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Risks & Rewards: Guerrilla Marketing for Funeral Service

Updated: Jun 9, 2022

You’ve probably seen it by now—that is, the funeral home truck with the message “Don’t get vaccinated” driving around Charlotte, North Carolina. Maybe you chuckled nervously, incredulous at the gall of this funeral home. Maybe you applauded the risk that was taken!



Upon further investigation, it was not a real funeral home behind this publicity stunt – rather, it was an ad agency, BooneOakley, seeking to promote their local vaccination clinic. The agency used a fake funeral home name to execute this campaign.


Despite the funeral home not being real, it’s not the first time our team has seen an ad like this—one that points directly to the subject of death and dying in a way that forces the viewer to confront it. After all, it is a challenge to get the public to think about anything surrounding their own mortality, and this stunt was certainly effective at getting attention. Some of our funeral home partners may now be thinking “is this the type of marketing I should be doing?” Or a more certain reaction, “I want to do something like this.”


This stunt is an example of guerrilla marketing. Perhaps you have seen an unconventional billboard or piece of street art which everyone was talking about. Guerrilla marketing is a tactical approach that involves a creative, at times artistic and always clever concept to attract attention. The goal is often to go viral and get the masses talking about the ad.


The nature of the message on this funeral home truck was also provocative—and the funeral profession is no stranger to dark humor in advertising. Dark humor can be effective at beginning a dialogue about death. However, dark humor is not the preference of every funeral home owner and it is usually not the only message in your advertising toolbox.


If the provocative isn’t your cup of tea, you can still use the guerrilla marketing approach. Maybe you’d prefer to attract a large amount of attention through a purely positive message. But even with a positive message, any unconventional marketing tactic has risks—good marketing is polarizing, after all. No matter what you say there may be someone who dislikes it but that doesn’t mean you need to reverse course. Your due diligence will be to acknowledge and weigh the potential risks against the potential rewards.


Risks

  • Negative press—you may offend people in your community. You may receive negative feedback, negative online reviews, stressed relationships in town or even legal action.

  • No measurement—since it is often not digital in nature, the guerrilla marketing tactic may be difficult to measure. If there is no call to action or measurement ability you may be left with a vague idea of how much attention it attracted.

  • Falling flat—the tactic may not land exactly right or it may be confusing if it is not executed by a seasoned agency with a solid concept and clear message.

Rewards

  • Attention—In a media landscape rife with distraction, getting your brand front and center can be crucial. It may start an effective dialogue, opening up the possibility that folks will get more comfortable talking about death.

  • Connections—If your ad lands right, you can win loyalty from families or make new relationships with people or businesses you didn’t know before. People within your profession may think of you as innovative and creative.

  • ROI—a guerrilla marketing tactic that demands attention may have a relatively low cost and a great ROI, if you can measure it in preneed sales or increased share over time.

The way to promote your business is a tough call to make, especially when it involves taking a very public risk! Guerrilla marketing is not for everyone. Some funeral home owners will prefer to grab attention, while others prefer a quiet approach. The funeral profession is also diverse in preferences and tastes—what works for the East Coast may not work for Midwesterners.


It’s essential to know your market and if an agency recommends a certain message or tactic, think first of the impact on your local community. No matter the idea you have for how to market, make sure it matches with your larger vision and business goals.


If you want to get creative with your messaging and placement in an unconventional way, let’s talk! Get in touch with our team at @need Marketing, a creative growth agency centered on the funeral profession.

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