Sign Salad is delighted to have been nominated for the Market Research Society’s ‘Cultural Insights Award’ for our work with Co-op Funeralcare, which helped Co-op in the development of a new strategic brand positioning where death is embraced as a natural part of life, and planned for without fear through open discussions and active listening.

We were delighted to win this award back in 2020 for our work with Chivas Brothers, Pernod Ricard and to be shortlisted last year for our work with Dr. Martens. Our work with Co-op Funeralcare demonstrates the ways Sign Salad’s highly actionable cultural insight can have a powerful commercial impact for a brand.

Project Summary:

Funeralcare has long been perceived as an outdated category imbued with fear and gloom, typically creating antipathy and disinterest from customers who aren’t yet at the point of imminent need. But Co-op identified an opportunity to turn that round and create interest and action amongst consumers in advance of need as well as at the point of need.

  • Co-op recognised that there were new and evolving attitudes to death in the UK and understanding these evolutions represented a major opportunity for them – one that could increase category relevance and meaningful re-invention of traditional funeral care codes.

  • British culture has been constrained by rigid, formal and solemn funeral rituals; antiquated taboos surrounding grief and mental health; and certain ‘right’ or ‘wrong ways to talk about death and grief.

  • We identified significant, exciting opportunities for Co-op Funeralcare to transform funeral rituals through a system of collaborative support and emotional openness, reframing death as part of a cycle of regrowth and continuity, with funerals as a celebration of a person’s life.

Co-op teams worked with Sign Salad, using cultural insight and semiotic analysis, to uncover evolving cultural meanings and narratives of death by:

  1. Studying wider culture, including TV, literature, print media, advertising, social media and public discourse – particularly around mental health, together with adjacent categories, such as will-making, health insurance, pensions, retirement, and life assurance.

  2. Gathering evidence through a combination of in-field and desk-based cultural detective investigation in the UK for how ‘Funeralcare’, ‘Ageing’, ‘Death & Grief’ had been understood in the mainstream and at the leading-edge of culture.

  3. Investigating the meanings communicated by Co-op Funeralcare and key competitor and comparator assets and touchpoints.

Death and grief were areas that proved very hard to gain deep insight into using conventional research methods due to the cultural taboo around these topics. Without Sign Salad’s cultural insight and semiotic analysis, it would have been difficult for Co-op to gain the insight they needed for strategic evolution to meet their ambitions.

Project Impact: Reframing death as a celebration of life

Findings from this study identified ways to leverage cues from wider culture, adjacent categories and competitors and comparators that would enable Co-op Funeralcare to participate in wider, future-facing conversations around death and grief, and to represent the diversity of their customer base.

By cross-referencing inspiring new cultural narratives with the meanings communicated by Co-op Funeralcare and disruptive competitors, we were able to arrive at a distinctive and future-facing opportunity space, which built on Co-op Funeralcare existing brand equity.

Our recommendations led to a successful re-articulation of the brand across consumer touchpoints, with a revamp of comms imagery, colours and copy that included a particular focus on greater inclusivity, approachability, and personal touches, as well as a shift away from concepts of death as sombre finality towards positive regrowth and renewal. 

Recommendations also fed into creative ideation agency workstreams and consumer research, and led to the development of a new strategic brand positioning inspired by the cultural whitespace we identified. This in turn led to the creation of a new set of brand guidelines, reframing how Co-op visualises and speaks about death, and ultimately the development of a category re-defining TVC campaign that communicates a distinctive proposition which engages consumers – both existing and new – in a meaningful, uplifting and emotionally sensitive way.

“The semiotic and cultural analysis conducted by Sign Salad has had an enormous impact on Co-op Funeralcare in many ways. It’s really given us the direction we needed to move forward. We’ve developed a new look and feel for our communications, new brand guidelines and colours, more honest and authentic imagery in our marketing. We’ve also been able to refresh the collateral that we use with clients in our funeral homes. The semiotics played a part in helping us to develop a fresh, new brand proposition. These are just a few examples – there are many more. Such a fantastic piece of work!”

Eve Roberts, Marketing Campaign Manager, Co-op

Market Research Society’s ‘Cultural Insights Award’: Finalist