Branding 28
topThe Insider
News for Death Care Professionals
Vol. III
 Issue V


Or link here for a Member-Attendee registration packet

here for a Supplier registration packet

here for a Mortuary School Student registration packet



What to expect at the 4th Annual Washington State Death Care Professionals Convention


Our room block is selling out quickly. Call the Suncadia Resort TODAY at 866-904-6300 and mention WCCFA or WSFDA to get our group rate. 



  • A fantastic hotel and resort
  • Kick off the convention with our annual golf tournament: Shot-gun start at 9:00 a.m. Thursday August 21
  • Supplier-hosted cocktail hour followed by a stroll to the outdoor barbecue area for a terrific buffet dinner Thursday evening August 21
  • A VERY full day of guest speakers and presentations covering all-things Death Care (plus breakfast, lunch and dinner) on Friday August 22
  • Annual Awards Banquet and "Night of a Thousand Stars" Costume Party and dance Friday night: Dress as your favorite actor or movie/TV character!
  • A half-day of speakers and presentations (plus breakfast) on Saturday August 23
  • Earn up to NINE hours of continuing education painlessly.

We are VERY excited about our slate of speakers and topics this year. Speakers are coming to us from all over the United States, with sponsors including:


Attention WCCFA Supplier Members:

The new advertising year began

with the last issue of the Insider


Current advertisers: Your newsletter advertising agreements expired with the April issue of the Insider. Click here for renewal information. If we do not hear from you we will assume you wish to continue and you will be invoiced accordingly.


Prospective advertisers:

Join in the fun! Click here for advertising policy and costs.


ALSO upcoming is our annual Suppliers Issue of the Insider: an opportunity for ALL supplier members to submit an article or an ad that will run in our July/August issue FREE OF CHARGE whether you are an advertiser or not. For currently advertising Supplier members, it's your chance to run an extra ad at no charge. Information was recently mailed. Click here if you missed it!


return to top 

Do you know

what your burial families really want?


Author Mark Klingenberger is VP of sales & marketing for Wilbert Funeral Services Inc., and has over 26 years of experience in the funeral industry. He has been in sales and marketing management for several leading funeral industry providers and has extensive experience in h elping funeral professionals build market share through customer education.

There is a lot of research on cremation as an increasing number of families are choosing it and thereby impacting the entire funeral service profession.


However, as we look into the future and work toward adapting to market changes, we need to make sure we don't ignore burial families.


While projections certainly indicate a decrease in the number of burials, the projected increase in total deaths means that burial numbers will still be substantial (see chart "Projected deaths and cremations"). As prudent funeral professionals adapt to meet the needs of all families they serve, they shuld take note of new eye-opening consumer research on burial families' expectations and preferences.


Uncovering burial preferences

Wilbert commissioned a study in late 2013 to seek a better understanding of knowledge and perceptions about outer burial containers among those who expressed preference for burial. Conducted by independent research firm Product Acceptance & Research (PAR), the study revealed some surprises as well as confirming some suspicions. Here are some of the key findings:


1. Families do not know the difference between a burial vault and a grave box.

When people were asked if there is a difference between a burial vault and a grave box, it was evident that they had little to no understanding of product differences. Seventy-eight percent responded that they did not know the difference (see pie chart 1).


2. After some basic education, most families did not choose a grave box.

Survey participants were asked to watch a brief video that explained the purpose of an outer burial container (OBC) and the differences between unlined grave boxes and burial vaults. This was a straightforward video with no branding affiliation in order to objectively present product function and differences. (To watch the video used in the study go to


For example, illustrations conveyed natural underground occurrences and the role of outer burial containers. Basic OBC construction was explained, as was the role of the burial vault at a committal service.


After watching the video, only 17 percent of respondents said they would choose a grave box. Fifty-seven percent stated a preference for a burial vault, while the remaining 26 percent said they were unsure.


Respondents were given the option to write down their reasons or concerns, and many of those who responded "unsure" said they needed additional information before making a decision. Reasons ranged from wanting an idea of costs (no pricing was provided in the survey) to desiring more detail on product choices and options.


It's interesting to note that 100 percent of the survey respondents watched the entire video. This was an online survey able to measure abandonment (when people stop watching a video before it is over). Zero abandonment for an unpaid survey is perhaps another measure of the interest families have in learning about their options.


One additional note pertaining to choice that merits attention is faith affiliation and burial traditions. Respondents were given the option to indicate their faith and nearly 9 percent were affiliated with faiths less prone to choose burial vault(s).


link here to continue 


return to top 


Washington Report 
The author of this article, Bob Fells, is ICCFA executive director and general counsel, responsible for maintaining and improving relationships with federal and state government agencies, the news media, consumer organizations and related trade associations.

By ICCFA General Counsel Robert M. Fells, Esq.


