Filed Under:Life Insurance, Life Planning Strategies

Life insurance: Cause or product?

Opinion

(AP Photo/Dr. Scott M. Lieberman)
(AP Photo/Dr. Scott M. Lieberman)

It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month. But, of course, you know that already, assuming you’ve purchased groceries, flipped on the TV or walked down a cosmetics aisle at any point in the last two weeks.

Every October, there seem to be more pink ribbons, more pink-clad 5K run-walkers, more pink-themed yogurts and lipsticks and sweatpants promising to give a percentage of their proceeds to the cause. Breast cancer may be a terrible disease, but it has phenomenal marketing skills.

I can’t help but compare BCAM with last month’s Life Insurance Awareness Month. You, of course, knew it was Life Insurance Awareness Month. (I hope.) But did you know any non-life insurance producers who knew it was?

Maybe it’s an unfair comparison. After all, LIAM is mostly geared toward informing agents, who are expected to then inform consumers. And besides, breast cancer is an unasked-for condition that has affected millions, and life insurance is merely a product. It would be ridiculous to walk a 5K for iPhones or to buy a t-shirt in support of … t-shirts. Same goes for life insurance, right?

Well … maybe. Life insurance lives in a weird space somewhere between cause and product. (A pause? A croduct?) On one hand, it has improved the lives of bereaved families for centuries. For many, it can mean the difference between a comfortable existence and an impoverished one. And study after study showing the growing life insurance coverage gap proves we're not getting that message out to people often or widely enough. On the other hand, life insurance is something that has to be shopped for and purchased. Agents earn a commission from its sale, and insurance companies are far from nonprofits.

That leaves our industry in an awkward position when it comes to raising awareness. If we promote life insurance awareness as a cause, are we educating people for their own benefit? Or are we trying to sell more policies for ours?

It seems the best workaround to this hybrid dilemma has been a hybrid approach, at least at the agent level. I’ve spoken with many successful producers who sponsor genuine causes in their hometowns — golf fundraisers, charity races — and then use the opportunity to (non-aggressively) boost education about life insurance needs, too.

Maybe the industry would be better served by taking that approach on a larger scale. Many carriers sponsor cause-related endeavors, but most of the time, that only gets them a banner at the finish line or a logo printed on a handout. What if they worked to make those sponsorships more meaningful? The thousands of run-walkers at a Komen race could receive a calendar with pre-printed monthly self-exam reminders — and twice a year, that calendar could also remind them to double check their life insurance coverage. Or at the celebrity-heavy Stand Up to Cancer telethon, after a donor made a pledge, suppose he could have the option to be transferred to a telephone-bank of life insurance agents, waiting to talk to him about his current life insurance coverage?

Using a partnership/sponsorship technique, the life industry would be able to boost awareness without trying to mask itself as a cause worthy of its own month. It would also be able to piggy-back on causes that have built-in audiences already, instead of spending time and money to try to gain attention on its own. What’s more, health-related causes have a tendency to remind people of their own mortality, which makes events involving those causes ideal for broaching the subject of life insurance.

What do you think? What are you doing, locally, to boost awareness of the "croduct" that is life insurance?

 

For more from Corey Dahl, see:

Is life insurance the next Big Bird?

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