Client: WhiteLight (Dallas)
Client: WhiteLight (Dallas)
PR Team: Becky Mayad Public Relations (Dallas)
Campaign: Driving sales for art caskets
Time Frame: January 1999 to present
Budget: dollars 2,000 to dollars 4,000 a month
The casket industry doesn’t typically inspire the sort of irreverent
headlines collected by Dallas-based WhiteLight: ’To Die For’ (US News &
World Report), ’Boomers Plot Exit Strategies’ (USA Today) and ’Thinking
Out of the Box’ (Fort Worth Star-Telegram).
But then no other casket company produces art caskets: steel coffins
draped entirely in a mural. (The effect is the same as a city bus
shrink-wrapped with a film ad.) The boxes appeal to baby boomers whose
last wishes include leaving this world in a way that reflects their
life’s interests. WhiteLight makes 30 models, including ’The Race Is
Over’ (for Nascar fans), ’Fairway to Heaven’ (for golf enthusiasts) and
’Return to Sender’ - a brown-paper parcel with the familiar red postal
stamp for ’those blessed with a sense of humor,’ according to national
sales manager Kit Vinson. (The company also makes customized
WhiteLight hired Becky Mayad, who runs her own Dallas PR agency, to
publicize the company’s launch in February 1999. But the press interest
was so strong that she’s been managing the momentum ever since.
The first publicity wave began four days after Mayad mailed the media
kit in January 1999, and it lasted six months. She made follow-up calls
to national and regional outlets. ’You can get a bigger bang for the
buck if you get the big guys, but in our eyes, every community was
important,’ says Mayad - who points out that people die everywhere.
When reporters heard ’casket,’ they instantly recalled her release,
Mayad says. Even though the story wasn’t right for some, ’I rarely had
anyone say they weren’t interested,’ she adds.
Mayad knew she could do more, but by September, WhiteLight was glad for
a lull because the company was 1,700 sales leads behind schedule and
wanted time to meet demand.
This year, Mayad has been drumming up interest among business and
auto-racing publications and is looking for ways to publicize the newly
introduced military and college lines.
For the launch, Mayad mailed 700 media kits, 300 of which contained
photographs. When following up, she offered visuals to those who didn’t
receive them. Once reporters see the caskets, ’it’s an instant sell,’
The PR pro focused first on the five major cities in Texas, spread out
to the bordering states, then the national general interest media and
top 25 dailies. Next she targeted funeral business, golf, Hispanic and
gay publications, playing up casket themes appealing to each. Because
the founders were formerly radio executives, she pitched their story to
advertising and radio trades.
She tracked down buyers for reporters to interview, like the Texas
rancher who ordered a customized ranch landscape to be delivered after
Though some radio announcers have been known to make fun of the concept,
Mayad diplomatically explains, ’This is not a publicity gimmick, this is
a legitimate product, and we’re not going to let you abuse us in the
But humor is often just beneath the surface, as in Mayad’s release about
the Irish flag casket: ’When the luck of the Irish finally runs
Big 1999 hits include a one-page People magazine story with color
photos; an AP piece, which spawned 50 stories so far; a CBS This Morning
segment shot from a St. Charles, MO funeral home that displays art
caskets; and pieces in Playboy and Details. Several funeral, golf and
advertising trades also ran features.
Sales have increased from dollars 1 million for all of 1999 to dollars 1
million for the first quarter of 2000.
’PR is what convinced the industry that there was consumer acceptance of
what the Art Casket provided,’ declares Pat Fant, managing partner of
Now that WhiteLight has a track record, The Wall Street Journal may
reconsider a story. And Mayad thinks David Letterman would appreciate a
casket with his face on it