Archdiocese wins monument case


The Supreme Court of New Jersey has published a letter opinion finding in favor of a private mausoleums program and an inscription rights program for monuments offered by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark. The plaintiffs, the Monument Builders of New Jersey and two monument builder businesses, had alleged that the 10 cemeteries owned and operated by the archdiocese violated the state's statutory prohibition on cemeteries selling markers and monuments. The statute in questions bars "public cemeteries" from selling markers and monuments to the public. The archdiocese said its cemeteries are not governed by the particular statute but by another state law that applies to private cemeteries.


State laws regulating cemeteries in the northeastern states, primarily New York, New Jersey and the New England states, have long prohibited cemeteries from selling markers, monuments and outer burial containers, even when the use is limited to placement in each respective cemetery. These same states generally prohibit for-profit cemeteries from operating, therefore the restrictions on selling markers and outer burial containers affect only nonprofit cemeteries. Ironically, the Internal Revenue Service ruled long ago that tax-exempt cemeteries may sell markers, monuments, vaults and even flowers for use in their own cemeteries, and such actions are within the scope of their tax exemption.


The New Jersey monument builder plaintiffs argued that the inscription rights program was a subterfuge around the state law prohibiting cemeteries from selling monuments. Technically, the Catholic cemeteries were not selling monuments to the public, but sold only the inscription work. The ownership as well as the responsibility for maintenance of the monuments remained with the archdiocese. The case attracted widespread industry attention, especially on the East Coast, because of the potential for the court to rule in the cemeteries' favor through a finding that the inscription rights program was a legitimate alternate to providing monuments without violating New Jersey's ban on their sale by cemeteries.


The court analyzed the parties' arguments and ruled that since the archdiocese cemeteries offer interment only to members of the Catholic faith they do not fall under the statute's ban that applies only to public cemeteries. The court was not required to rule on the legality of the mausolea and monument programs and whether they are a legitimate alternative to the ban on selling monuments. Since there is no restriction on either activity under the New Jersey law governing private cemeteries, the court ruled that it was irrelevant whether the "public cemeteries" statute banned these activities. Simply stated, the public cemeteries statute does not apply to religious cemeteries, therefore the issue was moot.


It is not known whether the plaintiffs will appeal the Superior Court's ruling. ICCFA Special Legal Counsel Poul Lemasters testified as an expert witness on behalf of the archdiocese. The text of the court's decision can be found here. A news article from can be found here.


Proposal would limit turfgrass

to 40 percent of burial spaces


A construction-standards-setting entity called ASHRAE publishes model regulations subsequently adopted and enforced by state and local governments. An addendum to ASHRAE Standard 189.1, Sec. 5.3.5 and Sec., proposes to expand an existing turfgrass limitation from "greenfield" sites to "all sites." This would substantially increase the scope of this standard's 40 percent turfgrass restriction. Athletic fields and golf courses are excluded, but cemeteries are not.


ICCFA submitted comments urging that cemeteries be excluded: "Cemeteries, similar to golf courses, are turfgrass havens. The very nature of both entities requires a totality of grass coverage that a 60 percent exclusion would severely undermine. Just as an area on a golf course without grMatthews 7-1-13ass would be unsuitable for its dedicated use, so grave spaces without grass coverage would render the acreage unsuitable for burials.


"A cemetery acre dedicated for burial use would typically develop an average of 1,000 burial spaces. Therefore, limiting a vegetated cemetery acre to 400 burial spaces would not only cause a gross inefficiency of land use for its dedicated and zoned purpose, but also cause a severe economic impact on a cemetery with a domino effect of reducing contributions to its maintenance care fund and working capital. Cemeteries are the only businesses that service what they sell forever. In another words, there is no "five-year warranty" on a cemetery's maintenance responsibilities."


Subsequently, ICCFA participated in two telephone conference calls with ASHRAE to discuss whether cemeteries should be added to the exclusions to the proposed requirement. The ICCFA was notified by ASHRAE officials that "burial grounds" would be excluded from the 40 percent limitation on turfgrass seeding.


The review process has several more steps to undergo; the ICCFA will participate to ensure that cemeteries continue to be excluded. Without the exclusion to cemeteries, the language would have to be opposed in every state, county or city where the revised standard would be considered for adoption.


To read  more about the ICCFA's legal and legislative efforts on behalf of the death-care profession, click here.


return to top 



Protecting Your Families and Business:

Notes from the road...About Being a Good Host


Author Jim Starks, CFuE, CCrE, is President of J. Starks Consulting in Lutz, FL, and a nationally-recognized trainer on funeral home and crematory risk management.

As I travel around the country, I notice many areas for improvements in and around firms. When I approach a funeral home or cemetery, I try to have the eyes of a consumer. And this time, I'd like to share with you my thoughts as a frequent guest of businesses in the death care industry.


The first thing I see is a business's signage. That signage is your local brand. However, I've witnessed signage that is surrounded by overgrown weeds and unkempt landscaping. Sometimes it has even fallen to a state if ill repair from a lack of maintenance. Even signs that are cared for may be improved by illuminating them at night.


The second thing I see is the driveway entrance. I notice whether it is clean, or whether it is littered with dirt, weeds, trash or cigarette butts.


