Dealing with Death, the Life Insurance Way

15 Mar,2017


By Sanjeev Kotnala


Death is the eternal truth. It is the only certainty in life. However, it is never a pleasant thought to engage in. No one really wants to discuss it. Insurance advertising has to balance the unpleasantness of this life event. In the process, insurance brands have used Saam (logic), Daam (price and not necessarily the cost of premium), Dand (penalty) and Bhed (Differentiation and doubt). They have used polarisation of Emotions and Expressions, Sad to not-so-sad (Happy), Fear to Hope, Guilt to Assurance, Love and Care, Unprepared to Certainties, Accidental to Pre-planned to varied level of Success.


In the last few years, we have seen some remarkable positive shift in insurance brands connecting with the audience. Long-format storytelling in the digital world is the new flavour. Though keeping the audience with a lower attention span engaged is still a barrier that few have scaled successfully.

Brands have tried moving away from the format of fear of unwarranted situation and tax savings to an emotional high of caring sensibilities. They have entered this area treading softly thus diluting the resistance of reference to death. However, the category cannot do away with the emotion of fear to jump-start the engines from time to time. A good example of it is the Max Life Insurance life ad (Sanju). My mom hated it and would change the channel because the protagonist shared my name.


Rationality and logical sensibilities have been exploited to death. Brands know their limitation. They understand that consumer is not logical or rational but more of an emotional construct. Raising anxiety, dramatization of unpleasant scenario and Arousing tension before presenting the solution is no longer the code.

There is another barrier. When it comes to the complex conditions and policy statement ( and unstated statements) few consumers can decipher the features and future on their own. Insurance agents are known to over sell features and non-relevant policies. Brands like Max Life Insurance (Aapke Sachche Advisor), SBI ( 10 questions) have tried addressing this issue.


To defuse the alienating effect of fear, it has been replaced with long-term benefits of insurance. It looked like someone watched the episode of ‘Mad Men’ in which Dan Draper outlines the appeal of fear as a tool for selling with chilling clarity. “Advertising is based on one thing: happiness,” he calmly tells his clients. “And do you know what happiness is? … It’s freedom from fear.” See the engaging SBI AD – Great Dad tackling this imagery.


I share with you the international ad by AVIVA. You see a family rushing for their vacation. You realise that the father is long dead, but all this is possible because of the insurance. The brand claims this helped encouraging families to think about taking out life insurance.


Insurance brands have moved to the new level of understanding of their consumers. They have replaced the fear of ‘What If’ to a beautiful story of ‘That’s Why’, a far more positive statement connecting with the audience. One of the ads that did it well is the ‘Memories for life’ by HDFC.


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