Images and messages used to explain financial products don’t seem realistic or relatable to many consumers, according to a recent survey.
A new joint study by LIMRA and Maddock Douglass reveals that there are 19 million “stuck shoppers” of life insurance in the United States . “Stuck shoppers” are consumers who believe life insurance is valuable and necessary but have been derailed during the shopping process.
“Authentic communication is more than just using everyday language and laymen’s terms. It also includes relatable visuals and attainable goals.”
Our focus groups consistently described shopping for life insurance and other financial products as confusing, frustrating and overwhelming, which kept them from making a decision on what to buy. The words, images and messages used to explain financial products don’t seem realistic or relatable to many of these consumers. Our research was designed to figure out how companies can improve their communications to help these consumers get the coverage they want and need.
Elements of authentic communication
The study uncovered a key factor in the “stuck-shopper” dilemma. It uncovered that communication used by the industry uses lacks authenticity. Authentic communication is more than just using everyday language and laymen’s terms. It also includes relatable visuals and attainable goals.
There are six elements that make up authentic communication:
- Easy to Understand — Language that we use every day
- Down to Earth — Images that feel realistic
- Memorable — Communication that is interesting
- Positive — Messages that are warm and comforting
- Credible — Sources of information that are trustworthy
- Relevant — Communication that says the company understands them, and who they are
Consumers said that one of the biggest obstacles was that they didn’t understand many of the terms used in insurers’ marketing materials. And nearly three quarters said they were not confident they could define what “underwriting” and “permanent life insurance” meant. Two-thirds were not confident they understood the terms “rider,” “guarantees,” “living benefit,” and “annuity.” To view more examples, visit Are We Really Communicating Effectively?
Authentic communication is much more than a revamping of marketing materials and ad campaigns. It is a major innovation opportunity if internalized by the entire culture of an insurance company. This research uncovers where insurers can improve, and builds on work we have done in other areas of insurance, spotlighting the importance of communication in the overall customer experience.
The study consisted of more than 1,500 online interviews to quantify consumer attitudes, behaviors, and perceptions related to insurance industry language and 30 in-person interviews in which consumers shared their experiences, emotions and feelings related to insurance-industry language and images.
To view a video clip of consumers describing what “annuitize” means, please visit In their own words. The initial study results were presented at the 2014 LIMRA Marketing and Research Conference in Boston.
Source: LIMRA/Maddock Douglass Consumer Study, 2014
By Scott Kallenbach and Maria Ferrante-Schepis
Scott Kallenbach is research director at LIMRA Strategic Research. Maria Ferrante-Schepis is managing principal for Insurance and Financial Services Innovation at Maddock Douglass.