5 Remarkable Marketing Campaigns Your Funeral Home Can Learn From Today

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that marketing your funeral home isn’t always easy.

In fact, it’s actually quite hard to find new ways to attract the right audience. Without the right inspiration, you might end up with a funeral home advertisement that looks like this:

Sadly, this isn’t the only bad funeral home advertisement I’ve seen; unfortunately bad funeral home advertising is everywhere. So how can we start finding new ways to effectively market to potential families? It’s pretty simple, actually. Why not look at how other industries are successfully marketing to their customers and adapt their ideas into our own marketing efforts? It sounds just as easy as it actually is, trust me.

To help you get started, I’ve put together my top 5 favorite marketing campaigns of all time to inspire you:

  1. “A Diamond Is Forever”

In the 1930’s diamond prices were crashing… fast. So,  famous mining company, De Beers, worked with ad agency N.W. Ayer & Son to create value in the diamond. So, they released a series of ads and writings promoting the idea that every marriage proposal should be inquired with a diamond ring (they also invented the “two months’ salary” spending rule). Within just two years of their genius marketing idea, diamond sales increased 55%.

The takeaway: Think about ways you can spark an emotional attachment in your own funeral marketing efforts (here’s a great article to help you get started). By doing this, your families will better understand the value of your services, and you’ll make your products and services resonate better with them.

2. “Avis Tries Harder”


In the early 1960’s, Avis rent-a-car company was suffering. They hadn’t made a profit in nearly 13 years, and they were losing their market share to Hertz (they only had 11% of the market at the time). So, agency Doyle Dane Bernbach came in and took over their advertising efforts. The agency came up with the idea to highlight that they were #2 to Hertz.  In their ads, they encouraged their audience to ask “why go with Avis?” and their answer was ingenious: because Avis tries harder. They went on to explain in their ad campaigns that when you’re #2, you go above and beyond to make your customers happy, because you can’t afford not to. The results? Within just one year, Avis was making profit and by 1966, they had 35% market share. Talk about the power of the written word.

The takeaway: If you are losing your market share, or you’re a mom-and-pop funeral home in a sea of corporate firms, don’t be ashamed of it… show it off. Highlight what makes you special (hopefully its your second-to-none service). Why? Because most of your families don’t care who is #1, they care about who makes them feel like #1.

3. “Just Do It”

I bet you didn’t know that circa the early 1980’s, Nike was a brand specifically tailored to marathon runners. It’s true. It wasn’t until 1988 when Nike decided they wanted to appeal to everyone (and beat out their biggest competitor at the time, Reebok). So how could Nike appeal to people of all demographics? With one universal statement: “Just Do It”. “Just Do It” was bold, short and sweet. It represented the universal answer to all exercise questions – no excuses, no limitations – just… do it! By using powerful messaging that represented the problems everyday people face when it comes to exercise, Nike succeeded.  Within ten years of their infamous “Just Do It” campaign, their sales jumped from $800 million to $9.2 billion.

The takeaway: Think about the problem your families are trying to solve when they come to your firm. Of course, they need funeral services, but think deeper than that. How does your funeral home solve a specific problem (say, a personalized or low-cost funeral) for your families? Incorporate that into your marketing. And while you’re at it,  make the answer to that problem short, sweet, and powerful. This kind of messaging will be hard for your families to ignore.

4. “Got Milk?”

What happens when you realize you’re targeting the wrong consumers in your marketing? When California’s Milk Advisory Board realized less and less Californians were drinking milk, they wondered if their advertising efforts were effective. Their previous advertising efforts targeted those who didn’t drink the dairy beverage, but after doing some research, they found that they should be targeting those who are already drinking milk. Their research concluded that ‘‘milk is usually consumed with something else, and that the only time people really think about milk is when they’ve run out of it.’’ Their debut ad campaign in 1993 featured a man who lost a radio trivia contest because his mouth was full of a peanut butter sandwich and he was out of milk. From that debut on, “Got Milk” has remained the most powerful slogan for milk ever created.

The takeaway: Take a second look at your intended audience for your advertising and marketing efforts. What if you targeted a different demographic from a different angle? For example, what if you targeted your funeral guests instead of potential families? This is a great way widen your outlook and create new marketing possibilities. You never know what kind of success a different angle can bring.

5. The Pepsi Refresh Project


After nearly a quarter century of spending on traditional advertising platforms, Pepsi Co. was ready to embrace a new form of marketing: social media. So, they opted out of Super Bowl advertising in 2010 and decided to re-allocated one-third of their advertising budget into social media marketing. But they wanted to do more than just jump on the social media bandwagon. They wanted to do some social good, too. That’s where the Pepsi Refresh Project was born.

