Business Notes. Big Lou.
Business Notes. “Big Lou is Just Like You.”
Did you ever hear those term life insurance commercials from “Big Lou Insurance?” I hear them on my favorite driving station, WCBS 880 AM. The narrator is loud and has a kind of “crass” tone. The spots mainly focus on the fact that they know not everyone is in perfect health, and might have high blood pressure, or be a bit overweight, but they can still get you great insurance. The gist is that you should call Big Lou--he understands, because, “Big Lou is just like you.” Like the tone or not, these are good commercials, because I can recall them.
Last week, I heard one that was new to me—and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The Big Lou narrator is “commiserating” with the 50 to 60 year old man that has married his “trophy wife” (actual words used), and in this case his “third,” who wants him to have an insurance policy in excess of $1MM. No problem, Big Lou gets it; and knows “you’re” probably still paying for your other “past mistakes,” and they can help. Then at the end, he says, after all, “Big Lou is just like you,” except that he is on his second wife. Not third like you—I think that would be parenthetically, loser.
So I’m looking at this from a marketing perspective. First off, the spot offended me in its attitude towards women. But the spot is not talking to me—so who is it talking to? A man, that’s been married multiple times; who has married a “trophy” wife; in his 50s - 60s—they mention “and in good health,” but I think that is so they have disclosed that you might not get the best rate. The third wife has to be a bit of a gold digger—or maybe just has your number. Then the big insult, the prospect is on his third wife, but Big Lou, who must have better judgment in the women department, is just on his second wife. I think this is supposed to be funny and not taken seriously, but it would seem to me that this “focus” would be a turn-off to more people than it would attract. Except going back to the main premise, Big Lou knows “you” are not perfect, and he’s looking for those prospects that might be having a harder time getting the life insurance coverage they want, or might have been turned down by other companies, or might perceive that they will have a hard time or be turned down—kind of like the sub-prime mortgage market. Sorry for the analogy, I know, Lord help us—but that’s what comes to mind. Big Lou Insurance makes its case with human foibles, which in and of itself is kind of negative, but in this particular spot, it’s like he’s saying, my words here, “You are such a loser, but we understand, and can still help you.”
Perhaps I am being old school, but it just doesn’t seem like a good sales pitch. But then I am wondering, and maybe I have my answer by the amount of money being spent on these campaigns, how big is the “sub-prime” (my words) term life insurance market? It must be really, really big. Immediately I realize, I am looking at this completely wrong. There must be a large market of people that can’t get “rich” life insurance policies at great rates; and also people that think they can’t because they are not perfect specimens, health or otherwise. They perceive themselves as greater risk. And just like sub-prime mortgages, the profit margin for these policies must be sweeter. Of course, coming from the banking industry, all of this is screaming, BUYER BEWARE. Yet, going full circle, this is pretty smart marketing, although I don’t like it, and it actually makes me feel bad when I hear the spots. They have quantified a viable market niche, identified a target audience that already knows it will have to pay more, and are calling out a commonality of human condition. It's a good marketing lesson after all! These are basic principles that can, and should, be applied positively to products and services that make us feel good too.