump ropes, skateboards and racquetballs. We wanted to translate the logo into something more consumer facing.
We also designed a mock retail space at the entrance. This provided a framework for seasonal or monthly displays. For example, the first month featured running equipment curated by a local running shop and club. Another month focused on nutritional facts and information on products. When passing to window-shop, visitors may be drawn into the store.
Members and non-members could register for yoga or Zumba classes, learn the basics of a healthy lifestyle or attend seminars on how the new healthcare reform might affect them or their families. Cycling and running groups would be invited to use the space as a meeting place. Willoughby created spaces to help promote these events including a calendar wall to mark events in a colorful and inviting fashion.
Since opening the first prototype in August, there has been a steady stream of visitors, made up of 60% members and 40% non-members, that is picking up. Introductory fitness classes are popular as are appearances by local professional athletes.
Word-of-mouth is the big driver bringing people into the space. The goal is to attract more non-members and convert them over. At the same time, LiveBlue is now tweaking to provide 1-on-1 customer service to existing members.
Live Blue was also a proud recipient of an AIGA Justified Award. It has also become a model prototype for other Blue Cross Shields across the country.