The outside of the funeral home speaks volumes about the type of service inside to many consumers: 

  • Are there areas on the building that need to be painted?
  • Are there dirty windows?
  • Are there any broken windows?
  • Do the building and window ledges need power washed?
  • Is the sidewalk cracked, broken or uneven?
  • Do attic windows need window treatments?

I know green is in. But having green weeds growing in your parking lot is not. Are there areas in the parking lot that need to be filled or fixed? Does the parking lot need to be resealed? Is there trash and debris around the property?


The approach to the entrance of the funeral home gets even more personal: 

  • Does the mulch need to be refreshed?
  • Are there weeds growing in the landscaping?
  • Are there unknown vegetation or small, wild trees growing in the landscaping?
  • Is there a cigarette butt receptacle? Is it emptied daily?
  • If there is a glass door, is it free of fingerprints?
  • If there is a solid door, is it clean?

These are all things that many consumers notice. You may consider having your full staff, as a team, walk around your building to critique what needs to be done. This will help build your tea Milne 2013 m and allow everyone to see flaws.


As a matter of maintenance, every morning the manager or a designated employee should walk around the property to see if anything needs to be done. This should also be done before a service or visitation.


Taking pride in the outside of your building is a reflection of the care provided behind its doors. Having employees help monitor what others see can build their own pride in their place of work and remind them that a consumer might never know their excellent services because nobody bothered to weed.


Jim Starks, CFuE, CCrE, is President of J. Starks Consulting in Lutz, FL., and a nationally-recognized trainer on funeral home and crematory risk management. He used his experience in both funeral home and crematory operations and risk management, combined with his involvement with funeral homes of all sizes and geographies, to become an authority at controlling risk and loss in the death care industry, providing lectures and presentations to private firms, as well as regional, state and national associations. He also conducts private audits and risk assessments to independent funeral homes and crematories in the US and Canada, often identifying ways to save or generate thousands of dollars of profit. Jim is a Michigan and Indiana-Licensed Funeral Director and Embalmer, and ICCFA and CANA-certified crematory operator, as well as Dean of ICCFA University's College of Cremation Services. He is a graduate of the U of Wyoming, the Mid-America School of Mortuary Science, and the ICCFA University. For more information on risk management in the death care industry, visit Contact Jim at 813-765-9844 or


Article sourced from Funeral Home and Cemetery News for June 2014.


back to top 

Advance Sales Roundtable

Roundtable By Lauren Moore, featuring Daniel M. Isard, Paul White


Preneed isn't just for funeral homes. Cemeteries can certainly benefit from boosting their advance sales - but it's not an easy task, especially with the rise in cremation. We spoke to Daniel M. Isard, president of The Foresight Companies, and Paul White, vice president of client development and marketing with Funeral Services, Inc., who shared their thoughts on best practices for making advance sales.


Paul White, vice presidentof client developmentand marketing forFuneral Services, Inc.

What are the top three things cemeterians can do to boost or improve their advance sales?


Isard: The key to selling for a cemetery is to have a formal program that keeps brining people on site, not just to participate in an interment program. Therefore:


Cemeteries should engage in aftercare and outreach programs such as Easter sunrise services, Earth Day, balloon releases and other giant outdoor programs. They should also compensate salespeople a higher commission for leads they generate on their own, and a lower commission for those that deal with walk-ins to keep them active in generating leads, and they should track inventory. As inventory is decreased in an area, raise prices. Let hose on a reservation system for a site know that prices are going up. If they go up in one area, they need to have parallel increases throughout the cemetery.


White: Today, with the growing popularity of cremation, it is more important than ever to educate people on the need for permanent memorialization

 in a cemetery. The first step is to advertise and promote the importance of

memorialization by incorporating this message into all sales and marketing efforts.


Second, cemeteries really need to recruit people who are self-starters and who can deliver this message to potential consumers. All sales start with motivated salespeople, so it is important to find and

Dan Isard, owner and president of The Foresight Companies, LLC, is nationally recognized as an authority in valuation, succession planning, business management, mergers and acquisitions, and preneed.

train the right ones.


Third, cemeterians can develop new types of programs and seminars to educate people and promote advance sales. These can even be held right at the cemetery and include tried-and-true sales techniques from other fields. I have worked with funeral service professionals who have hosted events such as health fairs and blood drives to attract potential consumers. I know other cemeterians who have launched special promotions and tactics such as space giveaways using buy-one-get-one-free offers.


When it comes to advance sales, I have seen that traditional marketing has proved to be less and less effective. From a historical perspective, advance sales really began to ramp up during the 1940s, mainly through door-to-door sales. By canvassing neighborhoods and knocking on doors, cemeterians generated interest among consumers. The other primary method has been telemarketing, picking up the phone book and calling people. Unfortunately, we know live in an era where people are reluctant to open their door to a stranger. As for using the telephone to reach potential consumers, both the do-not-call registry and caller ID have really hampered telephone prospecting. As the tried and true methods of lead generation of the past fade away, we are seeing an increase in campaigns created to educate the public and improve advance sales.


