I don't know about you, but Christmas is already a bit of a distant memory. But what follows in its wake remains all too real. I both love and loathe the post Christmas period.
I love it because it is always interesting to see how other companies are promoting their products and to see if any of their offers or techniques might apply to protection.
I loathe it because of the relentless commercial juggernaut it has become. All the health clubs, sofa shops, holiday companies, and electrical stores promote their “best deal ever” sales.
And the manufacturers of sickly sweet creamy and gunk filled mini-Easter eggs start to ramp up their advertising. Their aim is to convince people, who have probably spent all the money they have before Christmas, to spend even more of it immediately afterwards.
People spend months in the run up to Christmas, buying presents, planning the meal and preparing for the big day. And then we let them have one day off before the shops try to lure them back to the high street on Boxing Day, with the promise of double discounts everywhere, and holidays in the sun. That’s in addition to the obligatory “Get fit and lose weight fast” offers on Health Club membership.
What makes people want to get up in the early hours to camp out in front of a sofa shop on Boxing Day? You would have thought that most people would have eaten sufficient chocolates and sweets over the festive period, so do they really want run round to the corner shop to load up on Cream Eggs and be reminded that the next hyped up commercial holiday is only ten weeks away?
However daft it may seem though, as we drift into the New Year waiting for the clunk of the credit card bills to hit the doormat, people surrender to the seductive influence of these marketing campaigns and spend even more.
No wonder that despite the credit squeeze, the UK population has managed to rack up record amounts of debt. For many that debt could become unsustainable leading to potential bankruptcy and to the loss of their homes.
New Year is a time for resolutions and clever marketers tap into this. People vow to go on a diet, cut back on the booze and to stop smoking. The health club marketers play on this by offering massive discounts to get people to join.
Boots shops are full of detox kits, diet milk shakes, and fruit bars. Special K challenges you to eat nothing but cereal for two weeks in order to squeeze back into your favourite pair of jeans. Newspapers, bookshops and daytime TV shows are full of the latest fad diets and every C List celebrity seems to be launching a Fitness Video (despite the fact that they probably haven't got any actual fitness qualifications).
The quest to find the easiest way to lose weight becomes an obsession for some. The reality is that if you cut through all the offers, hype and bluster - the way to lose weight is simply to exercise away more calories than you consume every day. Clear and simple. But the myths build up and people instead rely on the Michelle Ryan Coronation Street Diet and Exercise plan.
Other marketing campaigns are fuelled by the UK’s insatiable desire for bargains. Or should I say “perceived bargains”? Advertisers lure us into the winter sales on the promise of double discounts and other such impossible to resist deals. Again the hype often overcomes common sense.
People see a sofa reduced from £2000 to £999 and think they are getting a bargain - but the reality is that the double discount was probably factored into the pricing anyway. And in this example have you saved £1001 - or have you actually spent £999?
In the protection industry we have many similar myths that we have to try and overcome. Many people do not buy protection products because they think they cannot afford them or they are too expensive.
But if you think that the reduction in the price of the sofa is good value - a tenner a month for £200,000 of life cover has got to be a steal. The problem is, apparently that people want to buy sofas but they don't want to buy protection.
Protection cover in the UK has never been cheaper and has never represented such amazing value for money. And yet amongst the New Year wave of marketing activity you never see “Buy One Get One Free” offers on life cover, “Double Discounts” on critical illness cover, or “Sign up for Two Years get One Month Free” deals on income protection.
The New Year commercial machine proves that the UK public loves a good bargain. Isn’t it about time that we started shouting a great deal louder about the value for money that the protection industry offers and use this time of year as a massive marketing opportunity?
And the New Year commercial hype demands one final pause for thought. As people sign up for the 4-year credit agreements for their sofa and commit to their 2-year Gym membership contract - perhaps they should think about how they would afford to honour those contracts if they suddenly found their family income reduced as a result of the breadwinner dying or getting a critical illness.
Roger Edwards is products director at Bright Grey
The views expressed in this article are those of its author and do not necessarily represent those of the company he represents, IFAonline or any other Incisive Media affiliated organisation.IFAonline
Joined as head of strategy, multi asset, in June
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