The Advisory Career

Ineffective Communication Limits Sales

Study: Many People Who Recognize Need for Life Insurance
Are Often Deterred By Industry, Legal Jargon

WINDSOR, Conn., Feb. 6, 2015—Life insurance companies may be limiting their sales potential by using words and images that do not resonate with consumers and often confuse them, according to a new joint study by LIMRA and Maddock Douglas.

“We’re all familiar with the philosophical problem about a tree falling in the forest and the question about whether it makes a sound,” said Scott Kallenbach, research director, LIMRA Strategic Research and coauthor of the study. “We essentially applied the same question to what financial services companies are saying. And we’ve found that even if consumers are hearing what’s being said, they frequently don’t understand.”

The study, Get Real Already—Authenticating Industry Language, explored consumers’ experiences, emotions, and feelings related to insurance industry language and imagery and how financial services companies could improve their communications efforts. (This video highlights several consumer responses.)

The study also revealed that there were 18.7 million Americans who truly see the value in life insurance and think it is something they should have, but they have gotten stuck somewhere in the shopping process. “The industry needs to communicate using authentic language and relatable imagery,” said Kallenbach. “Our goal here is to help financial services companies set the stage for wholesale, industry-wide changes in communications.

When customers and would-be customers are able to see the value in companies’ products clearly, they’re much more likely to take an interest in them and make a purchase.” The report finds that an overall shift in thinking may be required for these changes to occur. “For some companies, it may require a cultural transformation,” said Maria Ferrante-Schepis, managing principal, Insurance and Financial Services Innovation, Maddock Douglas, and the study’s coauthor.

...even if consumers are hearing what’s being said, they frequently don’t understand

“While it can take a number of different tacks, this is about organizations shifting their attention from outputs to outcomes.” Additionally, organizations that improve the relevance and authenticity of their communication in a more contemporary way will have a competitive edge.

“Change your language to better connect with consumers,” said Ferrante-Schepis. “We can’t stress enough the importance of keeping it simple and emotionally resonant.” The study consisted of more than 1500 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 imagery. Initial study results were presented at the 2014 LIMRA Marketing and Research Conference in Boston. 


LIMRA is a worldwide research, consulting, and professional development organization that helps more than 850 insurance and financial services companies in 64 countries increase their marketing and distribution effectiveness. Visit LIMRA at

About Maddock Douglas
Maddock Douglas Inc., established in 1991, is an internationally recognized innovation consulting firm that helps companies design, brand, and launch new products, services, experiences and business models while also empowering an agile culture that can continually innovate. Maddock Douglas' client list includes 25 percent of the top 100 global brands and 10 out of the Fortune 50 companies. Visit MD at