What are some of the biggest obstacles cemeterians face when it comes to advance sales?


White: The rapidly rising rate of cremation and the lack of awareness of the need to memorialize a loved one's cremated remains are the greatest challenges facing cemeterians. People have come to think of cremation as the final form of disposition; they are scattering the remains or taking the remains home in an urn. There is a need to educate consumers about the kind of permanent memorialization a cemetery can offer.


Another factor is the growing number of national cemeteries. Right now, the country is burying more veterans from World War II and the Korean War than at any time in our history. With that, there has been a big demand for burial spaces at national cemeteries because they are provided for free. If there is a national cemetery even within a couple of hours of where a person lives and if they are set on casket burial rather than cremation, it is almost a no-brainer for them. It is very difficult to compete with free.


Isard: Three things: hiring good salespeople, relying upon walk-ins and not using all staff to look for leads. The grounds crew generally comes in contact with more people than any other employee. They need to be thinking that someone could be a current or future buyer and get a salesperson on site ASAP.


What are some of the best avenues for marketing advance sales?


Isard: Eighty percent of all sales are made to people with friends and family interred on site. So keep people coming back to pay their respects via outreach programs.


Do something different. Employ the community to flag the cemetery around national holidays, and that keeps a site relevant. The Scouts are a great resource for this.


White: Group seminars and presentations have become the go-to marke premier 2013-2014 for web ting method for funeral professionals, not just cemeterians. As mentioned earlier, the techniques of the past just are not working anymore, so health fairs and other events can be very promising. These tactics support the education-focused strategy that communicates the permanent memorialization a cemetery can offer in response to the rise in cremations.


In addition, running newspaper inserts with incentives such as free space may prove fruitful. Of course, the real secret is continuous prospecting, follow-up and pure salesmanship.


How is cremation affecting advance sales?


White: It is having a profound impact. As cremations rise, fewer and fewer individuals are turning to cemeteries. In a relatively short period of time, consumer attitudes have shifted dramatically and cemetery advance sales have suffered. Some cemeterians are combating this shift by offering memorial gardens, which are areas designed for cremated remains that offer permanent memorialization in a cemetery.


I have also seen cemeteries convert full-size mausoleum spaces into niche spaces. I am aware of one cemetery that has subdivided unsold inventory, placing up to 30 urns or other containers of cremated remains in a single, full-size mausoleum crypt and listing the names of the individuals on the crypt's front panel. For this cemetery, a $3,000 space is now generating more than $36,000 in revenue. These slight changes to a cemetery's product can help keep it current wit hconsumer trends and flexible to-market forces.


Memorial gardens and education-focused marketing are distinct ways some cemeterians are rebounding from sluggish advance sales due to a rise in cremations.


Isard: No body, no burial. However we have to look at the new model for selling when dealing with cremation consumers. In a burial case, the consumer must make decisions about caskets and interment within 36 hours usually. With cremation more sales can be made post funeral service than before. The cremated remains go from being an asset to a liability over 10 years. Keep selling to cremation families as they will by inurnment options if they are marketed to. Same thing with selling urns and jewelry.


article by Lauren Moore sourced from American Cemetery Magazine May 2014.


back to top 


 USPS announces new shipping standards for cremated remains


In an effort to expedite the shipping process for cremated remains the Postal Service has adopted new domestic shipping standards.


Human (or animal) cremated remains being shipped with the U.S. must use Priority Mail Express service only. International shipping standards remain the same as they have been.


Click here for the publication "How to Package and Ship Cremated Remains." 

Community Outreach: Mausoleums

Cemetery finds crypts & niches

pair beautifully with art & wine


When you've completed a new facility, you want people in your community to see it - ideally, before they need the services you provide. Green Hills Memorial Park added a twist to the usual route of hosting an open house, turning its Pacific Terrace Mausoleum into an art museum for an elegant evening of entertainment.


Interview by ICCFA Magazine managing editor Susan Loving for ICCFA Magazine June 2014.


Jennifer Frew, CCE, CC, is community events coordinator, customer service manager and safety & claims administrator at Green Hills Memorial Park, Rancho Palos Verdes, Cal. She orchestrates and oversees one of the largest Memorial Day observance programs in the country, and her Easter sunrise services have attracted more than 2,000 participants annually. She is a grad of ICCFAU and a Certified Celebrant, a member of the ICCFA Board of Directors and former co-chair of the ICCFA's Next Generation Committee.
Green Hills Memorial Park in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, hosts a renowned annual Memorial Day observance that draws thousands of people. The cemetery has grown its own pumpkins and cornfield for a Halloween celebration and provided its Southern California community with a white Christmas via its "Let it Snow" holiday celebration.  


So while turning a mausoleum grand opening into an elegant art show and wine tasting might sound daunting to some organizations, for GHMP, it was a piece of cake. Or, rather, a slice of brie.


