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LA ads president and creative director Dan Katz offers his perspective on the recent NFDA Convention in Boston and the important message funeral professionals should take away from it: the greatest risk is not taking one.

Watch now or read the transcript below:

One thing you can say about the recent NFDA Convention in Boston was there’s no shortage of stuff being offered to funeral homes, from unusual urns and keepsakes to affordable caskets, innovative digital marketing tools to dirt from Ireland so your Irish loved one can rest beneath homeland soil even in Poughkeepsie.

There’s no shortage of interesting products and services if one is open to exploring new options.

But here’s where the movement towards Change comes to a grinding halt: so many funeral directors are almost genetically change-adverse. Especially if they’ve been doing this for a long time, especially if they’re from a lineage of funeral directors.

We experienced this ourselves when we tried to help one of our clients promote its product to funeral homes to give away to their families as gifts of healing.  When the funeral home owners saw the product, they thought it was great and they wanted it.  Our client even gave them free samples to give to the families as a thoughtful keepsake.  But the product never left the funeral homes.  Why?

Because the funeral directors didn’t want to change the way they always supported their families. Anything new was foreign and upset the process they’ve always used.  Even if it could help a family.

Is it any wonder that most funeral homes are still struggling just to adapt to the growth of cremation and find new and profitable ways to serve their families?  They’re still stuck in the 1980s.

The leaders of the funeral and cemetery associations are sounding the alarm: Change is happening, Change is inevitable!

Which is why it’s so important to attend the major national and state conventions and be open to all the new ideas, new products and services that are being presented there.

Our friends at Connecting Directors and others are saying what we’ve been saying for a long time: The funeral profession is at risk of dying if it doesn’t evolve.

Your funeral business, whether you’re a provider or a supplier, is at greater risk by not taking risks, whether it be with your product offerings, your services or your marketing.

At this past NFDA Convention, our client, Sich Casket, continued to make a mark with their innovative shipping container booth and a fife-and-drum corps performance that got everybody’s attention along with lots of Instagram, Facebook and Twitter posts as an added bonus. Their message: the new Casket Revolution has begun!  Sure, daring to be different cost them a few dollars more than if they did what everybody else does, but taking the risk continues to keep them top-of-mind.

The poet Robert Frost said it best when he wrote of two roads diverging in the wood:  “I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”

So it’s time to ask yourself, which road will you take?

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Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Dan on LinkedIn. See agency work via this link.

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We’re often asked why we wear red shoes at conventions, and what does that have to do with helping our clients develop more successful marketing? Here’s the answer from agency president and creative director Dan Katz.

Watch now or read the text here:

There’s a traditional Japanese proverb that says “The nail that stands out is quickly hammered down.” For generations, conformity has been a societal standard in Japan.

The funny thing is, it’s not that different in American funeral service. More funeral homes and cemeteries are comfortable looking like all the others and doing things the way they’ve always been done. Breaking away from tradition is something one dare not do for risk of offending someone, or making the folks in the back offices uncomfortable.

To that, I say, Poppycock, balderdash, bull-pucky!

I make it a habit to scan the web to see what other funeral and cemetery providers are doing, and every once in a great while, I’ll see some marketing effort that is truly exceptional, even edgy – and I’ll contact the marketer and ask about the results. Almost all tell me that the effort was successful and helped them stand out in their marketplace.

Do they get complaints? Yes, some…but mostly they get new business, so it’s worth the risk. And this has also been our experience. When an advertiser Dares to be Different, they get noticed, and sales commonly start to follow. Which is why our own motto, Dare to be Different, has been on our lips since we began in the 1990s.

And the funny thing is, it doesn’t take much to be different and get noticed. Take our Red Shoes, which we always wear to conventions. You might say it’s our walking trademark, but really, it’s just our putting our own philosophy where our feet are.

People we’ve never met, never spoken with, stop us as we walk down the aisles wanting to know about our red shoes. When we walk along the booths, we’re always noticing how people’s eyes suddenly dart downward to our shoes and they smile. Friends will see us all the way across the hall because our red shoes stand out, even in a crowd. We even had one guy tell us, “I’ve now seen you walking down this aisle four times – but I never noticed anyone else!”

All this from just wearing a pair of red shoes. What does that tell you?

Different is visible.  Different is memorable. Different is interesting.

