Death is an emotive issue and something most people don’t want to
talk or think about. It’s also a pounds 900m-a-year business.
Last week, the Co-op revealed plans to launch a national press
Colour posters posing the question ’Are you prepared for life after
death?’ will appear in selected magazines next month.
A national TV and poster campaign, in the pipeline for next year, will
undoubtedly break the long-standing taboo about advertising
It will also announce that the market is about to become far more
American firm Service Corporation International (SCI) is making inroads
into the pre-paid funerals market and is likely to attract a large
proportion of the seven million people expected to make plans for their
own funerals over the next ten years.
The aggressive marketing of the likes of SCI - Lowe Direct was appointed
to handle its pounds 4m direct account earlier this year - and even
organisations such as Age Concern, has forced the nation’s second
largest undertaker, Co-operative Funeral Services, to give the green
light to an ad campaign.
Sales and marketing manager Ben Jason says extensive research was
conducted with 4000 face-to-face interviews before he went ahead. Yet
the time has come, he argues, to fight for market share.
’The first obvious thing they say about the funeral industry is that it
is a caring and sensitive profession. But above all it is a retail
business, and it’s a tough business,’ he says.
The new press campaign will attempt to persuade people that by planning
ahead for their own funeral they will not only save money but also
prevent their family from suffering a great deal of stress after the
’The campaign was researched really well and straddles perfectly the
boundary between impact and sympathy,’ adds Jason
According to the agency behind the campaign, J Walter Thompson
Manchester, the British public do not have an aversion to the idea of
marketing funerals if it is done tastefully.
Easy does it
’We found the public were quite open-minded about the idea,’ says
account director Tim Rosenberg. ’As long as it is done step by step then
the barriers will be pushed back, but it has to be done sensitively and
Taboos have been broken before. Ten years ago, few people could have
predicted the activity surrounding brands such as Tambrands. ’These
things do take time but you will see undertakers regularly marketing
themselves in the future,’ says Rosenberg.
Companies such as the Co-op and SCI stand a good chance of getting their
brand noticed in a marketplace that continues to be dominated by
independent undertakers, which rely on the sombre totems of angels and
wreaths as the symbols of their trade, and the classified ads as the
full extent of their marketing.
One thing they do have that the multiples cannot replicate over-night is
a strong bond with the customer - in most cases, a family knows and has
used an undertaker before - and word of mouth.
- There are 600,000 deaths in the UK each year.
- The Co-op is the largest funeral operator in the country. A quarter of
all people are buried by the movement’s undertakers.
- Nearly 95% of the British public do not plan for their own
- A standard funeral costs pounds 1215.
- 62% of 15- to 24-year-olds said it was ’very important’ to arrange
their own funerals.
- The Co-op has more than 800 funeral shops in the UK.