ICCFA Magazine talked to Jennifer Frew, who oversees community events at GHMP, about the decision to create this sophisticated grand opening for its Pacific Terrace Mausoleum, the work involved and the results.


How many mausoleums do you have?

If you look at a cemetery map - or if you're just driving around - it looks like we have 10, with some being additions to existing mausoleums. And we're now developing another one, Inspiration Slope. Our master plan maps where we're going to place mausoleums.


About three years ago, the work on designing Pacific Terrace really began, and it was completed in September 2013, with the construction taking about a year.


Why did you decide to have a grand opening - and why specifically an art show and wine tasting?

It was partly to show off the building to the people who had bought preneed (we do preconstruction sales for most of our projects) as well as those who had had at-need situations arise and were in temporary crypts waiting for Pacific Terrace to be open. We wanted them to see what the building they had chosen as their final resting place looked like now that it was done.


But the main reason is that Pacific Terrace incorporates something different for us - rooftop burials - and we wanted to show people that section, as well. We're in a residential area and we have to work around some height restrictions, so this mausoleum is tucked into a hillside and has a green roof, where we have lawn crypts.


The new Pacific Terrace Mausoleum at Green Hills Memorial Park, Rancho Palos Verdes, Cal.

We wanted to give this event a different style, a different atmosphere, and we thought that offering food and wine and an art exhibit would do that. It's a beautiful building, and you can see from the photos that the granite makes a perfect backdrop for the art.


Green Hills Memorial Park is a beautiful park. If you drive through our grounds on the weekends, you see a lot of people visiting, picnicking with their loved ones and just enjoying the park. Yes, people do come here to grieve and mourn the loss of their loved ones, and that's natural, but we want to emphasize that we're also here to celebrate life.


By bringing more beauty into the park through an art exhibit, we thought we could demonstrate that idea, and emphasize to people that when they buy a resting place here, that's what they're choosing.


We decided an art show and wine tasting would be an elegant event befitting our beautiful mausoleum. This was a different type of event than our 5K Trick or Trot Halloween Harvest, for example.


How many people did you draw?

Our goal was to bring in at least 150 people; close to 400 people attended the opening night. (We kept the   art on display for several days, so more people did come by to see the show and mausoleum.)


How did you find the artists whose works were included?

My father, Ray Frew, contacted a woman who handles art shows, a curator, and we worked with her to find the artists. She knew of some whose work she thought would fit with our event. Some of the artists were taken aback by the idea of an art show in a mausoleum. "This is a beautiful location, but why am I here?" I talked to them about the beauty of our park and about it being a place for celebrating lives, and then they understood.


And of course the event was an opportunity for these artists. My father and I both bought some pieces - there was some really fabulous artwork on display.


Did the curator also set up the exhibit? I saw from the photos that you had canvases set up on easels and sculptures set up on tall blocks.


She came in and I worked with her. We had to look at the layout of the mausoleum and decide where everything would be displayed. We had to decide what the main entrance would be and figure out the traffic flow and where we wanted the easels set up. So that involved a few days of work for me and the curator in planning and doing the actual setup.


In addition to the art, you offered food and wine. What did that involve?

We actually had a caterer offer her services for free. She had heard we were planning this event, and called me up and told me what she had done in the past and said she wanted to volunteer her services. All she wanted was permission to put out her business cards.


I happily accepted, and she provided a beautiful fruit and cheese display that went perfectly with the wine tasting that we had both inside and outside the mausoleum. We also had a food truck, which was separate from what she did.


We had high-top tables set up outside so that people could go through the mausoleum and see the artwork, then pick up some wine and food and stand outside and enjoy the refreshments, talk to other guests and listen to some music.


The musician, a guitarist, was also someone my father found. He had heard him playing one night at a dinner and felt the music would go well with what we were doing - it was a soft sound, with somewhat of a reggae twist, calming and enjoyable.


Click here to continue.


back to top 

Getting emotional about your branding 



Author/blogger Dan Katz,

LA Ads

For those who missed Scott Deming's fantastic keynote presentation "Creating the Ultimate Customer Experience" at the ICCFA Convention, my condolences. He's a first-rate presenter, and more importantly, he is one of the leading evangelists for the power of emotional branding. What is that? It's the moment that a brand moves from just a name or a logo or a slogan to becoming a part of the customer's personal psyche.


Take Harley Davidson, for example. If you look at the company on the surface, you might say they're in the business of building motorcycles. But then, so too are Yamaha, BMW, Honda and Kawasaki. In fact, a Harley might not even be the very best-made bike on the road. That's entirely beside the point. Harley Davidson doesn't sell motorcycles; they sell the fantasy that a middle-age accountant can put on his leather jacket, jump on his Harley, roar down the road and make others afraid of him. Now THAT's a fantasy, and it's exactly what Harley Davidson sells. Guys (and gals) don't just buy a Harley, they buy into a lifestyle. Moreover, they're not just Harley owners collectively, they're members of a tribe, a cult, if you will.


That, in a nutshell, is the essence of emotional branding.


