The New Marketing: A Coming Sea Change In The Industry

A major sea change is about to occur in the life and health insurance industry.

Stated simply, by solving the publics need for actionable intelligence about its financial future, the industry will regain trust, in an unbiased way.

This will trigger what I call “The New Marketing” era, which will start with a tidal wave hitting the business in the next few years. This wave will break even as the industry is in various stages of solving its current problems (see some problems and solutions in Chart 1 on this page).

The worst problem right now is inadequate sales. This is where the New Marketing can be the answer. Well discuss it shortly.

When assessing what is coming, it helps to look at history. In this case, lets review historical trends from the viewpoint of who is looking after the consumer. Chart 2 provides my overview on this. As you can see, the trends have changed dramatically over the years, and sea changes have resulted for the industry.

In 2003, the answer to the question, “who looks after you?” is a scary one: “Oneself.” The reactions of the public are (1) mistrust, and (2) need for unbiased actionable intelligence about the future.

As you can see, the industry succeeded in addressing the human condition challenges of 1925 and 1955. My belief is it can do so again with todays challengesbut only through a sea change.

This is where the New Marketing comes in. This is an umbrella term for providing the client with actionable intelligence about his or her financial future. It will reveal itself in many specific initiatives and vary from company to company, but it will always involve that actionable intelligence feature.

Such intelligence will include the good and bad news about the clients situation, will be free of all bias and will exhibit total integrity. It will not be product oriented; it will be people oriented.

Clients will be advised in terms of needs they can readily see. So, finally, “selling to fit needs” will be a reality for the broad cross section of the industry. By confronting the human condition itself, the industry will cause a fundamental change in its way of doing business.

It is true that the industry has been taking steps in this direction for many years. But for the last decade, at least, those efforts were far overshadowed by product-focused marketing efforts.

In the New Marketing era, product talk and product development wont be left out in the cold. In fact, I believe surprising product innovations will emerge. But the emphasis will be on building and selling products that are designed to fit client needs, not demand for sizzle.

These innovations will include new, affordable and tax-efficient ways to deal with a persons healthy periods of activity as well as with long-term illness. There will be broader use of Medical Savings Accounts, critical illness coverage and permanent products that have undergone a renaissance.

There also will be new products we cannot now envision.

Industry leaders are telling me sales already are resulting from approaches that concentrate on meeting needs–especially in products geared to the long term.

In coming to grips with the New Marketing, the industry has a couple of things going for it. One is the obvious public need for new approaches to health insurance.

Another, fortuitously about to happen, is the changeover in the Commissioners Standard Ordinary tables. Already the public feels the impact: “Youre finally lowering the tables!” is something Ive heard more than a few times from people in my community.

Of course, we need to do far more than just lower those tables. The “far more” consists of embarking on the New Marketing approaches described above.

John M. Bragg, FSA, ACAS, MAAA, is actuarial consultant at John M. Bragg and Associates, Atlanta; past president of Society of Actuaries; and past CEO of Life Insurance Company of Georgia. You can e-mail him at nbk@mindspring.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, December 5, 2003. Copyright 2003 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.