Remember that unusual blind date a couple years back between retail sumo wrestler Wal-Mart and the ever-lovable Snoopy, brand mascot of New York-based MetLife life insurance?
Let's just say it hasn't gone all Kimye yet, OK?
Last week, The Wall Street Journal revisited the novel attempt by MetLife to jump-start middle-class interest in life insurance following years of declining sales. Suffice to say, the two-year pilot hasn't exactly ignited life insurance fever.
© Bo Zaunders/Corbis
Boxes, then touch-screens
Rather than unleash an army of glad-handing Ned Ryersons from "Groundhog Day" upon the land, the insurer tried out two merchandizing strategies to connect with everyday peeps.
In the first, launched in October 2012, MetLife stocked the shelves of 200 Wal-Mart stores throughout Georgia and South Carolina with eye-catching, color-coded "life insurance in a box," each containing one year of coverage to be prepaid at the register.
"It looked nice, but it was expensive to produce the box," MetLife manager Ray Burton told the Journal. Those who did pull one off the shelf were hesitant to spring for a couple hundred bucks to pay the one-year life insurance premium at checkout.
So MetLife launched a version 2.0 in two states in 2013, installing touch-screen kiosks at 223 Wal-Mart locations that lured shoppers to "get life insurance today for only $5." This time, a $5 prepaid card, once activated, would cover the first-month premium of a $50,000 policy. After that, the premium for the second and subsequent months would be based on actual underwriting criteria, including gender and age.
Consumers shop for cheapest coverage
Had MetLife's marketing team actually shopped at a Wal-Mart, they would not have been surprised when the few shoppers who did pause at their kiosks used them in reverse to bargain-hunt how much death benefit they could get for a $20 or $30 monthly premium.
As the Journal observes, life insurance is a tough sell today, with or without an adorable beagle. While MetLife declined to disclose how much they've lost exploring the pain threshold of Wal-Mart shoppers, they revealed in June that they expect to suffer a $40 million loss this year on start-up costs and other costs from such direct-marketing initiatives.
The Snoopy folks are undeterred, however. Burton called the results of the Wal-Mart pilots sufficiently "intriguing" to expand beyond Georgia and South Carolina.
Perhaps they'd have better luck with Charlie Brown or Lucy.
Here's a look back at MetLife's Snoopy in a box program.
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