The Pepsi Refresh Project encouraged average, everyday consumers to apply for grants ranging from $5,000 to $250,000 in one of six areas: health, arts and culture, food and shelter, the planet, neighborhoods and education. Anyone could vote online for the winning projects, and at the end of the year, Pepsi gave out more than $20 million in grants. “The Pepsi Refresh Project was developed with the belief that great ideas can come from anyone, anywhere, anytime,” said Jill Beraud, CMO and president of joint ventures, PepsiCo Beverages Americas. The results? The campaign’s website, RefreshEverything.com, generated 17 million unique visitors and 4.5 million votes online for ideas. Even though the campaign was killed in 2012, it remains as one of Pepsi’s most successful marketing efforts of all time.

The takeaway: Pepsi’s Refresh Project can teach us two very valuable lessons. The first is that even if your brand has been established for a long time, try something new. Don’t be afraid to take a risk and embrace a new way of marketing (cough cough, social media, cough). The second lesson? If you do good in your community, make it known. Let people know you care about the community you live in, and they’ll almost always choose you.

Over to you…

Now that you’ve been inspired with some of the most remarkable marketing campaigns of all time, it’s time to sit down and brainstorm some ways you can adopt them into your funeral home’s marketing. You don’t have to debut a $50 million ad campaign or create a Super Bowl ad. Start small. Think about the successful elements of each of these campaigns and see how you can start using them on a small scale. When you start thinking about your funeral home’s marketing in a different light, you’ll be surprised by how many ideas (especially successful ones) you can come up with.  Oh, and if you need more inspiration for funeral marketing ideas, be sure to check out the article 36 Ideas to Breathe Life into Your Funeral Home’s Marketing!

PS. Need help getting started with your funeral home’s online marketing? Schedule a consultation with one of our client success specialists or give us a call at 800-798-2575 extension 5!

 to learn how we can help you build your marketing foundation online.

What’s your favorite marketing campaign of all time? Tell us in the comments below!

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  1. Doug Clery

    Well, can’t please all the people all the time I guess. A few thoughts: adfinity’s “Ugly Dress” campaign has now been used by more than 150 funeral homes across the United States and has appeared in more than 520 publications, in movie theaters, on billboards, etc. The response to the campaign has been remarkably positive and it’s the campaign that clients request “can you come up with another ad just like it” more than any other because it increases marketshare. I’m guessing the author never bothered to contact Dobies Funeral Homes (who has been running the billboard since 2006) or any other firm running the campaign to ask if it works.

    On the other hand, the author uses the Pepsi Refresh Project as an example of “remarkble marketing campaigns” and states, “Even though the campaign was killed in 2012, it remains as one of Pepsi’s most successful marketing efforts of all time.” Huh? According to Media Post: “While the Pepsi Refresh Project was running, Pepsi had consistently been losing market share and volume, leading to a humiliating drop to lowly third place behind Coke and Diet Coke. Add to that widespread investor pressure on CEO Indra Nooyi to focus on driving core businesses, and the handwriting was on the wall. The Pepsi Refresh Project was simply not helping sell more fizzy stuff. Given this lackluster performance, Pepsi, without much fanfare, shut it down.” And Michael Norton, Associate Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School added, “It shows both how these programs can be enormously successful — and not successful. When [Pepsi] launched it and pulled out of the Super Bowl, every possible social-media metric went through the roof. It shows the power of making a big commitment to these causes. People really responded and said Pepsi is a good company. At the same time, obviously, sales didn’t pick up. In this case, the customer and cause don’t overlap for Pepsi Refresh Project. The loyal Pepsi drinker, not that they’re not nice people, but they’re not people that get as excited about these causes. The people that got excited and voted and posted were often not Pepsi drinkers.” Yes, the campaign drew great attention for trying something different (Pepsi pulled it’s Super Bowl advertising in favor of the Pepsi Refresh Project from 2010-2012), but the bottom line is it didn’t generate sales. I applaud Pepsi for trying something different, and adfinity likes to encourage our clients to try new things (such as when we introduced humor with the “Ugly Dress” campaign, or when we pushed clients to rethink and revamp their GPLs, and how funeralOne has led innovation in how funeral homes use websites and social media). But I’ll take a campaign that increases market share over one that gets media attention and awards every time.



    Doug Clery / The Mastermind [email protected] | adfinity.net | 1-877-251-1222 x1

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