With all of the distractions that abound and the Niagara flow of information coming out of the various media, how does one go about getting the attention of the public?
One glaring success in answer to this question is Britney Spears. Spears, by means of her raunchy performances featuring low rise pants and her belly button, has certainly captured the attention of young girls just about everywhere. Visit any shopping mall or pass by a school and its wall-to-wall belly buttons.
And there is real commitment, for most look like their pants are about to fall off, thereby demonstrating a willingness to endure some discomfort as a show of allegiance to this fador fashion statement, if you prefer.
I will repress the urge to comment on the sanity of it allmy only point being that, despite the distractions of war talk, terrorism and the like, with the right symbol, you can attract attention and modify behavior.
Needless to say, advertisers of all stripes have been quick to capitalize on this craze by gracing their ads with belly buttons galore. But where does that leave the insurance business trying to deliver a more sober message to the masses? Neither Snoopy nor the Aflac duck has a sexy belly button to compete in this arena. But we do have our own symbols.
Over the years we have used many symbols to convey the notion of strength and dependability. The Rock of Gibraltar, eagles, lights that never fail, giant redwood trees (now replaced by a breaching whale) all speak, or have spoken, to what we are. I would not want to downplay the importance of that message, but the more important message relating to what we do has not been so prominently featured.
For years, agents have clamored for more effort to let the public know about the important role that their work and the products they sell play in the lives of those they serve.
The cries from the field have become particularly strident when the media has denigrated the business with unfair criticism. A classic example is the hatchet job recently done on UnumProvident by NBCs Dateline. The program was outrageous and demonstrated how the media can take a few facts and weave them into a great lie, thereby rendering a disservice to the public and harm to a vital industry.
David Halberstam, in his book, “The Powers That Be,” described in detail how the media uses its power to sell its point of view by selective reporting. The central point that I gleaned from this book was his assertion that “the real power of the press is the power to decide what to report.” We need very strong symbols to overcome that kind of power.