Or take Apple Computer. I k now designers and musicians who would smirk at any other "artist" who chose to design, compose or perform with a PC instead of a Mac. Yet, it's all just processors, memory chips and buttons, right? So why is a Mac in a league of its own? Because Steve Jobs recognized that it's not at all about bits, bytes and hard drives, but about empowering creative people without letting the hardware get in the way. "Think Different" isn't just a slogan, it's a mantra for those who believe in self-expression. By default, then, it makes all the PC-users of the world less cool, just part of the herd. And iPhone users believe they're more hip than Samsung and HTC owners! Apple isn't just a brand, it's a lifestyle statement.


Sightlife 6-2013 And how about Starbucks? Why would anyone spend $4 for a cup of coffee when blind taste tests show a greater preference for the $1 coffee served at McDonalds!!! Because Starbucks fans are not buying coffee as much as they're buying into the cool laptop-using, coffee-house-going, trendy brew-speaking self-image that Starbucks so carefully promotes. I admit, I'm one of them! And Starbucks carefully nurses that brand image in-store, with free iTunes downloads, whole-earth graphics, unusual pastries, free wifi, and a lexicon of menu lingo that is the difference between a "real" coffee aficionado and a pretender. Like Harley and Apple, it's more than a brand, it's another cult.


What each of these three famous brands has in common isn't the massive marketing budget (well, it's that too). They each recognize the power of emotional branding...branding not only the name but the experience. In Harley's case, the brand is so powerful, you don't have to search too hard to find the Harley logo tattooed on some guy's arm. What would it take to have your business name so permanently attached to a customer?


Think about this: In each case, the price of the product is often more expensive than their competitors'. Yet you couldn't drag the customer away from their cherished brand kicking and screaming. That's loyalty at the highest possible level.


The bottom line is that, as you think about your own funeral care brand, it's all about creating a total customer experience that is quite apart from your competition. It's about knowing what your customers currently expect of an acceptable funeral care experience, and then exceeding it at every turn.


There's a book on the market that's super-short and every word rings as true as when it was first printed in 1993: Raving Fans - A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service, by Ken Blanchard. He writes about why it's no longer enough to have satisfied customers. A thriving business today must create "raving fans" or its customers will bail the moment someone cheaper or sexier comes along. You'll certainly find inspiration here, as I have.


And then make sure, as you think about the emotionality of your brand, that you communicate it as powerfully and consistently as possible. Be the Harley Davidson, the Apple Computer or the Starbucks of funeral care and you'll no longer have to compete on price. You might even find your logo showing up where you least expect it.


Dan is president and creative director of LA Ads. Reprinted with permission from Dan's blog, Funeral Advertising for the Perplexed: Observations & Comments about Funeral Marketing & Advertising. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, visit, email via or learn more at


Sourced from Funeral Home and Cemetery News for June 2014 with permission.


back to top 

Greening the funeral industry

Sustainability in Death Care:

From Trend to Movement 


Trends come and go without consequence. Movements come and stay until they are no longer needed because the world has changed entirely. Movements happen when a group of people work hard toward a change. A movement with a humble beginning credited to the 1998 opening of Ramsey Creek Preserve in rural South Carolina has blossomed into a momentous change in modern burial practices. One example includes the expansion of natural burial service offerings by one of the industry's largest cemetery and funeral service providers, StoneMor Partners, L.P. (STON).


Mark Harris, author of the 2007 award-winning book, Grave Matters, opined on his blog last month at how quickly America's cemeteries have changed. While there were very few modern green cemeteries in America prior to 1998, today there are hundreds of existing and new cemeteries embracing sustainable burial practices to varying degrees of "going green" from merely allowing families to forgo co ncrete burial vaults to prohibiting vaults, monuments, and embalming entirely.


Several national market surveys by leading research groups in the last three years have reported that most people would consider a natural burial. In some regard, almost everyone values the environment when making choices in how they live from choosing what car they will drive to deciding what food they will eat. When asked specifically, most people extend their environmental values in making end-of-life choices. Making end-of-life choices consistent with one's values is a matter of being informed when it comes to the environmental impact of cremation, embalming, caskets, vaults, and other choices in death care.


The natural burial movement has brought death care discussions to the dinner table. When people ask good questions and share their values with one another, real change happens. The independent film, "A Will for the Woods," is the first feature-length documentary on the green burial movement. The film has stirred attention and conversation around the world through a comprehensive campaign including a Kickstarter project, social media buzz, film festivals, and local screenings. This movie is garnering the attention of Millennials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers alike adding to the momentum of the green burial movement.


Many in the death care industry in the early 2000s contended that "green burial"' would be a short-lived trend. Some early adopters of greener funerals were subject to accusations of greenwashing from their contemporaries. Today, we are witnessing a new era of Big Business on the Green bandwagon. We are living in a time when a Mountain View, California Walmart store hosted the President of the United States for a press even highlighting the White House's renewed push for solar energy. Conservation, recycling, carbon emissions, toxicity, pollution, energy use, renewable energy... these are all part of big business initiatives to some degree in every trade or industry. Death care is no exception.


