Brand Like A Blooming Onion

October 20th, 2017

Featured in the Funeral Business Advisor: October 2017

By: Deanna Dydynski, marketing & public relations manager

An onion, because of its many layers, is no stranger to deeper-thinking analogies, as with each layer you pull back, another reveals itself. Branding, much like an onion holds the same theory. Your business is the onion as a whole and each layer you uncover is an essential piece of your brand. This onion however, is a blooming one because as each layer appears, they remain connected, opening up to the heart of the onion, or the heart of your business.

So, how do you get your brand to bloom? Let’s flip the script and get down to some basic branding elements.

Branding is essential in building a business, as it gives your company a unique personality and perception in the marketplace. As the age-old saying goes, perception is reality.  Brand perception is everything to marketing professionals. How consumers think but most importantly feel about your brand, service or product can ultimately determine the fate of your business.

In today’s millennial, tech-savvy, opinion-driven, online world, the ability to share your thoughts, feelings and perceptions of a business, product or service is easier than ever. With online rating companies such as: Yelp!, Angie’s List, Facebook Reviews, Consumer Reports, Insider Pages and Funeral Home Ratingz your business has more outlets than ever for consumer brand-perception reviews.

So, how do create positive perception? You build a better brand. Your brand is not just your logo or your funeral home mission statement. Your brand is everything. It is your: Facebook page, website, staff dress code, landscaping, service options, showroom, marketing materials, hearse, partnering companies, the color of your arrangement room and more. All of these layers, or elements of your business are a reflection of your brand and you can believe that every person that has an interaction with your funeral home is going to formulate a perception.

While there is a long list of branding principals, ranging from moral code to design, we will focus on three. Why only three? In true onion analogy form, there are three parts to an onion, the outer layer, the inner layer and the heart. Let’s start with the outer layer and work our way in to the heart:

Outer Layer: Choose Imagery & Colors Carefully

Whether you are developing a logo, creating grief literature or designing the interior of your funeral home the colors and images you choose are essential and a direct reflection of your brand.

First however, you have to actually use imagery. Too many funeral professionals resist the opportunity to better brand their business through custom marketing materials. Did you know that we process images 60,000 times faster than text and that 93% of the information sent to the brain is visual? Feel free to speak to your families about your service selections without any marketing material, or go to a community event without any brand specific promotional items, but your families are only going to remember 10% of what you said to them three days later. Now, pair your GPL with imagery or create promotional items with your logo and they will retain 65% of the information you said to them (John Medina, 2017).

To marketing and advertising professionals, this is not groundbreaking news as most of our work is built around the appropriate development of imagery and color. So while it can be important to outsource to marketing professionals for brand specific materials, it is still important to have a basic knowledge of imagery.

As a previous marketing executive in the mental health industry, my understanding of the human mind and how it works plays a large part in the work I develop today. Successful imagery should have purpose, simplicity, symbolism and should stand out from your competition. Color psychology is a large portion of having successful imagery and it is critical in branding. It is no accident that companies like McDonalds, KFC, Wendy’s and Pizza Hut use red as a primary color as this increases appetite, or that Apple’s brand color is white which is associated with innovation.

So, what does your funeral home’s primary color say about your brand or even the color of your arrangement room? Color can evoke certain emotions, feelings and thoughts and in such an emotionally sensitive industry like ours, selecting appropriate colors is crucial. Take a look at this color marketing guide by the Fast Company:

It can take time and effort to develop successful imagery to enhance your brand. Choose carefully and you will find that it is necessary for the long-term success of your business.

 Inner Layer: Develop A Relationship

Now that we have uncovered the first layer and have knowledge of the impact that imagery and color can have on your brand, it is time to get a little deeper and develop a brand relationship with your families.

Jim Stengel, former global marketing officer of Proctor and Gamble, says that “We’re seeing more of an emphasis on brands building emotional relationships with consumers because it’s powerful and it works,” (, 2012).

As funeral professionals you build emotional relationships with the families you serve every day, because in the most trying of times, you are their greatest support system. However, with a shift in industry preference and religious affiliation, funeral homes can be left vulnerable. Consumers are expecting more from brands, so developing a relationship is more important than ever.

So how do you connect with consumers and establish relationships? Take some tips from some of America’s most trusted brands!

Amazon – Make It Personal

Amazon has created an online empire of shopping, saving consumers time, money and providing endless products. Fostering relationships with consumers by helping them make decisions with the “recommendation tool” has helped forge a bond and helped establish trust in the brand.

A 2017 Consumer Awareness and Preferences study conducted by NFDA, indicated that end-of-life services are becoming increasingly personal and families are wanting new and unique ways to celebrate their loved ones. Provide multiple  options and help families develop the perfect service to honor their loved one, this will help you develop a greater relationship.

FedEx – Live Up To Your Promise

There is nothing worse than being overpromised and under delivered, or not delivered at all. FedEx has developed an immensely trustworthy relationship with consumers by delivering packages on time but they reached customers on an entirely new level with their “We Understand” campaign, which recognized that the content inside of those packages were just as important as receiving them.

According to findings in an NFDA study, the most desired qualities when choosing a funeral director were honesty and trustworthiness.  Families want to trust you and they want brands to go above and beyond to establish relationships and show that you care about them. What additional services can you provide to develop more trust with your families?

Nordstrom- Focus On The Customer

Professor of Marketing at Northwestern, Tim Calkin says, “Nordstrom is all about the power of delivering exceptional customer service that goes above and beyond a typical service experience,” (Forbes, 2017).

Nordstrom is not known for having the lowest prices and they do not pretend to. They have developed a relationship with their consumers, where they know they may pay a little more but they are going to receive exemplarily service.

While consumers do want funeral directors to be conscious of their budget, it is not the main concern (NFDA, 2017). Has your competitor down the street ever cut their prices down to bring in the bargain funeral shopper? Let them, as long as you have developed a relationship with your customers and have established a trustworthy brand your business will not suffer.

While there are multiple ways you can establish relationships with your consumers, it is important to remain consistent and true to your brand, which leads us into the heart of the onion.

The Heart – Know Yourself

Know yourself and know your brand, seems obvious enough, right? Well, many businesses have difficulty explaining their brand. Can you describe your funeral home or cemetery’s brand in three seconds? Would your receptionist, funeral director staff or florist be able to describe it the same way?

Not having a uniform vision of your brand can have an effect on the consumers perception. After all, if your own staff cannot define your brand, how can  you expect your families to as well? It all starts with knowing yourself, your mission and your vision. While it can be difficult to define your brand there are some exercises recommends to better acquaint yourself.

1. Create A Character

Imagine yourself as a fictional character as it is easier to assign traits to a character rather than a business entity.  What is this person like? How do they behave? What are their best qualities and their worst? What does this person want to accomplish?

2. Compare & Contrast

Focus on differentiating factors that make you stand out from your competitors. Do you offer different services? Are your service costs lower? Does your location play a factor in your customer base? Try to think of a message that communicates your brand differently than any of your competitors.

3. Create A Feature

Many times businesses will establish a feature item or culture touchstone to better define your brand. Would landscaping a beautiful garden for you families to walk through or placing a fountain in your funeral home help develop a peaceful and warm brand perception? Sometimes having a feature item can help describe your brand better than any marketing material can.

Whether you know it or not, your funeral home or cemetery has a brand. Developing a strong brand and maintaining it takes commitment and planning.  The heart of your business is surrounded by your brand.  If you continually improve each layer of your business, you are on your way to branding like a blooming onion!