So, the question is… will you Dare to be Different to capture attention and get new business? Or is your own comfort zone holding you back? As I always like to say, if you don’t know the answer to this, your audience certainly does.

Oh, and if you’re going to the NFDA Convention in Boston and you happen to see us walking around in our red shoes, I hope you’ll say hello and let us know what you think of these blogs.

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Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Dan on LinkedIn. See agency work via this link.


One of our favorite mediums is Billboards. They can be powerful and cost-effective, but only if they’re done correctly. Unfortunately, a great many aren’t which is a painful waste of money, as prospective customers drive right by and never notice them. Agency president and creative director Dan Katz offers four simple tips to help assure the effectiveness and value of outdoor advertising.  Watch now.

Or you can read the story here:

Living in Los Angeles, you can’t avoid lengthy commutes, and with lengthy commutes comes lots of opportunities to see billboards.  Oh, we’ve got lots of ‘em…of all sizes…pitching everything from auto lube centers to Hollywood blockbusters.  Yes, even a few funeral homes and cemeteries use this tried-and-true medium, which as it turns out, is a great vehicle (no pun intended) for local advertising.  After all, done right, billboards can stand out.  If you’re stuck in traffic, you’re a captive audience.  They’re a great “reminder” medium supporting other marketing efforts.  And they can be located strategically, even across the street from a competitor!

Outdoor advertising, which includes billboards, bus benches, bus sides, bus shelters, subway panels and even entire sides of buildings, can be hugely effective if the creative is done correctly.  That’s the rub, because there’s a whole lot of outdoor that just sucks and the marketers don’t even know it.  Their messages are practically invisible, even if positioned at the best intersections of the city.

Yet doing it right isn’t all that difficult as long as one follows some basic guidelines.  Here are a few pointers that can lead to much more effective outdoor advertising.

Interestingly, the same pointers also apply to just about any medium that is either small or a quick read, such as online banners, yellow page ads or tee-shirts.

To start with, respect the medium.  It’s only big when you’re standing right next to it.  But in your car, it’s barely the size of your own thumb when you hold your hand at arm’s length.  And at 45 – 65 miles per hour, it’s only in view for about 5 seconds!

So a good way to test your billboard is to print it out on a sheet of paper and stand far enough back so your thumb can block it out.  Then look at it for 5 seconds.  If you can’t read the message for that tiny amount of time, redesign the artwork so you can.  That’s your litmus test.

Focus on one single, simple message. Don’t make the viewer have to work for it.  Have one thing you want to say, say it well, say it quickly and say it simply. And the same goes with any photo or artwork.  If someone has to figure out the picture in the few seconds they have, it will be a lost cause.

At the same time, don’t bury your product or brand. When all’s said and done, people must know who or what is being advertised. I see plenty of boards that only after I’ve driven past them a number of times do I know who’s the sponsor.  If your brand isn’t Coke or Target or MacDonald’s, make the logo or product a major element.

And finally, billboards are a great reminder medium.  They’re a great branding medium.  But unless you have a really simple vanity phone number or super-simple and memorable URL, don’t rely on your billboards to generate immediate action if someone has to write down a number or website while driving.

In the end, the old K I S S rule applies – keep it simple.  But also, don’t forget to make it powerful too.

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Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Dan on LinkedIn. See agency work via this link.

When bad things happen to your competitor, especially bad press, what is the best course of action? Slam them in ads? Post banners across the street from them? Call up the reporters and share your side?

LA ads president Dan Katz shares his point of view. It may not be what you think. Watch now.

Or you can read the text here:

There’s a German word that doesn’t have an English equivalent.  The word is Schadenfreude.

Literally translated, it meansmalicious joy in the misfortunes of others.”  Let’s be honest, we’ve all experienced that feeling when something unfortunate happens to someone we don’t like.

The other day, I got an email from a funeral home who was delighted that one of their competitors wound up in the news having to do with the mis-identification of a body and the wrong person was cremated.  Our funeral home wanted to know how to jump on the competitor’s bad press and show how they were the superior choice. It would seem like the obvious strategy, right?

But not so fast.

While it may seem that the competitor has a huge PR problem, it’s been our experience over the years that the public is really fast to forget or forgive the most egregious sins with funeral providers.  We can point to numerous funeral homes and cemeteries that got slammed in the media, often for very good reasons.  But, look again and you’ll see that they’re still in business, doing just fine!

