The Funeral Industry Is Dying, Now What?

December 10, 2009
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imageI am scared for the funeral industry. Not just one part of the industry, for example I am not scared for just the suppliers like Batesville, Wilbert, Trigard, and so on, I am scared for the industry as a whole. I am scared for the industry as a brand. I truly believe the funeral industry is a national brand just like Nike or Gatorade. It is weird to think of it this way and many people in the industry probably never have.

We think of brands as products or companies. But an industry can be a brand too. Every brand has what marketing gurus call a ?brand image?, which is ?the image that audiences form as a result of their various points of contact or experiences with the brand.? This is why I am scared for the funeral industry as a brand. The public has a very negative brand image of the funeral industry.

My grandmother used to say ?one bad apple can ruin a whole barrel?, and that is exactly what is happening to our very own brand, the brand that we love and work to protect everyday of our lives. Sadly our brand image has been shattered by a few ?bad apples?.

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In the past and this year, nationwide newspapers have been splattered with cemetery scandals, embezzlement schemes and even corpse abuse stories. For some reason this year seems to take the cake. As I report the latest funeral industry news on ConnectingDirectors.com I sometimes get very discouraged as it seems all that is out there are articles that destroy the funeral industry?s brand image.

Our country is experiencing the highest cremations rates on record. Some funeral homes in my home area of Ohio are seeing cremations rates above 60%, which has never been the case before. More and more families are opting for direct cremations with no viewing or memorial service, something that has not always been the case. Many industry people are blaming the economy for the spike in cremation, because cremation has always been the cheaper disposition method. Some even think that people are tired of paying for, what they call, over priced funerals. I don?t fully agree.

I have spent the last three years calling on over 110 funeral homes in central and southeastern Ohio, as well as countless discussions with funeral directors across our country and the globe through ConnectingDirectors.com. As our conversations have covered many topics, one topic that is unavoidable is, cremation and why the cremation rate is driving higher and faster than anyone expected. Of course the economy has been one reason discussed, but the majority of the funeral directors I talk with all agree on one thing, most of the families that they are serving who choose cremation are doing so because of preference not economical reasons, and a high number of them are opting for direct cremation with no viewing, memorial service, or even the purchase of an urn. Why is this?

In our discussions every funeral director also agreed that: families are not seeing the value in the funeral service. Sometimes they don?t seem to even value the funeral director. I really believe this is the root of the problem. Years ago when families saw the value of the funeral service and honoring and remembering the life of a loved one cremation rates were low and the perception of the funeral industry was high. When families found value in the funeral service, they found value in everything else as well, like a protective casket and vault, Mom always deserved the best there was. Now it seems that Mom deserves whatever is cheapest and quickest.

Slowly scandal after scandal, from a few deadbeats, the perception or brand image of the funeral industry faded into this image of a money hungry funeral director who is trying to take advantage of grieving families. This is so sad and disheartening. A few crappy people who choose to call themselves funeral directors have ruined the image of our brand. And the worse thing is there is nothing being done about it.

How do we again build up the value in the funeral service?

I believe it begins by building up our brand in a positive way. We need and want the public to have a positive brand image of our industry.

I wrote this article with no outline, agenda or notes, but pure emotion and passion. Truth is, I wasn?t planning on even writing an article when I sat down at this desk, but my emotions ran wild and I just started typing. This is not scripted, maybe this isn?t even an article, maybe it is a motivational piece or call to action to funeral directors, both family owned and corporate, and most of all our industries associations to help bring back the publics perception of the funeral industry as a brand.

I am going to end this article the same way I do every episode of CDTV:

Together we are revolutionizing the funeral industry.

And together we can and must rebuild our brand.

Article By: Ryan Thogmartin

CDFuneralNews

CDFuneralNews

ConnectingDirectors.com is the leading online daily publication for funeral professionals with a reader base of over 45,000 of the most elite and forward-thinking professionals in the profession. With ConnectingDirectors.com we have created a global community through an online platform allowing funeral professionals to Stay Current. Stay Informed and Stay Elite.
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