I'm sort of done with Green. It isn't enough to declare one's individual or company intentions as "good for the environment." The sustainability movement has made such declarations pointless and irrelevant. Every company - even big companies - from Apple to Walmart are going green. Even the nation's largest trash removal company, Waste Management, has built an entire marketing campaign on going green. I say that if we aim to convince somebody that they should consider our product or service because it is greener, we must be prepared to talk about exactly how we will contribute to creating a safer and healthier environment right now in the present and in the future. We need to provide specific and measurable benefits of our products and services, or our families won't pay attention. While it is true that "being green" isn't easy, it is no longer a differentiator either. Sorry, Kermit.



Jonas A. Zahn is the president and founder of Northwoods Casket Co., a manufacturer of environmentally friendly caskets made in Wisconsin. He has been involved in casket-making since building a casket for his grandfather in 2004 and now distributes sustainable caskets to funeral homes throughout the United States. Jonas has a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Jonas can be reached by email at Visit Northwoods Casket online at


Sourced from Funeral Home and Cemetery News for June 2014 with permission.


back to top 

vaultsDo you know what your burial families really want? (continued) 


3. Families are interested in personalization of the burial vault.

Survey participants were asked if they would be interested in personalizing the burial vault with words and symbols representing their loved ones' passions (similar to the vault pictured). Sixty-eight percent said they would be interested in personalization.


There are some striking disconnects between what was expressed by survey respondents versus what Wilbert is seeing in today's burial vault market.


A majority of respondents, after some education, stated they would prefer burial vaults rather than grave boxes. Also, a majority of respondents said they are interested in personalization, which generally is available only with lined burial vaults.


Yet sales data indicate a lower percentage of families choosing lined burial vaults than the survey would lead us to expect, as well as a lower percentage of personalization.


Why is this? One theory is self-perpetuation: Many people have never seen a personalized burial vault at a service (and this is certainly due in part to the fact that families are often not made aware of this option).


Another possibility is that families perceive added costs for personalization. Remember, pricing was not introduced in this study. Indeed, comments from respondents included questions as to the cost of personalization. If we had told them that personalization is generally free, perhaps the percentage of people interested in it would have been even higher than 68 percent.


Survey lessons

What are some of the implications funeral professionals might infer from this study? The key takeaway is the need to educate families. Families want to be thoroughly educated and when they are, they will make better decisions, choosing lined burial vaults more often over unlined concrete grave boxes.


Consider also that prior surveys indicate that 92 percent of funeral professionals buy lined burial vaults for their own family members, while only 50 percent of the general public selects burial vaults. Funeral professionals might conclude that they need to convey to families the value differences they themselves see between burial vaults and grave boxes.


A second implication is an extension of the first: Funeral professionals should not be afraid to educate because of the innate aversion many of them have to selling or being perceived by families as salespersons. Educating is not selling, and as this survey and the survey respondents' interest in the educational video show, families want to be told all their options so that they can make fully informed decisions.


This, then, leads to the third takeaway: Education can be helped by videos and other tools. The added benefit with using such tools is that the funeral professional can step away from the "sales" aspect and let families engage in self-learning. Self-learning is often more "sticky" and trusted.


In summary, given the challenges of communication with families in the at-need situation, it is clear that:

  • People do not understand the differences between a grave box and a burial vault.
  • After a brief video the majority desire lined burial vaults and the peace of mind they can provide.
  • Most families care about personalization when they see it is available.


The challenge to product providers and funeral professionals is to continue developing ways to break through to families and provide education that will lead to informed decisions. As documented by this study, families are not only open to education, they want it.


Article by Mark Klingenberger for ICCFA Magazine June 2014.


Wilbert Funeral Services Inc., Broadview, Illinois, manufactures burial vaults and related memorialization items for cremation families. 


back to top

  Wilbert Precast PNG

frew Crypts & Niches, Art & Wine


The fruit and cheese, plus wine refills, were inside the mausoleum (the wine tasting began outside). Tables were set up at the far end from the door designated as the entrance, to help with traffic flow and keep people moving through the mausoleum so they would be sure to see all the art.


The food truck was outside, of course. Even that was donated. One of our board members had been at an event where he bid on - and won - a certificate for X number of meals from this food truck. He offered it to us for an event, and we chose to use it at this one. Because we didn't have a budget for this specific event, any help we got to defray expenses was appreciated. The memorial park covered the food truck cost beyond what the donated certificate covered.


Where did you get the easels and tables?

We had to rent the easels, and we had to go and pick them up and then put them up in the mausoleum for the show. The tables and linens were also rented.


How long did it take to plan this grand opening?

This entire event basically came together in about three weeks. Everything came together - the food, the artwork, everything.


Did you need to get any kind of permits for any aspect of the grand opening?

Generally, we don't need to obtain permits since the events take place on our property. However, on occasion if a tent is rented we do need to file permits, have a fire inspector come out and authorize set-up, and we file for liability insurance. When we have vendors such as food trucks participate, we ask them to name us on their liability insurance forms.


