Convincing a “Traditionalist” of the need to change



If you Google the phrase “Can’t see the forest for the trees” and ask the meaning of it, here’s what comes back, “we sometimes cannot see situations as they really are while we are in the midst of them. In short, we lose our perspective when we are too heavily invested in a particular situation, approach, organization, etc.”


I’m leaving for the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) convention tomorrow and I am really excited to see how our profession is handling what I see as a massive, and much quicker than believed, shift in consumer sentiment and behavior in death care services.  I’m a traditionalist. . . but I can see the change a-comin’.


The interesting thing.  .  is this change is not just in death care.  It’s happening in other industries and death care is just getting caught up in the sweeping changes of attitudes that is happening in a world that is wired together with instant news and shopping information.


I’m a college football traditionalist, too.  For my entire life I’ve loved the way college football has operated. . . .The Rose Bowl, in general, will showcase the best team in the Big Ten versus the best team in the old Pacific Athletic Conference (recently the Pac 12). . . . .Well, that’s no more.


Tom Anderson
Funeral Director Daily

I’ve got a really good friend who is in athletic management at a Division I Power 5 university.  He’s a traditionalist, too. . . . We talked the other day and he told me get used to what is happening because the people that are paying the bills — those under age 45 are not traditionalists — and they want to see “marquee games” every weekend.   If you’re not a “marquee school” be careful or you will be left behind.


I also talked to a wedding photographer at the coffee shop this past weekend.  We talked about that industry. . . and there is not a lot of traditionalists left there either.  We talked “Destination Weddings” and he explained to me that he doesn’t think it is all a “lack of religion” causing less church weddings. . . . He told me that women like my wife, in our age bracket, dreamed of “traditionally walking a long church aisle with their father” on their wedding day.   No more — when young ladies start dreaming of their wedding day today  —  many times it starts with where the destination will be.  That “destination” is the first thing that takes hold and moves the tradition away from the church venue.


I don’t think any of this is unusual. . . because traditions do change over time.  With our profession we’ve changed over time from a plurality of earth burials to a plurality of cremation dispositions.  What is changing is the “rapidity” of the movements from tradition. . . .partly because of the availability of knowledge at our fingertips in our society today.


My athletic director friend says “We’re not done” with the conference re-alignments yet.. . . Some schools that are still included in the Power Conferences may prove not to be such “marquee” names and may find themselves soon on the outside of what they are inside of right now.  If they can’t deliver that “marquee” value to consumers they will be out.


I think it is the same with death care providers  — if we cannot “deliver that value” to consumers, we may be out as their choice also.  And, while there is a lot of different options of consumer choice in the death care realm, where do I see that value thought moving to?  However you define “consumer value”, I see death care moving in the direction of:


  • Simple — Not all, but more and more death care consumers seem to want “Simple” solutions


  • Digital — Not all, but more and more death care consumers seem to want at least a part of the transactional experience to be online and done in preneed or at-need fashion from the comfort of their own home


  • Experiential — Here’s what I think is the key.  The “new consumer” wants an experience that is satisfying to them.  The “Experience” may include public services or it may not, but whatever the services are, they want them to be gratifying to them and within the value cost expectations that they have.  I don’t necessarily mean “inexpensive” . . . . Think Disney here — there are some people who value that park experience to the tune of $300 per day or a Taylor Swift concert where concert goer’s may pay upwards of $1,000 to attend —  They see value at those prices. . . . Death care services need to show a “value” to the paying consumer and it is in the experience that that value can shine through.


Tradition” still has value to me.  For instance viewing the body, hearing a eulogy, seeing the body interred, and having a lasting cemetery monument will be something I pay for.  However, I don’t think that tradition has a value to many anymore.  To stay relevant in their present state, funeral homes have to find where that value is to the “new consumer”.


You see, the new death care consumer has ideas too.  It’s not a lot different than the young lady dreaming of her wedding destination or the football consumer looking for that LSU vs. Ohio State or Georgia vs. Southern Cal match-up as compared to a warm-up game of Little City College vs. Mighty Michigan.  Nobody wants to see that game anymore, nor will the consumer pay for it.


The funeral consumer, during life. . . if and when he thinks of his mortality and eventual demise no longer conjures up a picture of his casket in the front of the church with his family weeping in sadness. . . . . The picture he conjures up is of his family and friends visiting at his favorite gathering place and remembering good times.   What’s done with his/her remains doesn’t seem to be a part of the picture at all anymore. . . . . .and, that picture of his/her  “services” at the gathering place will eventually become the reality.


It’s the “can’t see the forest for the trees moment” in death care.  Don’t lose the perspective of where it all seems headed simply because you are heavily invested in the way it “is” or “was”. . . .Be open to the “new consumer” coming to death care.


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  1. Beacham McDougald on September 8, 2023 at 1:42 pm

    Ditto to Danny’s sentiments and Tom’s perspectives. It is not easy valuing the history and traditions of funeral service, and fully embracing the profound, realistic values of change.

  2. Danny Jefferson on September 8, 2023 at 5:28 am

    I needed to hear this today. Thank you again for your perspectives and how they help readers to think.

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