Planning for death is practical, but not palatable. The Chinese community is particularly steeped in superstition and stigma about death.
Two years ago, Skylawn Memorial Park changed its name to Lifemark Group and set out to raise awareness while changing perceptions and educating the San Francisco Bay Area Chinese community about "life planning."
"It's something everybody needs, but nobody wants," says Anthony Kan, Lifemark Group director of field force.
A sustained long-term campaign spanning a variety of venues was needed. The situation required a sensitive, yet lighthearted, positive dialogue. "Happy Life Everyday" was the chosen theme to highlight peace of mind provided by life planning. "We're trying to make the death-care industry a part of life," Kan says. "We're friendly people here to help, not to remove your dead body. We have to educate." Targeting in-language media was critical to reach Asian audiences.
The team attended, sponsored, and organized community events that built on interests of Asians 50 and older, including New Year's celebrations and various contests. "PR creates opportunities to interact on a person-to-person basis," says Flora Zhao, IW Group account director. Adds Kan, "Once people get to know you, they know they are talking to a human who has compassion, commitment to planning." In-language media pitches focused on education.
Kan says customers have nearly doubled compared with 2005. "PR represents 60% of [market] penetration," he adds. Events had often excluded Lifemark, but now it's invited to many, and it was asked to be a title sponsor of the Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month Celebration. "It's unprecedented that our industry would be asked to sponsor," Kan says.
Programs will continue. Lifemark Center at San Mateo, a $30 million funeral home, opens in June.
PR team: Lifemark Group (Hayward, CA) and IW Group (San Francisco)
Campaign: Asian-American market educational/community outreach
Budget: $1 million