It’s not just about the pretty sofa – that’s a given.
It’s the swoosh. It’s that familiar fragrance as you come closer to Abercrombie. IT’S THE BRAND. The business brand. Your business brand communicates tangible and intangible ideas. It tells your families who you are and what’s important to you. It communicates your identity. It can be a name, a logo, a tag-line, or a combination of elements that tell your community what you do – and how you do it. It isn’t just about features and benefits. It is about their emotional connection to your funeral home.
Having someone accurately recall your brand depends on how well developed it is. Yes, it’s your logo. Yes, it’s the look of your stationery or website. We tend to associate branding with marketing. Print ads, billboards, radio spots or television. I’ve known funeral home owners who spend countless hours with staff, perfecting the arrangement process, designing the appropriate attire (color or custom coordinated suits for instance) for their directors, and making sure families are greeted at the front door with the funeral home’s signature handshake and smile. These are all part of branding – and that’s good. But sometimes that’s where it stops. Unfortunately, many do not think of their number one tool for the development of their business brand, the facility. Your building both exterior and interior – every inch of public space within the facility.
There are concrete ways to enhance the facility so that it conforms to your brand. And while the following 5 items may seem less than analytical – these 5 items will change the way your families see your business brand. These items are key to facilitating a pleasant emotion for someone within your facility. And a pleasant emotion then becomes a pleasant memory. Funeral home interiors can be made to help make a pleasant memory – or at the very least, make an unpleasant event more tolerable.
Here’s what some of the professionals say. It’s a long title and sounds quite dry – but consider the following out take. Jacques Roques in his book, Psychoneurobiology Origins and Extension of EDMR: Psychological Anatomy Based on Neuroscience, writes “…there are only two kinds of emotion: pleasant and unpleasant.” He goes on to draw the following conclusions:
STRONG PLEASANT EMOTION = PLEASANT MEMORY
NEUTRAL EMOTION = NO MEMORY
STRONG UNPLEASANT EMOTION = BAD MEMORY
Emotion is the “connection” in branding. As business owners, we can choose to create pleasant emotions, turning them into pleasant memories, cementing a pleasant recollection of your business.
There are 5 key areas to consider when bringing your facility under the brand umbrella. They’re considered when developing an interior design ‘branding plan’ for your facility. It’s your five senses. All five senses. Remember, we’re facilitating a pleasant emotional connection between your families and your funeral home. Here we go…
SIGHT – A funeral home owner has 9 seconds to make a first impression. 9 seconds on the exterior and 9 on the interior. Most owners understand a well-maintained building, and that’s good, but not enough in today’s competitive climate. Color palette is key. If you want to convey luxury, privilege or opulence – then use pure colors such as strong blues, metallics and true whites. If your want your brand to say warm, friendly and inviting – then work with warm grays, browns and adobe or clay tones. You may want to convey celebration in your brand (celebrate the life of a loved one) – then most certainly use all shades of green. These can be coupled with almost any secondary color. Green is the color of nurture and health.
Sight sense includes many categories: it’s your flat screen, the furniture style, the appropriate pattern in the carpet, the efficiency (clean-ness) of your business office and not least of all, the casket display area presentation.
TASTE – Every funeral home owner has the ability to pay attention to this detail, even those in food restricted states. It may be as simple as the mints you provide or maybe flavored waters well-displayed and easily accessible. For those with less or no food restrictions, the public is used to specialty coffees and teas. They are used to a never-ending variety of food choices and expect those choices to be available no matter what the event. And yes, you will have spills on your lobby carpet so you’ll need a carpet that holds up to the wear. Yes it may be frustrating that today’s funeral doesn’t look like it did 20 or more years ago. But, it is now part of the culture and we can either choose to serve or allow the competition to serve.
HEARING – From my experience, this sense is present and done reasonably well by most funeral home owners. The right music at the right time. Good job! Remember though, current audio equipment capable of emitting great sound is almost as important as the music itself. The same is true for officiates and guest speakers during a service. Having a good lectern mic (no crackle) patched into the sound system or a suitable ‘in lectern’ system is vital.
SMELL – I suppose this is one of my biggest pet peeves. Unfortunately, many funeral home owners and staff have grown ‘nose blind’ to the scent of their facility. Scent is an incredible tool to imprint your business brand. And it’s not just the embalming fragrance that’s not good, it can be an old, musty smell of a funeral home with old, musty furniture.
Several years ago we came across a product that many of our clients now use. It’s ScentAir. We’re not connected to ScentAir but understand the value of the product. There’s even a tab on their home page for funeral homes. NOTE that if you elect to use a scent as a layer of your business brand, choose wisely. Too much aroma (sprays or diffusers) will alienate those with allergies. Generally recognized, lemon grass is the easiest, most widely accepted fragrance for a public space.
TOUCH – Maybe as critical as sight, this sense is addressed by well-planned interior design throughout all of the public space. Good space planning allows for conversation and that means that one piece of upholstery should be no more than 5 feet away from another. For intimate conversation, no more than 3 feel away from one another. Many times we’ll place an ottoman in front of a loveseat so two people can converse face to face. I think that’s a female thing. It’s being close enough to hold a hand while sitting next to someone.
Conversely, and as you undoubtedly know, some people just don’t want to sit near the casket. We typically make accommodations by adding a furniture grouping or two at the rear of the chapel. And for those that just don’t want to be anywhere near the chapel, lobby seating or coffee lounges are key.
In addition to proper space planning, touch involves the actual furniture pieces. The fabric you use on a chair. The fabric for a loveseat. Is it touchable? Is it scratchy? Is it pilled from years of use? Is the seat cushion too squishy? Or do you feel like you’re sitting on a board? All important considerations when thinking through your business brand and how the interiors of your facility reflect that brand.
Hope this is helpful in developing your brand —
Tam Schreiner, owner & president of FFH design