Merriam Webster— per·son·al·i·za·tion; make personal or individual; specifically: to mark as the property of a particular person <personalized stationery>. Wikipedia- Personalization involves using technology to accommodate the differences between individuals. Personalization technology enables the dynamic insertion, customization or suggestion of content in any format that is relevant to the individual user, based on the user’s implicit behavior and preferences, and explicitly given details. Google Image: The image shown is the first when the word search for “personalization” is entered.
I was pondering personalization and the funeral industry after recently observing yet another arrangement session with a family. The definitions above are the results of a computer search of just the word and subsequently an image search on Google. What I found most interesting is that nothing was mentioned about funerals. Of course when I entered “personalization funeral” there are some blogs, references to industry written articles, and some funeral home websites that have done a good job with SEO on the subject. When the same caption is then moved to Google images, a barrage of photos including an embalmed guy on a motorcycle appears and throngs of products from a Budweiser casket to candles.
Why am I writing this? Because I’m not certain the general funeral consumer population is aware of our industry view of the subject “personalization.” I’m consistently amazed by the reactions during actual post death decision making about this and many other subjects. The family that prompted this post wanted nothing to do with in their words “any frills” for their deceased loved one (interestingly, the deceased was a “Baby Boomer”). The funeral director, in line with our proprietary presentation of our arrangements, provided the family with information so that they could make educated funeral choices. On the same day, at our other location which is four hours away, the same arrangement presentation provided, and the family seemed to want everything that was available including memorial products. Our firm has made a choice that every family receives tangible recognition of the family’s loss and acknowledgement of their grief (a Mourningcross Bereavement Pin). Every family that chooses cremation and an urn gets a personalized name plate with date of birth/date of death (using Print-A-Plate). It’s personal to us, so we believe we should show the way.
I’m not being critical or making judgment; I’m just sharing a few observations. To share an outside view of personalization, take a look at vanity license plates. You know the ones with some clever message (like mine, BURYEM). Virginia has the largest percentage of vanity plates in the US, about 16% (according to a study by AAMVA published in 2007) of all registered license plates are personalized. Certainly that percentage has grown since. Another interesting but little known fact that is the amount of “personalized caskets” actually sold is also in the teen percentages (or at least it was just a few years ago).
So, what is the point here? It’s our job to provide information so that a funeral consumer can make educated decisions, and the first gesture of personalization should come from us…Cheers Y’all.