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Nathan Golia
Nathan Golia
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Can Social Media Save Life Insurance?

Let's be honest: Selling life insurance is about getting people to buy something related to their death, and who wants to think about that? More insurers are looking to begin that talk with prospects by turning to the most conversational technology available to them.

Much has been made of the soft market in P&C insurance, but things aren't much better for life insurers. According to LIMRA, life insurance ownership is in the doldrums — a point AXA Equitable's Connie O'Brien made in a recent interview discussing the company's new social game and iPad app.

"Leveraging research, we know life insurance ownership is at an all-time low," O'Brien told me. "We [want] to leverage technology in order to teach people what the benefits of that product specifically are."

Yesterday, MassMutual made the same point in a pitch announcing a new social media-focused campaign, "Why Life Insurance?" Hosted on the company's Facebook page, the social media program "was developed in part to address an industry-wide challenge: the record low in life insurance ownership," according to a MassMutual statement.

The company adds that "Why Life Insurance?":

highlights the key benefits of life insurance and seeks to confront common barriers to ownership, such as the anxiety that comes with discussing death, prioritizing financial responsibilities and dispelling the notion that life insurance can be expensive. The videos feature children taking control of the discussion by questioning a life insurance agent and quizzing adults on their knowledge of the topic.

The content of the MassMutual videos — that is, children broaching life insurance subjects with their parents — reminded me of an interesting story O'Brien told me about AXA's game, Pass it On. The game uses two different colors of shields as metaphors for permanent and term life insurance, and once, when her young son finished playing it, he turned to her and asked, "Do we have shields?"

"I said yes, and he said, 'Which one?'" O'Brien relates. "That was the moment of truth for me as a mom. I could say we had a lot of gold and a little silver. The idea is, how can you make it as easy as possible to get the main gist of how a complex financial instrument works?"

What both initiatives tell me is that life insurance carriers recognize that they have to change their tactics to engage new consumer profiles. AXA decided on a social game because of the propensity for young families — an ideal life insurance target — to play them; while MassMutual's choices of creative and media targets a similar audience.

“We understand the role of social media in communications today and believe Facebook provides a great forum to generate conversation about an important, yet oftentimes uncomfortable subject,” MassMutual SVP and CMO John Chandler says in a statement. “Kids delivering the message make the subject seem more approachable and serves as a reminder that life insurance is all about protection.”

Almost three years ago, I wrote an article about life insurance marketing that showed carriers only taking limited steps into online marketing. It's interesting to see that while the challenges the industry faces are similar to what they were back then, the solutions are much more advanced. Selling life insurance continues to depend on building a foundation of trust with prospective policyholders — see Aviva's "Youmanity" campaign for another example —'it's only natural that social media, with it's two-way conversation capability, becomes a big part of it.

Nathan Golia is senior editor of Insurance & Technology. He joined the publication in 2010 as associate editor and covers all aspects of the nexus between insurance and information technology, including mobility, distribution, core systems, customer interaction, and risk ... View Full Bio

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