Yes, “Cremation with integrity” depicting an urn showcasing a Nazi soldier is a real advertisement in the The Jefferson City News Tribune that was printed Sunday July 19th for the Millard Funeral Chapels and their Columbia MO – based crematory operated by Parker Funeral Service. I can’t even make this up.
Let’s “unpack” this debacle for learning purposes because this exemplifies so many lessons and insights.
1. Let us try to imagine the funeral home marketing “think tank” session: “We need to do something about our low cost cremation competitors and tell the community why they should use us. Any ideas?” <Hand raised from a staff member>: “we can’t match their prices, but we can tell the public that WE CREMATE WITH INTEGRITY!” Brilliant! <Person in charge of the think tank>: “let’s show our best-selling urn with a soldier, because the military depicts integrity and get the local paper to put the ad together and run it on a Sunday. Good job team…this will help us bring back the business we are losing to the other guys.”
2. The message itself minus the Nazi soldier image is hilarious on its own merit. Cremation with integrity? Help me understand…does this ad imply that competitors cremate without integrity? I think that Missouri has regulations and certifications necessary to be a crematory operator performing cremations, so is there an inference of unscrupulous cremations going on in town by other cremation providers? This is a blatant example of “we are better than them, we care more, we give better service,” blah blah blah of no of interest to the consumer, rather more of a 7th grade school yard spat. Lesson: words have meaning, think about the message you want to send.
3. What is the correlation of the image of a soldier (albeit a bad one that was apparently selected by the local paper, not the funeral home) and “integrity of cremation?” Why a soldier or any military personnel? As a retired soldier and father of a soldier, my perspective is that this funeral home was trying to use an image that may exemplify integrity (as an image of a military person would). But could they not muster much thought of an internal example of themselves? Did the owners and funeral directors at this firm served our Country or just use images to boost their own self esteem for business? Stolen valor comes to mind… Frankly, I think Karma kicked their ass in this one with the depiction of a Nazi soldier…think about it. Lesson: don’t try to be something you are not.
4. Unfortunately, the person in charge of this project failed miserably as it’s obvious no editing or proofing was conducted with the “newspaper production department.” A basic tenet of funeral director services, is to review and edit (sometimes even create) an obituary that also appears in local newspapers. Lesson: people do what you inspect; not what you expect.
5. We consistently are striving to remind consumers that the services we provide are of value, have meaning, and therefore require the guidance of a licensed funeral professional. There is an undercurrent from consumers and others that “do it yourself” or limited need for funeral directors is on the rise. However, for some reason, many in funeral home management see no value in professional management from marketing/Social Media companies and attempt to “do it themselves.” As the comedian Bill Engvall says: “here’s your sign.” I can just imagine my friends at Disrupt Media (Ryan Thogmartin) and L.A.Ads (Rolf Gutknecht & Dan Katz) laughing hysterically at this entire scenario. Lesson: hire a professional for marketing and advertisement.
6. Irony: This advertisement was created for use in a local newspaper for local readership, however it turned into a Social Media nightmare being broadcast all over the world including the local television station, radio along with numerous funeral industry Facebook pages. I guess the advertisement got quite a bang for its buck. Lesson: refer to #2, #3, #4, and #5 above.
We all make mistakes and this was a whopper; however as always there are lessons to be learned and teaching points to consider so that the mistakes are not repeated. What are your thoughts and comments? From the desk of The Funeral Commander, Cheers Y’all! #thefuneralcommander