Here’s the thing about life insurance: you don’t really need it. Seriously. Whether or not you have life insurance will have absolutely no effect on you whatsoever. When your time comes, you will die; that we can guarantee with 100% certainty. Once you are dead, whether or not you have life insurance will not affect you at all.
There is, however, one small chink in the chain of the above logic. Once you are gone, your life insurance policy (or lack thereof) will greatly affect those who depend on you: your children, surviving spouse, and other loved ones. And this little chink is how the life insurance industry makes its fortune. Marketing of life insurance is designed to appeal to your sense of obligation – and guilt. Nearly all of the marketing messages surrounding the sales of life insurance are designed to make you feel that if you lack life insurance, you will leave your family destitute and your children struggling to shoulder the heavy burden of your financial failures in life long after your death.
The cold, hard facts are pretty sobering: an excellent infographic from Efinancial reports that while 93% of Americans think life insurance is a necessity, 50% of them lack “adequate” coverage. Why the cognitive dissonance? Well, life insurance is expensive, but there are other factors at work. In addition to the expense of life insurance, there are two additional reasons why so few Americans purchase comprehensive coverage.
First, the industry is very confusing. According to Jennifer Douglas, a research director at LIMRA, the Life Insurance Marketing and Research Association, “One of the top reasons consumers give about why they don’t buy life insurance is because it is ‘too confusing’…consumers with a better understanding of life insurance have a higher level of confidence in insurance companies than those less knowledgeable about life insurance.”
As if the expense and difficulty of making sense of the life insurance industry is not enough, the marketing messages behind it can be overwhelming and fear-inducing. The principle of behavioral psychology “explains all mental and physical activity in terms of response by glands and muscles to external factors (stimuli).”
In other words: IF this, THEN that. Marketing messages related to life insurance are designed to hit you right where it hurts, hopefully causing you to pick up the phone and call your friendly local life insurance agent. Ideally, you sign up for the most comprehensive (and expensive) policy possible to guarantee that your loved ones will not suffer additional financial pain once you are gone. In my opinion, they are doing a pretty good job; researching life insurance advertisements for this article left me weepy mess.
With these factors in mind, let’s look at some of the emotional sucker-punching “worst offenders” in the life insurance marketing field.