Does Death Care have a “Consumer Influencer”?

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I will start today’s column with this paragraph that was in my Saturday edition of Seeking Alpha, a daily newsletter I receive about current events and the financial markets. . and sometimes how the two are intertwined.

“Cosmetics maker Coty (NYSE:COTY) agreed to buy a 20% stake in Kim Kardashian West’s make-up brand KKW for $200M, valuing the three-year-old company at $1B. That’s slightly less than the $1.2B valuation Coty put on Kim’s younger sister Kylie Jenner’s business when it bought a 51% cent stake last year. Meanwhile, shares of Gap (NYSE:GPS) soared nearly 20% last Friday after the retailer announced a 10-year deal with the Yeezy fashion brand of Kanye West, who is married to Kim Kardashian.”

I’m also going to preface my article with a little history of what I know of the company Spotify.  So, Spotify is a music listening service I found my youngest son, Jack,  listening to about four years ago.  At that time it was a private company that offered a free service of listening that was meant to compete with Apple Music.  My son explained to me that you could listen to a genre of music provided by Spotify free of charge or you could pay about $5 per month to build your own music playlist. . . consumers had that choice.

As a high school student the free option appealed to Jack.  He has now moved on the $6.99 per month payment plan and builds his own playlist.  To make a long story short, I was intrigued by the company and bought the stock when it came public about two years ago.  The company is still not profitable but it has announced this Spring that it would also move into a podcasting strategy and announced that exclusive podcasts would be available featuring celebrities Joe Rogan and Kim Kardashian.  The almost immediate result was a rise in the per share price from less than $150 per share to a closing price last Friday (I’m writing this over the weekend) of over $271.

Quite frankly, in my opinion, all because it announced the Rogan and Kardashian deals.

So, I asked myself what do Kim Kardashian, Kylie Jenner, Kanye West, and Joe Rogan have in common?  When I think about an answer it comes to me that they all have a tremendous following that they can influence.

That led me to ask myself who influences the funeral profession?  I think that there are a lot of smart people that influence the businesses within the funeral profession with marketing and the like. . .think of Ryan Thogmartin at Disrupt Media or Joe Weigel of Weigel Strategic Marketing or Welton Hong at RingRing Marketing for marketing expertise.  Or Jake Johnson and Dan Isard for business and financial operations.  But, what about who is influencing the consumer?

I would argue that for years it has been the patriarchal local funeral director who now sits in that Boomer age bracket of 56-74 years of age.  Just

Tom Anderson
Funeral Director Daily

think of the influence on the consumer family when he said something like, “Viewing of the body is good for your grief”.  That is still true, but the consumer doesn’t always listen anymore. . . .as in other categories, they are looking for other influencers for advice.

So, who does that next generation of potential consumers listen to when it comes to death care?  I don’t think the jury is in yet on who that is or will be, but I also know that the consumer looks to “celebrity” probably as much as they look to “profession” and I am amazed that when I tell people I am a funeral director many will say something like, “Oh, cool. . . I follow Caitlin Doughty.”

Does that come as a surprise to you?  It probably shouldn’t. . . she has, at last check, 109,000 Twitter followers (@TheGoodDeath).

Who is Caitlin Doughty?  Her Wikipedia page says this, “Caitlin Marie Doughty is an America mortician, author, blogger, and YouTube personality known for advocating death acceptance and the reform of Western funeral industry practices.”

Doughty also is a part owner of a Los Angeles funeral home, Clarity Funerals and Cremation.  Wikipedia also says, ” (Doughty) is the founder of The Order of Good Death, an inclusive community of funeral industry professionals, academics, as well as artists who advocate for and make possible, a more death informed society.”

You can also find out more about her and her work at

Finally, Recompose is the company founded in Seattle that has helped to legalize the idea of human composting.  You will find Doughty on their list of Advisors.

So, just as companies such as Coty, and Gap, and Spotify are looking for influencers to bring customers to their doors, the funeral home industry needs to be aware of who our potential consumer influencers are and what products they are endorsing to the Millennial generation (born between 1981 and 1996).  The generation who will be helping their parents make death care decisions in the future.

To not be on that watch may find your business see opportunities pass it by.  And, to know what influencers are professing and be ready for it, may bring customers to your door.

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