Why? Well, truthfully,  the public seems to quickly turn a blind eye to such stories.  Funeral care for most people is like sausage making: the less the public thinks about the icky stuff, the better they like it.

So the bigger challenge still rests on continuing to communicate and demonstrate why selecting you is the better value and smarter solution.  Again, from experience, the brands that maintain positive top-of-mind awareness build credibility and higher perceived value.  Case in point: More people will gladly pay nearly twice for Green Giant peas than the next runner up because Green Giant is the trusted brand.

There’s no way to cheap out in marketing if you really want the kind of results that will push you ahead of your competition and justify your prices, AND will also inoculate you from bad publicity should %$#@ happen to you instead of to them.

So my suggestion is to start building up your own marketing strategy now instead of worrying too much about beating down the competition when they get bad press.

The higher road is always the better road.

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Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Dan on LinkedIn. See agency work via this link.

Haters Cap

Not everybody is going to love your marketing no matter how good it is. Especially given the business you’re in.  In fact, the stronger the effort, the more vocal the “Haters” who have some bone to pick with it.

LA ads president and creative director Dan Katz puts this in perspective and tells you why having a few “Haters” is just as valuable as having boatloads of “Lovers.” Watch now.

Or you can read the text here:

We had a client call last week telling us that he had received an email from someone who was put off about an ad we were running.  He was wondering if we should hold off running that ad again and instead run another one. My response was “Heck no. I’m thrilled someone felt that way. I hope we get a few more emails like that.”

Why would I say that, right?

Because, in my experience, it’s the ads that provoke no responses that also provoke minimal action.

If you want your company to have passionate customers, you must first inspire strong responses. Only then can you convince people to love your company, love what you sell, and become raving fans of your brand.

But it was Sir Isaac Newton who said for every action, there’s also an equal and opposite reaction.  Strong marketing that generates attention also gets the attention of people who love to complain, love to find something wrong when an idea is outside their comfort zone.  Keep in mind, it could be your competition who’s behind the ruckus, as we’ve seen in more than just a few cases.

Once you wander outside the box and you do something strongly visible, you’re bound to get some negative responses.

Imagine how some people first reacted to the “Got Milk” campaign!  What kind of slogan is that?  It’s bad grammar!  And in the first commercials, they didn’t even talk about milk until the end.  That’s terrible branding!!!  Except it wasn’t.  And because it was different, sales of milk started pouring in, and soon everybody else was copying that campaign with “Got this” and “Got that.”

Our most successful campaigns, whether for clients in the funeral profession or outside it, have always prompted a few haters.

Hey, if you don’t get a few haters, you’ll certainly not get the lovers either.  And, again relying on experience, it’s the haters who are always the most vocal and the first to send you their opinions.  I think we all know people like that.

It’s been said “Everybody loves it until one person doesn’t.”   In other words, we get so caught up in the one or two critical comments, we often ignore all the positive ones that push our businesses forward.

Don’t let the few critics out there who love to complain stop you from shaking the branches.  Inspired ideas coupled with courage and a thick skin are your keys to winning the marketing game.

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Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Dan on LinkedIn. See agency work via this link.

Changemakers Play

With the current episode of the highly popular Funeral Nation TV show, a new feature has been launched: The Change Makers (click to watch now).

The inaugural Change Makers features LA ads’ own Dan Katz and Rolf Gutknechtalong with social media guru Ryan Thogmartin and Funeral Commander Jeff Harbeson.  The panel discusses marketing challenges funeral professionals face and solutions to consider.  

Current topics include:

  • What should be the mindset for someone marketing in the funeral industry?
  • An overall strategy vs. just doing one-offs.
  • Budget – committing to the necessary financial resources to maximize visibility reach and effectiveness.

According to Ryan, The Change Makers segment is like attending a big convention seminar session but it’s free. Watch now.

This is often the most challenging issue for marketers, finding something unique to say about your company the competitors aren’t saying. LA ads president and creative director Dan Katz offers a number of tips and ideas to help you find your unique point of difference. It can make a difference in your marketing outcome!

To see examples of ads and commercials that have a distinctive message, click here.

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Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Dan on LinkedIn. See agency work via this link.

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