Blog Archives: December 2011

A tale of two funerals

Friday, 30 December 2011

Over in Pyongyang mourners wail for the loss of the great leader Kim Jong Il. As Andrew McLaughlin puts it:

This is really otherworldly. And terrifying. It’s depressing to be reminded that it’s possible, with energetic and relentless propaganda, surveillance, and oppression, to delude vast numbers of human beings into genuine feelings of attachment to, and dependence on, a brutal sociopath responsible for the degradation and humiliation of millions, and the starvation and murder of millions more.

Meanwhile halfway across the world the life of Vaclav Havel is being celebrated. As reports:

It’s a safe bet that in the history of state funerals, no former president has been sent off to the Absolute Horizon by not one but at least three different live, nationally televised rock songs about heroin.

Such was Václav Havel’s genre-straddling life and thoroughgoing conception of freedom that it seemed as natural as tartar sauce on fried cheese to bookend a portentous, Dvořák-haunted National Requiem Mass in Central Europe’s oldest Gothic cathedral with a loose-limbed, hash-scented rock and roll celebration at the Czech Republic’s most storied music venue, all while the non-VIPs on the streets of Prague (and their counterparts outside the capital) lent the most dignity of all to the three-day National Mourning by creating ad-hoc candlelit shrines in whatever patches of cobblestone reminded them of the man who made them most proud to be Czechs.

Two funerals, two societies and, as we head into 2012, a world of risks and opportunities between them.

In the Czech Republic Havel’s own words from the Velvet Revolution were everywhere. “Truth and love” he said “must prevail over lies and hatred.” As good a talisman as any to carry with us?

A happy, prosperous and loving new year to all our readers from all us Havel supporters at the GFG-Batesville tower. See you in 2012.

Sharing a joke

Thursday, 29 December 2011


I wonder what’s made him laugh so much?


Wednesday, 28 December 2011


A MUSIC-loving funeral director could soon be playing a key role in a national songwriting competition.

Distinguished figures like Sir Terry Wogan, ‘Whispering’ Bob Harris and Johnnie Walker may be casting a critical ear over a song penned for charity by Neil Brunton – if he can secure enough online votes.

Neil’s song, ‘Jacob Street’, is among 50 which struck a chord with Oldie Composers – “a UK-wide songwriting competition, open to the older generation, to showcase their talent and raise money for Barnardo’s”.

‘Jacob Street’ was loosely inspired by an episode at Kirkcaldy bus station, where he saw a man and a woman busking.

A couple of years later, Neil saw the man there again but the woman had gone.

“I started wondering what became of her,” he explained.

“Had she gone on to bigger and better things, while he was left at Kirkcaldy bus station?”

The 50 melodies are all up for public vote and the 20 which gather the most hits by January 7 will be judged by a panel of Radio 2 personalities.

After that, the leading four will be recorded in London by professional musicians and released on i-Tunes to benefit the charity.

Here at the GFG-Batesville Tower the toiling cadres have been listening to Neil’s song and offering their opinions, for what little they’re worth. They like its air of elegiac melancholy, reinforced by repetitive cadences. Said one, “Just the job for two o’clock in the morning after your relationship has broken down and you’ve drunk too much whisky.” Most agreed they like it very much indeed.

Other songs in the final 50 are Eyes Wide Open, Heaven’s Not So Far Away, Cry, House of Tears, Getting Away, Losing the Light and Heartbreak. It is our belief that these songs were not composed by undertakers. 

Vote for Neil now. There’s no more to it than a click. Hear his song first. Here.

Read the entire article in Fife Today here

Happy Christmas

Saturday, 24 December 2011

From the team here at the GFG, a very happy Christmas to you!

Thank you for reading us. Thank you for telling us what you think. Thank you for helping us bring death to life. 

Have a great holiday. 





Making over the undertakers

Friday, 23 December 2011


Following this post by Andrew Hickson of Kingfisher Independent Funeral Services in St Neots, we at the GFG sense we may spend some of 2012 talking about how funeral directors can improve public perception of themselves and differentiate themselves from their competitors by communicating the good news about themselves appropriately and effectively. Andrew himself is going to start the ball rolling. Well, he already has.

We can already foresee lots of lively discussion. The content and quality of marketing communications from most funeral directors  is abysmal. In an age when most of us gather information online, most undertakers’ websites (where they exist) are dismaying to look at, clumsily worded and littered with spelling and grammar mistakes. As marketing tools designed to inspire confidence, they do exactly the reverse. 

So here’s a tip for undertakers from the team at the GFG (there are lots more where this comes from). Have a look at the text on the home page of the Fitzgerald Funeral Home and Crematory of Illinois, USA. Read the first sentence: We are here to help you remember their story. Note  that it takes them no more than five words before they get to the ‘you’ word. ‘You’ is the most important word in any promotional text. Great copywriting is about dialogue. How long does it take to get to the first ‘you’ in your text?

When the business offer matches consumers’ requirements, everyone wins. One of the highest priorities of consumers in this economy-gone-wrong is cost. Yet this is an industry in which financially inefficient micro-businesses not only abound, but are growing in number. Consolidation, rationalisation, economies of scale, all would bring down costs. And yet no group has yet succeeded in establishing an acceptable national brand identity. On the contrary. And it’s not just the egregious incompetence of the big players which is to blame.

There are complex reasons why consumers do not want to deal with a corporate provider. It’s an unlovable model which smacks of bigtime profiting from the misfortunes of others. But it needn’t necessarily be so. 

