Brands are grateful to earn customers’ undying loyalty; some even win their dying loyalty. That’s the reason for the White Castle-branded urn that a woman had made for her sister’s remains late last year. As a bright spot during chemotherapy treatment, the sisters had frequented a nearby White Castle to “treat themselves.” The urn reads “Let’s Treat Ourselves.”
Foreverence, the Minnesota-based company that custom 3D-printed the White Castle-branded urn, has handled posthumous product placement before. The company’s first customer was the family of a member of the iconic 1980s band Devo who wanted an urn replica of the iconic red hats worn by the band members.
The White Castle urn follows random cases of other fans being buried with a cherished brand that represents their personal brand. In Ohio, for example, the gentleman below was buried with (and on) his beloved Harley-Davidson.
He did not need to be buried, as it turns out. In the Light Urns specializes in Harley-Davidson-themed urns made from motorcycle gas tanks.
The company also sells a line of professional sports team-branded urns.
In Oregon, an ailing man sold ad space on his urn to PETA in 2014 to help cover the costs of his funeral. Some people have sponsored weddings; why not funerals?
Chuckle all you want, but there may be good reason for certain segment of brands to start thinking about getting into the urn business as it becomes the preference for remains disposal. With burials more expensive, the US cremation rate is already closing in on 50%. With boomers preferring cremation over burial, industry professionals predict the 50% threshold will be crossed as soon as 2018.
The 2014 National Funeral Directors Association Cremation and Burial Report sounded an alarm about the tipping point. In addition to warning that funeral home revenues will struggle financially with a preference for cheaper services, that report predicts that by 2030, “70.6% of all customers will choose cremation over burial.”
And what about luxury brand-obsessed China? While India’s rate of 85% is the world’s highest, China’s cremation rate (near 50% and over 4.5 million people per year) is second. In some parts of China, cremation is the law.
As we just covered, burning a paper Mercedes, paper Heineken cans, paper Gucci shoes and paper iPads to send to a late relative in the afterlife has become wildly popular in China. Why would anyone think keeping those ancestral remains in a Gucci urn would not be popular?
In the push to upsell cremation customers, brands would almost certainly find allies on the sales side in the funeral industry. That NFDA report included several suggestions for how the funeral services sector could make up for lost review. Those suggestions included:
“To combat these revenue challenges created by the ride in cremation… successful funeral homes will likely offer more specialized products and services associated with cremations, such as customized urns and service packages…
Nearly all funeral homes have an urn selection area; almost one-third report that cremation families purchase keepsake items such as jewelry and keepsake urns…”
In a 2014 story about Foreverence, a Fox News affiliate interviewed an anonymous auto fan who suggested that he would like to be cremated and then have his ashes divided between three urns paying tribute to his three favorite cars: a 2014 Nissan GTR, a 2014 Aston martin Vanquish and a 2015 Ferrari 458 Italia.
While White Castle and Harley-Davidson funeral arrangements make the “weird news” cycle today, one could easily see a tomorrow where Ralph Lauren, Nike, IKEA, Home Depot or Porsche offer specialized funeral-related products. After all, why should brand loyalty ever end?