Featured in the Funeral Business Advisor: May – June 2018

By: Deanna Dydynski, marketing & public relations manager

Move over baby boomers, millennials have officially become the largest living generation and are also the primary demographic every brand is trying to charm. Effective marketing to millennials poses challenges for many companies, but if you can master some of these expert strategies you will be well on your way to attracting and retaining the millennial consumer.

*Spoiler Alert* I am a millennial.

Tip 1. Be Authentic: Half of the battle when marketing to a millennial is getting their attention, the other half is getting them to respond. Millennials spend an average of 25 hours per week online tweeting, liking, sharing, pinning, double-tapping and commenting on content-driven websites. We do our research and get our information from blogs, websites and social media platforms, because we trust the source. Millennials have an unusually strong nonsense detector, and majority of the time we can instantly tell when something is phony, fake or unauthentic. We “don’t have time for that,” and will x-out, skip, scroll and slide right pass content or messages that do not have authentic value. Millennials feel empowered to make their own choices and appreciate expertise but they are only influenced by genuine content from trusted sources. We want our interests to be considered and not our wallets.

Courtyard by Marriott hit the nail on the head with their most recent ad campaign, geared to target millennials. Rather than highlighting all of the services they offer; they focused on the passions and lifestyles of their millennial guests. The campaign’s commercial highlights a young woman traveling to multiple destinations for her profession. It shows her purchasing fabric in other countries, interacting with weavers in a rural setting, sketching on a coaster in a bar, while also staying at multiple Courtyard hotels. The commercial is narrated by her father who is explaining how proud he is of her for following her passions and proving him wrong when he said “work is clocking-in and clocking-out.” Ending the commercial is a message stating, “Passion moves us forward. It is how you think. It is how we think.” The commercial tells a story without selling, it makes one feel inspired and gives the Courtyard by Marriott an amazing brand perception.

How can you apply this marketing strategy to your funeral home or cemetery? The next service you have, really watch how the family reacts to every element of the funeral. What moved them? What seemed off? Listen to what people are saying and sponge all of this in. Funerals are naturally difficult to portray in a positive light because they are tragic times, but if you can capture an emotion of passion, love, sincerity or hope and portray it in a video, your service will sell itself, and you will appeal to the millennial generation.

Informative content marketing has been effective for hundreds of years. In 1895 John Deere introduced a free publication with dozens of farming tips called, The Furrow. The intent was to provide farmers with tips and farming techniques to improve their farming and become more profitable. The Furrow, is available in more than 40 countries and is offered in 12 different languages. Jell-O circulated free copies of a cookbook displaying creative ways to use the product in 1904 and saw an annual sales increase of one million dollars. In 1966 Nike released a 19-page booklet titled Jogging, filled with advice on enjoying running as a recreational activity and included specific running and posture tips. The booklet brought running as a sport to America and never once mentioned a Nike shoe.

Millennials are supportive of businesses dedicated to improving their customers lives with informative content but we want it in the form of e-books, blog posts and videos. As you apply this strategy to your funeral home, do not focus on how you can sell millennials on your services, instead create a blog or monthly video sequence with informative information about the funeral planning process, grief management, or a how-to-continually honor your loved one. Really consider every element of losing a loved one and incorporate this in your content.

Tip 2. Engage & Speak The Language: Traditional outbound marketing such as radio spot ads, direct mail campaigns, newspaper advertisements or pop-up web ads, are not effective to the millennial demographic. We view these as disruptive, annoying and unsolicited. So, what do millennials like? Millennials like engaging brands, that are creating educational, informative content without being pushy or broadcasting their services. Sixty-two percent of millennials say if a brand engages with them on social media platforms, they are more likely to become a loyal customer (Forbes,2017). Millennials trust brands that are connected on multiple communication platforms, so if your funeral home is no where to be seen on the internet, you have zero chance of reaching them.

It is not just enough to be engaging, you also need to speak the language of millennials. Creating content your audience would proudly share helps build the brand-customer relationship. Before you begin to push content, it is important you and your funeral staff brush-up on your millennial lingo. Taco Bell, found an ingenious way to communicate millennial slang to their executive staff with their “Word Of The Week,” which features popular modern-day words. Taco Bell assembled a team of employees in their 20’s to curate popular words, define and use in a sentence to distribute in company emails.

Example: Lit. adjective. Used to describe a certain situation, person, place or thing as awesome/crazy or just ‘happening’ in general.

Used in a sentence: “Taco Bell was so lit last night. I had to wait in line for 15 minutes before I could order.”

Taco Bell has done a phenomenal job engaging with its millennial consumers through their social media platforms and the key to their success is having the entire team familiar and learning the millennial language. One resource I would recommend you and your staff use to keep-up with millennial slang would be Urban Dictionary, which is an online crowdsourced dictionary that defines modern day slang words and phrases. As a millennial, Urbandictionary.com is my go-to for any unfamiliar term I cannot use context clues to figure out.

Tip 3. Create An Experience: Millennials just want to have fun! We crave an experience and find researching and browsing for a purchase more compelling than the actual transaction itself. Online exploration has become a form of entertainment, it is the new window shopping. Pinterest is the perfect example of how the journey of shopping can become a personalized experience. If you are not familiar, Pinterest is a social networking site that allows users to discover interests from weddings and camping to do-it-yourself projects and beyond, then you “pin” it to your digital “board” to share with followers. Pinterest works because it is personalized and engaging. Millennials are not loyal by default, they stay with a brand when the experience is rewarding each time. As funeral directors you know if a family has a positive experience they will come back. For the millennial consumer, creating a positive experience is essential because they are judging every time and will have no problem trying another brand or your competitor down the street if they did not enjoy their last experience with you.

A millennial is a sucker for brands that are improving lives, supporting the planet, giving back to communities or adding value. As funeral directors you are already connected and involved with your communities, so share your involvement on social media, recycle at your funeral home or start a donation bank for stray animals in your community. Trust me, millennials will love you for this.

Lastly, give away free stuff. T-shirts, pens, chip-clips, water bottles, koozies, pizza-cutters, put your funeral home name on it and give it away! Don’t you love receiving free things? Well so do millennials. As a marketing and public relations professional, I find promotional items and giveaways essential to connecting with an audience, because of the positive perception your brand receives along with the ability to be in front of your audience when you cannot be. It is rewarding and a great ice breaker when someone recognizes your brand because they just tightly closed their bag of Cheetos with your company chip-clip last night.

Millennials can be difficult to market to, but the more your brand interacts with them the better you will become at hook, line and sinking this young demographic. FBA