A Little Insurance

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In Dan Brown’s crap novel The DaVinci Code, a linguistics professor pretty much saves the world because he can decipher hidden meaning in a bunch of renaissance books and works of art, including Leonardo DaVinci’s painting, The Last Supper. Literary merits aside, the book’s hero triumphs because of his deep knowledge of arcane language, practices, and beliefs. Of course, in the real world these have very little day-to-day utility – unless you happen to work in marketing for the insurance industry.

There you’ll find an esoteric world governed by strange language, obscure terminology, and relationships so convoluted and complex that they’d make the Medicis wince. Let’s take a look at three reasons why marketing in this industry is unlike anything else in marketing.

Language – Insurance terminology is only slightly less obscure than a Dungeons & Dragons handbook. You think you know what “appetite” means? Sure you do – it’s when you’re hungry. In insurance it means, “the degree to which an organization’s management is willing to accept the uncertainty of loss for a given risk when it has the option to pay a fixed sum to transfer that risk to an insurer.” Is that clear? How about “marine”? That has to do with water, right? Well, not really – the term originally referred to goods shipped by boat, but today it applies to trucks and trains.

Abbreviations – Every vertical has its own acronyms and abbreviations, but in the insurance industry it’s a real alphabet soup. Everyone knows about agents and brokers, but what about MGA, ACC, AD&D, E&O, and MEWAS? There are plenty of glossaries to learn the right terminology, but for marketing folks new to the insurance industry (or even those with a few years of experience) it can be a cacophonous mess of letters upon letters.

Regulation – Few industries are under as much federal and state scrutiny as insurance. On one hand, that’s great for consumers, but it adds a whole level of complexity to even the most prosaic marketing functions. In most industries it’s pretty straightforward to write a product sheet, but in the risk-averse world of insurance just about everything has to pass legal review. And the lawyers who work at insurance companies tend to be very strict about what they approve – which is why so much of the content generated by carriers reads like proof-of-life letters from a hostage negotiation.

Of course, great marketers can learn to thrive in the insurance industry once they recognize the challenges in front of them. Learning the abbreviations and unique terminology takes time, but after a while it becomes second nature, and learning how to write interesting copy within the context of a regulated industry is an art form unto itself. All it takes is a bit of an appetite.





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