By COO of MKJ Marketing Isaac Miller

Who doesn’t love a tiny talking Chihuahua whose rallying cry to the hungry masses is “Yo quiero Taco Bell”? Or Larry Tate, the “Office Linebacker” from a 2003 Super Bowl commercial, who reminded employees to refill an empty pot of coffee, use the right cover sheet for a report, and recycle by viciously tackling them out of nowhere? And if you’re really unlucky, every Wednesday someone from your workplace is still saying “It’s Hump Day,” imitating the camel from the Geico television ad.          

Advertisers often use shock value and humor as their chosen methods of captivating an audience. For advertising such as TV, radio, and others, these tactics can be a great way to connect with an audience and leave a lasting impression.

However, there are some areas of life where humor and shock value are not as readily accepted, including funeral services and funeral advertising.

That’s probably why many funeral home ads are very similar, and, unfortunately, easily forgotten. On the other hand, we’ve all seen at least one funeral service-related advertisement or social media post that stuck with us because it made us cringe. It’s a very fine line, and if you cross it, you run the risk of losing a customer.

Humor is one of the oldest and most reliable ways to connect with people quickly – whether in relationships or in advertising. Think about the last time you laughed at an ad. Did you feel your mind was better engaged? Did the way you felt about the advertiser improve? A truly funny commercial keeps us in our seats, compels us to invite others to watch (sometimes over and over again), and is memorable.

MKJ has held focus groups to determine what works – and what doesn’t – when it comes to humor. What we’ve found is that humor can only work well in the funeral industry when it comes from a genuine and authentic place. When talking about death, humor can be utilized in an appropriate way to confront our own mortality – a struggle that all of us can relate to because we’re all in this together. That’s the approach we took in our recent TV spot about preplanning.

“Milkshake” taps into one of the newest reasons emerging in research and focus groups for why people are choosing to preplan: They simply don’t trust their family to get it right once they’re gone – or to do it at all!

The spot is a comical, yet “real-life” peek into a family where Mom and Dad are considering what it might mean if they leave their funeral arrangements to their son who is in his late 20s and is most likely living in their basement. Viewers will laugh and maybe identify with the couple in the ad, prompting them to think: “What will happen when I die? Who will plan my funeral? Do I trust them to get it right?” The message in “Milkshake” prompts a clear and concise call-to-action.

Many funeral home owners are currently using this spot for exclusive licensing in their own areas.

Do you use humor in your marketing? If so, what has worked for you? And what hasn’t? COMMENT and share your stories with us or email us at

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