Take the Specsavers model, for example. Each Specsavers shop is owned and run by an optician under a joint venture partnership with Specsavers. Specsavers takes the view that opticians like being opticians and probably aren’t so good at or keen on some of the boring, nitty-gritty stuff that goes with being a business. So Specsavers offers more than 50 services, including advertising, insurance, accounting, tax planning, property services, information technology and retail training, the back office administration, branding and marketing, leaving the opticians free to get on and do what they do best: fixing people up with eyeglasses. The optician pockets the profits and pays a fee to Specsavers. We all get good, cheap specs. 

No one has tried the joint venture partnership model in Funeralworld. It would offer ceremony-makers a way to make a decent living at last. Why wouldn’t it work?

At the opposite end of the scale, we note that many rural villages have formed local co-operative societies to run their post office, shop and pub. Why not their undertaker, too? A community response to death and bereavement can only be a social blessing. The vision of the Rochdale Pioneers may have been distorted beyond recognition by The Co-operative Group’s vile Funeralcare arm, but it remains unsullied and vibrant. According to Co-operatives UK “There are 5,450 independent co-operative businesses in the UK, working in all parts of the economy. Together they have a combined turnover of over £33 billion and have outperformed the UK economy as a whole, growing by 21% since the start of the credit crunch in 2008.” [Source]












Death by Fame

Friday, 23 December 2011


We love Caitlin Doughty here at the GFG-Batesville Tower. She’s very bright and funny, and she wants to get death back into the public conciousness. We’ve featured her before. Here she is on a celebrity death tour of Los Angeles.



Stealing a march?

Thursday, 22 December 2011


By Andrew Hickson, proprietor of Kingfisher Independent Funeral Services, St Neots. 


A couple of days ago, Charles asked me to write a blog post about marketing. I wanted to approach this from the point-of-view of a Funeral Director such as myself who has recently established a business, and is therefore dazzled, bemused and somewhat apprehensive of the minefield that is the marketing world. 

Barely a day goes by without some company or other telephoning, claiming they can increase traffic to my website, or wanting me to advertise in their new brochure, or even, as some do, guaranteeing that work will increase if they are contracted to do my marketing. Surprisingly, when they’re asked to put that in writing, they are not quite so forthcoming with their claims. 

I’m still putting an article together, and hope to publish this early in the New Year, but yesterday I was called to remove a gentleman whose GP had certified his death and had already completed the cremation paperwork and left this with him. 

The paperwork had the large stamp of another Funeral Director very clearly on the front page. Two chances of being called then, once by the GP, and once by the next-of-kin. But not a lot of scope for the client to make any informed decisions. 

Clever marketing, or just a wee bit cheeky?

Going the wrong way

Thursday, 22 December 2011



Roughly a third of family members of I.C.U. patients show symptoms of post-traumatic stress, according to research by the French intensive-care expert Elie Azoulay and his collaborators. If a loved one dies in intensive care after discussions about advance directives and patient wishes — that is, after the family has been made fully aware of the finality of the situation — the psychological fallout is even greater, approaching 80 percent. We do not always aid the living by inflicting high-tech ministrations on the almost-dead.


A real funeral

Thursday, 22 December 2011



Several hundred people turned up to pay their respects to the popular young man known as “Dougs”, who was carried to the outdoor ceremony in a wooden casket made by family and friends.

Two farm dogs had place of honour next to his casket, which was placed on the deck of a farm truck.

Read it all here

Opacity of ownership

Thursday, 22 December 2011

George Crump. No, not that one, this one.

It’s the adjudication all we Midlanders have been waiting for: the Advertising Standards Authority ruling on an advertisement which, on 8 July 2011, ran as follows:

George Crump & Son Funeral Directors Est 1895 … Available day or night – Under the personal supervision of Michael J. Crump – Pre-Payment Plans – Monumental Masonry” … incorporating Crumps Florists.

You see that and you suppose what about the business? 

And you’d be plumb wrong, of course. Michael Crump sold out to the Midlands Co-op in 2007; it’s not his business, it’s theirs. But he’s a great local character, is Crumpy. He loves conducting funerals. He’s famous for his singing voice and he attends every funeral. Heaven knows how many Rugged Crosses he’s belted out over the years; he can’t get enough of them. So Midlands Co-op has not gone out of its way to kick him out and re-brand. If it had any brand confidence or conviction, of course, it would. It would have proclaimed UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT and the good people of Droitwich would have thought, ‘Crumpy was good, yes, but this is even better.’

Does it matter that this ad may have seduced people into supposing that Michael Crump’s business was still his own? 

In a word, no. Because even though people may have supposed that, that’s not what the ad said.  In the words of the ASA:

MCO said the ad did not state that George Crump and Son was an independent or family-run funeral business. They said Michael Crump’s name was stated in the ad because bereaved families found it helpful to have the name of a person to ask for when they first made contact with the funeral home. They added that Michael Crump’s wife ran the florist outlet of the funeral home part-time.

We noted the complainant considered the overall impression of the ad was that George Crump & Son was family-owned and family-run, and that the ad was therefore misleading because the company had been owned by MCO since 2007, and Michael Crump was the only member of the family involved in the funeral director business.

We noted the ad did not make any specific claims that the company was family-owned or family-run, and we considered that that was not the overall implication of the ad. Rather, we considered that consumers were likely to infer from the ad that the Crump family were still involved in the business and that therefore the service would have certain family values. We noted we had seen evidence that Michael Crump was heavily involved in the funeral director business and that his wife worked for the associated florists, which meant it was likely that she would also be in personal contact with customers of the funeral business. We therefore considered the ad was not misleading.

Words. Slippery little sods, aren’t they? Even so, that the ASA should have concluded that the inference of the ad was not that this is an independent business is nothing short of astounding.

Full adjudication here


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