Do you know who the grand opening attendees were? Were they mostly people who had bought crypts?

Our first invitation went out to those who had purchased space in Pacific Terrace, because we wanted them to see the final product. That night, people were able to meet with the counselor they had bought from and the counselor was able to show them their crypt.


But we also advertised the event, and I would estimate that more than half of the attendees were not purchasers. We asked for RSVPs, for people to register that they planned to attend, and got them primarily by mail. Some of those people did inquire about property; all of them will receive information about future developments or basic information about future developments or basic information about the memorial park offering to answer questions they might have or to provide a tour.


In general, we don't try to solicit too much with our events. We don't want people to feel they're there just so we can try to sell them something. We want them to know we understand and appreciate and respect our community, and that this is our way of giving back.


If you were going to do something like this again, is there anything you'd do differently?

Well, we all walked away from this event feeling very pleased - especially since we put it together in such a short time. The only thing I'd do differently if I were doing it again is make it bigger. Which, if you know me - that's what I do!


Once we complete the next mausoleum, we might do something similar, but maybe add a few touches to it. Not that there was anything wrong with what we did at Pacific Terrace, but with more time to plan, we might have a chance to do more.


Our events are pretty big. Not just our signature Memorial Day event, which is a huge draw for us - several thousand people. Our Easter service draws more than 2,000 people.


We decided to do a 5K Trick or Trot and grew our own pumpkins. We planted a cornfield and turned it into a maze. We got the schools involved in a contest to design scarecrows. More than 2,000 people took home pumpkins.


At our Let It Snow holiday festival and memorial tree-lighting ceremony, we had a company come in to provide fake snow, and we had a snow sled. The kids had a blast - and so did the adults. We had a Santa who posed for photos with children, and we let people download the photos for free from our website. We did a "sleigh ride" using one of our little tractors. We got the kids involved in making ornaments for the memorial tree, and had high school students singing. We probably had 1,500 people attend.


Polyguard 7-12 We're trying to be even more creative, add more events. We're bringing in Shakespeare by the Sea, which will perform "A Midsummer's Night Dream" at the park this summer. We've had concerts here before, but I'm really looking forward to having actors.


We're also looking at the possibility of doing a car show in our cemetery. Even though our cemetery is large, it's called Green Hills Memorial Park for a reason - we've got hills - and that's a challenge for a car show.


But overall, we're very blessed with our large property in a residential area, a nice budget for events and our weather. We get huge turnouts for our events.


back to top

New WCCFA Member/Director Liaison List 


As mentioned earlier, the WCCFA Board has put together its 2014 Liaison Committee. You can link to it here. Member properties are listed alphabetically in the yellow-highlighted column. Your Liaison on the board is listed in the far-left column.


The purpose of the Liaison Committee is to link every voting member of the association directly to a board member, someone you can call when you have a question, an idea, a problem or, yes, even a complaint. More active members already know many of the board members, but those who can only attend conferences and conventions occasionally may feel somewhat isolated.


For the board's part, they can come to you with questions when the board is seeking member input, or let you know when something is going on you should know about right away.


Your Liaison contact will be in touch with you soon - but don't wait. You can contact your Liaison anytime you like. Link here for the list, including how to contact your own Liaison.


Back to top

Assorted Useful Links


Washington State Funeral and Cemetery Board


WSFDA: Washington State Funeral Directors Association


 ICCFA: International Cemetery, Cremation & Funeral Association


CANA: Cremation Association of North America


NFDA: National Funeral Directors Association


CAO: Cemetery Association of Oregon


 OFDA: Oregon Funeral Directors Association


MBNA: Monument Builders of North America


PNMBA: Pacific Northwest Monument Builders Association 




Do you have a job position to fill?

Cemetery or funeral home equipment to sell?

Are you looking for a job?

Classified ads for WCCFA members are FREE.

Send your information to the WCCFA at 


The WCCFA Insider is published ten times per year by and for the members of the Washington Cemetery, Cremation & Funeral Association. Portions of the information in this publication are taken from other sources which we believe to be reliable and which are not necessarily complete statements of all the available data. The services of an attorney or an accountant should be sought in connection with any legal or tax matter covered. Conclusions are based solely upon our best judgment and analysis of technical and industry information sources.

MAIL ONLY 16212 Bothell-Everett Highway, F183, Mill Creek, WA 98012

Phone 425-345-6186

News articles, editorials, press releases, commentary are all welcomed.

For information about membership, advertising or editorial policy,

contact Judy Faaberg, Executive Director.




Branding 28


In This Issue
Dave Ittner is Fairmount's New Senior VP
Advertise in The Insider!
And the survey says...
Five surprising stats about social media and older adults
Kelso Funeral Home on Probation After Body Switch
The Ground Rules
USPS announces new shipping standards
Time to throw a few rocks?
10 Tips for Cemetery Preservation
In Memoriam: Darcie D. Sims
Liaison List Updated
Bulletin Board