Millennials, They're Not Buying It.
Updated: Apr 5, 2019
It used to drive me nuts thinking that todays generation, will spend money on a brand new vehicle, but not on a funeral for their loved one. In the past I would scoff in disgust, when a client pulled up to the funeral home in a shiny new Mercedes Benz and state matter of factly, they just wanted an immediate cremation. Or they would have a funeral and be completely infuriated with the final bill. I used to sit there with a blank look on my face thinking, you just received hundreds of thousands of dollars in inheritance and a house. Why are you mad? If you have the money, why not have a nice funeral for your mom? People don't bat an eye at dropping 30 grand on a wedding, but 10 G's for their mom and they're trying to haggle the bill. You're probably going to be divorced in 5 years anyways!
I have never been one to dream of my wedding. When I was a young girl, I would fantasize about my funeral. Exotic tropical flowers covered in moss, atop a casket with taxidermy custom corners. My best friend has already agreed to do an interpretive dance. I have a playlist on my phone specifically titled with songs I want played before and during the service. When I finally save enough disposable income, I am going to have a white pearlescent latex burial suit made.
I’m an eccentric person and during my off time, dabble in art and music. I really didn't consider that the average Joe, wanted anything other than a Roman Catholic priest performing a mass. For the typical baby boomer, that’s only partly true.
Catholic priests are now having to tolerate video presentations, and pop solos. I had a family write an entire rhymed hip hop celebration of life service for a gang member. I couldn't help thinking this is the greatest funeral I have ever experienced. I embalmed the guy, never met him, or even saw him on the street, but by the end of the service, I knew him.
Unlike the baby boomers, the average millennial doesn't care about caskets. They don't care about a ritual mass and they DON'T want a funeral. They love their family member as much as you do, and they're going anywhere and everywhere they can, to try and capture the essence of that person in ceremony. That ceremony is no longer the traditional service that it was 15 years ago.
So many funeral directors and funeral home owners, are complaining that eventually they will become just low cost crematoriums. They say people aren't interested in funerals anymore. They're wrong, and they aren't listening to the consumer. Are you reading your clients right? Do they want a keg party at the funeral home with a DJ? because I know at least half a dozen people who have had a service at a local bar in the past month.
Eventually IF we're doing our jobs correctly, we will learn to listen to the families we serve. We need to realize that grieving families feel like they're being forced to buy something they don't want. Its not because they don't love their family member, because they usually do.
If you had no shoes, went to a store, and had to choose between a pair of ugly brown sneakers, or some scuffed used high heels and pay $400 dollars for them, you would not feel too pleased with your purchase. Even if the sales staff got on one knee and tied them for you while you tried them on. That is how my generation feels about traditional funeral service.
Millennials are spending their disposable income more freely than any other generation, even with their student loans. They are more likely to lease a new car every 3 years; get an ITunes subscription (without ever buying an album), and pay top dollar for a boutique hotel. They know they will never be able to afford a house in Toronto, but they're willing shell out big bucks to live in a decent neighborhood. Why? Experience and service.
So in order to stay current and busy in the funeral industry, we need to have more options. I am not talking about putting together a video presentation on your Mac, everyone’s 8-year-old can do that. I’m talking about having non traditional price list packages.
A price list which captures the essence of that particular individual, what they did, what they loved. Have you ever considered having an entire section on your webpage and paper brochure, dedicated to celebration of life ceremonies? Have you contacted your local bar, town hall, or boutique hotel with an offer to use their facility on a regular basis; for these events at a discounted rate and list them in your brochure at regular price, so you can contract those places out?
You will still end up with a baby boomer, who has a traditional service for their mom, but takes home that celebration of life price list which includes; hors d'oeuvres and a wine bar. Maybe it has a live jazz pianist and a bubble machine. Even if they don't want that bubble machine, you're going to get questions about other options. Consumers will begin to believe, that your funeral home is cutting edge. They will say to their friends, we got great service from them with mom’s service, and they really can do anything. They will be more inclined to prearrange. They will want to purchase an experience for their family and friends, which they feel has value. This generation is looking for something original, and they're willing to pay for it.
You might be thinking, they can do all that celebration of life stuff on their own. You're right, and many people are already are doing it on their own. The majority of the public believes you don't offer those services. In their mind, they feel they have no other option, than to do it themselves. When a family is grieving, they are tired. Setting up a funeral is exhausting. A service that offers a unique experience, at a families most difficult time, will be well received.
Creative input is very valuable to this generation. You can charge for it and your customer will be much more content with their purchase. This is not a trend in funeral service, this is not the future, it is happening right now. You are loosing clients every day, if you're not offering it.