Life Insurance Awareness Month (LIAM) is over and I have to wonder about its effectiveness. Those of us involved in the industry undoubtedly knew that that there was an awareness campaign going on but what about Tim, the bartender at a local establishment, who I know from conversations holds no life insurance? Or James, who just had a baby and is busy working two jobs? Were they made more aware?

I would have to say no, but LIAM is more about giving those in the industry the tools that they need to spread the word. The grassroots movement which is sponsored by the non-profit LIFE Foundation gives producers a wide array of useful tools that they can use to help educate those in their communities about the importance of life insurance. LIAM was never supposed to be national campaign that targeted members of the general public but maybe such an idea should now be considered.

Throughout LIAM those of us involved in the industry have been hit with a deluge reports, white papers and surveys most of which painted a gloomy picture of a severely underinsured country (see page 54). There are massive sales opportunities out there. The industry has statistics on its side; a no-frills sales approach that explains to a potential customer how underinsured the majority of the country is, coupled with clearing up the common misconception that life insurance is unaffordable, should make it as simple as selling umbrellas in the middle of an impromptu rain storm. Right?

Individual producers going out and making the argument person-to-person will hardly put a dent in the coverage gap, though. And although this flies in the face of the old industry adage that life insurance is ‘sold not bought’ an awareness campaign aimed at the general public that works in tandem with the current campaign that gives producers the tools to spread the word would be much more effective.

It should be noted that the LIFE Foundation already does an impressive job at reaching the general public. Their program, realLIFEstories showcases the importance of owning life insurance through personal anecdotes that are meant to stimulate awareness amongst the general public. This year, realLifestories were featured as part of a special advertising section in Oprah’s O magazine.

Awareness campaigns are, by definition, crudely simple. They are about conveying your message to as many people as possible. Availing producers and carriers with reports and materials meant for educating clients is all well and good but it complicates the process. The current LIAM playbook should be executed alongside a broad campaign that targets members of the general public.

Some people reading this will probably wonder how a non-profit can wage an all out national awareness campaign. Well, taking out full-page ads in newspapers or draping train stations in major cities with billboards are not the most effective forms of advertising anymore. And, let’s face it, we should not expect to see LIAM ads during prime-time television shows either (although Buddy ‘the Cake Boss’ Valastro was the spokesman this year).

Besides the obvious inclination to utilize social media these days that may not be the best bet, either. LIAM had dismal results with their social media endeavor— 22 likes on Facebook and two wall photos.

The LIFE Foundation should look to innovative and extremely cost-effective methods to get the word out and one of the most successful that comes to mind is Movember. The portmanteau that combines the slang word for mustache with the month that the awareness campaign takes place, November has been incredibly effectual with raising awareness for men’s health.

The charity, The Movember Foundation has since 2004 been raising awareness for men’s health, most notably prostate cancer by encouraging participants to grow mustaches throughout the month of November. When these men are inevitably questioned about their new style of facial hair, the awareness campaign is in full, cost-effective swing. Movemeber has been so successful that is spread from Australia and New Zealand to become a world-wide movement, making the list of the top 100 NGO’s in the 2012 edition of The Global Journal.

So, LIAM should grow beyond its current state of reminding those in the industry of how important life insurance is and giving them the tools to pass that on to their communities and make the jump to a national or even global campaign. I’m sure an industry as dedicated to helping people will find a way to do it.