What Happens When the Funeral Profession Dies?
I am scared for the funeral profession. Not just one part of the profession, for example I am not scared for just the suppliers like Batesville, Wilbert, Trigard, and so on, I am scared for the profession as a whole. I am scared for the profession as a brand. I truly believe the funeral profession is a national brand just like Nike or Gatorade. It is weird to think of it this way and many people in the profession probably never have.
We think of brands as products or companies. But a profession 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 profession as a brand.
The public has a very negative brand image of the funeral profession. This was revealed more in-depth by Alan Creedy at NFDA.
Consumers aren’t seeing the value in the funeral service because it isn’t the funeral service that they want.
Years ago (many older funeral directors say “good ol’days”) the perception of the funeral profession was high. Consumers didn’t know any better. There was no talking about death, that was taboo. No one outside the profession was trying to alter their thinking about death and what a traditional funeral service was. That has all changed.
The perception or brand image of the funeral profession has faded into this image of dark, creepy, negative death.
Here are a few highlights Alan Creedy shared at NFDA when presenting some of the results of the study done by the Funeral Service Foundation:
A traditional funeral is seen to Baby Boomers as a lonely, lifeless tomb. They feel along, cold, confined and forced to face reality on their own.
Funeral home advertising, as well as all pictures and visuals that funeral homes publish into this world reinforce consumers fear of being “trapped” in their grief. Think about it… how many funeral home advertisements have a grieving widow or a hearse in them? We need to reinvent and rethink our advertising efforts.
While many interviewees shared negative thoughts of traditional funerals, many people were excited to explain what they want in their non-traditional funeral. In fact, many interviewees hugged their interviewer because they finally had a chance to talk about how they want their end-of-life to be.
Boomers see non-traditional funerals as their “crowning performance”. They want to be the writer, the director and the star. Funerals, to them, should be a celebration event that truly reflects them.
If WE (the entire profession) sit back and do nothing then we should start seeking the answer to the question “What happens when the funeral profession dies?”
At the end of his presentation Alan offered the following advice:
- Start the conversation – Get involved in the pre-planning stage. Research what’s meaningful to them and find out what places, events, accomplishments and interests are significant to them. Then, customize the service accordingly.
- Focus on the details – Be a muse who gives consumers ideas and inspire creative thinking. The funeral director should help them make a unique celebration of life complete with music, props and surroundings.
- Be a stage manager – Be flexible, efficient and effective.
- Think about the design of your funeral home – minimize feelings of confinement. Give people a more sense of control. Make them feel like your funeral home is where transformations occur. Create open, naturally lit areas in your funeral home that encourage conversations. Think about outdoor mourning spaces, open floor plans, and writable walls that can be personalized.
Then he drove it home with this powerful poetic quote:
“We are not in the business of helping people escape reality, we are in the business to help people heal. To make them feel like they mattered to someone, and they will live on in a memory and will be missed. Is that really asking so much? Our goal is to create a safe place to remember, and be remembered, to comfort and be comforted. What we do is worth it, without society would be lesser. We don’t make things, sell things… we help people restart their lives. And best of all, we make sure no one is forgotten. Understand WHY it is what you do… why humans gather in times of distress, or share memories at a time of loss? Society needs us in these roles. Be proud in your profession. We are in the sacred business of hope, life and transformation. “
How do we prevent the funeral profession from dying?
Simple: Give the consumer what they want, not what we (Mr. Funeral Director) want. Which means: CHANGE, so you better embrace it because if we do nothing we will be on our death bed.