The language of insurance is turning off prospects. Especially Gen Y prospects and especially when the word “disability” is used.
Did you know that, according to a 2010 study of insurance language conducted by Maddock Douglas, 49 percent of Gen Y associates the word “disability” with being handicapped?* If so, then how many do you think would consider disability income important? Probably very few. Even if you smile and explain what you mean (i.e., insuring income), the damage is done. Their brains have already registered it as irrelevant.
This could be part of the reason why making the case for disability insurance is hard. If you don’t believe me, try using the word “ma’am” the next time you are doing business with a woman under 60 and see how it goes.
Seriously, think about it … the connotation of words and phrases changes over generations, sometimes dramatically. In the above example, the word “ma’am” was a sign of respect. Nowadays, women associate it with being old. It is a term used on their mother or grandmother.
What’s a coffee table book got to do with it?
This is a problem for the insurance industry. Most companies are old enough to have a coffee table book. And in those books, usually commemorating 100-plus year anniversaries, they show you pictures of the first insurance policies ever issued. If you read them, many of the words and phrases used to describe the benefits are the same as they are today. While that’s nostalgic, it may be driving an unintentional wedge with younger generations, who are making a conscious (or even unconscious) association. When we say “premium,” they hear “high quality.” When we say “agent,” they hear “FBI.” When we say “protection,” guess what they hear?
But the risk of disability as a threat to one’s lifestyle is very real, even for young people. I don’t need to convince anyone reading this of that fact.
So what’s the answer? For starters, we can begin to position the product in relevant terms. In the same study quoted earlier, we also asked consumers to rank the attractiveness of the following products. For Gen Y, the ranking looked like this:
1. Income coverage
2. Salary coverage
3. Earnings coverage
4. Disability income coverage
Obviously all four of these are the same, but the “real” name ranked last.