How to Market a Boring Product, Part II

Continuing our discussion about marketing boring products, I wanted to take a moment to discuss the hidden challenge of marketing a particularly boring product, life insurance.  That challenge takes the form of something most people anticipate with great excitement: retirement.

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Read part I here.

Retirement, aka “economic irrelevancy”

So-called boring products usually have a clear reason why people don’t like to talk about them.  This reason can be obvious, as it is with laxatives, or can stem from categories which trade in distinctions without differences, such as laundry detergents.  However, these products often have a secondary, less obvious reason for making them difficult to talk about.

If death represents life insurance’s obvious taboo, then retirement represents the hidden one, even though decades of retirement-themed ads have encouraged us to think of that time as “golden,” replete with golf, sailboats and travel to exotic lands.

However, consider this: men–moreso than women–in our society owe a lot of their identity to their jobs.  Whether they pride themselves on pursuing a prestigious career or simply on providing for their families, work represents more than a vocation.  Work represents identity.

What’s this got to do with life insurance?

First off, men are more likely than women to buy life insurance.  Secondly, just over two-thirds of life insurance bought by individuals in terms of face value comes in the form of term insurance.  In other words, most of the life insurance that people buy for themselves is intended to cover the insured’s working years.

For perhaps the first time in his young life, the insured will have to answer the question “when do you plan to retire?”  Term insurance basically equates to income insurance.  So this prospect sits in a broker’s office or behind a glowing laptop on his kitchen table and needs to think about the point at which he will no longer contribute to the family pot by his labor.

What should life insurance marketers do about this hidden taboo?

As far as I know, no life insurance marketer addresses retirement as economic irrelevance per se, although many insurers who also offer retirement products portray it either in terms of second acts or expanded time with personal interests.

Insurance marketers shouldn’t try to address retirement in branding or awareness materials.  It’s hard enough getting prospects to think about life insurance at all without clouding the issue.  Rather, they should make sure to put retirement into the proper context in conversion materials–product pages on the website, brochures and even call center rep training.  It would help to start with a very common utility on insurance websites, an insurance calculator.

What’s more, this treatment requires more nuance than outright discussion.  Instead of the typical “when do you plan to retire?” question, consider something that anticipates some anxiety around the question, such as “how long do you think you’ll need to cover your income?”  Or put the question some context by adding explanatory copy along the lines of “people often use insurance to guard against loss of income during earning years.”

Place more importance in conveying the right sentiment than saying the right words.  Understand that a life insurance buyer may feel blindsided by this sudden consideration not only of his own mortality but also of his sense of worth.  Look at the images used in your marketing materials: do they connote impossible dreams, shades of decrepitude or a sympathetic but clear-eyed vision of the future?

Life insurance doesn’t seem do boring anymore, does it?



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