It figures that a former star National Football League quarterback is serving as the voice and the face of the LIFE Foundation’s annual campaign to bolster life insurance awareness. These days the organization, guided by President and CEO Marvin H. Feldman, is taking to the offensive with new tactics he hopes will score with new clients and help regain some of the ground the industry has lost with consumers during the past decade.
America is facing what Feldman terms “a crisis of underinsurance,” as documented by figures from LIMRA’s most recent Trends in Life Insurance Ownership study from 2010, which indicated that ownership of individual life insurance had hit a 50-year low, with 11 million fewer American households covered by life insurance compared to six years prior. What’s more, the LIMRA study, conducted every six years, found that 30 percent of U.S. households (35 million) lacked life insurance coverage, up from 22 percent of households in 2004.
However, in the years since those findings were released, the life insurance market has begun to rebound, with individual life insurance new annualized premium increasing six percent in 2012, the third consecutive year of growth, according to LIMRA. Meanwhile, the overall number of life insurance policies sold increased by one percent in 2012, the second consecutive year of positive annual policy growth and the first back-to-back growth years since 1980-81.
While individual insurance companies ride that positive momentum, the Washington, D.C.-based LIFE Foundation finds itself having to do more with less. “The biggest issue we have,” says Feldman, “is funding in general. Every year it becomes more difficult [to secure funding from insurance companies] because every year companies are becoming more brand-centric” and thus, less inclined to financially support an industry organization such as the non-profit LIFE Foundation. While some large mutual companies post record sales, their support for the foundation has dwindled as a result of what he terms a “What’s in it for me?” attitude.
Partly as a way to convince some of those companies that the foundation merits their support, the Feldman-led organization has re-engineered its annual September Life Insurance Awareness Month campaign, building it around a digital platform instead of a print-based advertising strategy as in years past. The shift is aimed at connecting with a consuming public that, from seniors to Millennials, is increasingly tech- and Web-savvy. It’s also designed to yield easy-to-gauge metrics that Feldman hopes will demonstrate that LIFE Foundation programs deliver enough measurable impact to warrant greater industry backing. Its roster of members and partners currently stands at some 165 organizations.
Moving the needle
With NFL quarterback-turned-sports-commentator Boomer Esiason as spokesman, the foundation is “doing something totally different” with its Life Insurance Awareness Month campaign in 2013, says Feldman. “We’re not doing any consumer-facing print advertising. Everything is digital.” Instead of traditional multi-page advertising spreads in consumer magazines like Newsweek, the campaign will rely exclusively on 15- and 30-second “pre-roll” videos — ads that run prior to an online video that a person has clicked to see — to generate buzz. They’re aimed at what he terms a “moderate” demographic: consumers in the 25-to-45 age bracket, mainly female, with an average income under $100,000.
That digital strategy “is going to enable us to come back to the industry with numbers that show whether we are in fact moving the needle as far as consumer awareness is concerned,” he explains.
To move the needle, the pre-roll ads will attempt to pull at the public’s heart strings rather than their purse strings, notes Feldman. “It’s all about trying to get their attention emotionally — to help people realize they need to consider doing more to protect their family with life insurance. People tend to buy based on emotion anyway, then they justify their purchase decision.”
Indifference among younger consumers is one reason for the sharp drop-off in life insurance coverage nationally, according to Feldman. That, coupled with the recent recession and resulting cutbacks in employee benefits, including the employer-provided life insurance option, have hurt the life insurance industry, as has a perception that the product is too expensive, says Feldman, citing recent research that found that consumers perceive life insurance to cost three to seven times its actual cost.