Improve How You Connect with the Modern Consumer: A Q&A With the ‘Deathcare Dynamo’ (Part 1)

Posted August 17, 2016

7 min read

“I’m working to change the way we deal with and approach death,” says Cole Imperi. “I’m doing that through my professional work in the field of thanatology, my design work through Doth which impacts the way consumers perceive end-of-life and loss-related entities, and through speaking and writing to a variety of audiences.”

It’s a bold ambition, but if anyone can do it, Imperi can: Imperi is an award-winning designer, Certified Integrative Thanatologist, and Owner and Creative Director of Doth, a company that focuses on both death and wellness. She is teaching faculty for the ICCFA Cremation Arranger Certification Program, a Certified Crematory Operator, and she regularly speaks about generational marketing and death-related issues. She’s also known for the documentary MORTAL which uncovers the generational changes and implications surrounding the American culture of death. Besides being asked to speak on topics including death, dying and grief, one of Imperi’s most requested speaking topics is on generational marketing.

As someone who is passionate about changing deathcare—and how people live—we sat down with Imperi to see how she is changing perceptions and what funeral professionals should know about the “Modern Consumer.” Come back for part two where Imperi shares how funeral professionals can go above and beyond families’ expectations today.

Q: You’ve been called a “deathcare dynamo” and you are changing the way people approach and deal with death. Can you share how you are involved in the deathcare profession?

Cole Imperi: That’s QUITE a descriptor! I could be called worse so I’ll take it.

First, I’ll say that my work in deathcare—but also end-of-life, aging, hospice, palliative care, wellness and with grief/loss (for humans and animals)—are the things in my life I am most passionate about on a personal level. They intersect with everything—with every part of life. My life is richer and more joyful because I work in these areas. And I know from my work with my funeral director clients in particular, this is a statement I’ve heard come out of their mouths as well.

Second, I’m involved with deathcare in a few ways. I am the owner of Doth which is a strategic consulting firm with a unique specialization in the deathcare profession. We turn 10 years old later this year! I’m also the owner or part-owner of a couple of other companies which fall in the deathcare space. Finally, I am a public speaker, writer and educator. I have a TED talk, and associate produced a documentary called MORTAL which came out in April of 2016. Details on these projects, and more, can be found at

Finally, to summarize this, I’m a designer and a thanatologist at my core. I believe there is an inherent connection between the generational dynamics at play within the United States presently and our cultural shift with death and dying. For example, the United States just jumped over that 50 percent cremation rate mark! I work a lot behind the scenes on these big topics and then boil them down to applicable solutions for my clients.

There is so much to chew on in the world of deathcare right now, and I’m excited for what the future holds. People who work in deathcare have an incredible amount of opportunity in front of them.

Q: What do you mean when you talk about the “Modern Consumer”?

Cole Imperi: It’s common for people to break everything down into the 4 most common generational groups…how many of you are ready to scream if you see another article about Millennials?! I know I am.

The issue is not ‘the Millennials’, or ‘the Baby Boomers’, or ‘that Generation X’. There’s a much higher level to this—the reality is that everyone was a ‘Millennial’ at some point. Baby Boomers, when they were in their 20s and 30s, were just as irritating to their older generational coworkers as Millennials are to their older corporate counterparts. That’s nothing new, and in 10 years you’ll be sick of articles about Generation Z/Homeland Generation (i.e. those about 16 years old and younger).

When I say the Modern Consumer—I mean the person in the United States that is living in a hyper-connected world, seeing horrific attacks live-broadcasted online, and (trying to) drink from a firehose of information. That’s all of us, right?

For example, I just installed an app on my iPhone called Moment (free) because I wanted to see how much I was really using my phone each day, and how many times I picked it up. Now, I’ll say here that I would love to not have a cell phone. But I can’t get around that. In my first week, I spent an average of 4 hours a day on my phone, and I picked up my phone, on average, 22 times per day. The firehose is always putting out information…we all live in a world where we try to navigate this.

The Modern Consumer is shaped by their unique generational background. Millennials see the world through the lens of the experiences that shaped them: 9/11, Columbine, Y2K, America Online/chat rooms/instant messaging, etc. Baby Boomers see the world through the lens of the experiences that shaped them too: The Beatles, JFK’s assassination, Civil Rights, Woodstock, etc.

The Modern Consumer is someone who lives in today’s world, but sees it through their unique mix of experiences, most of which they share with an entire generation.

Q: And so you have asserted how there is always a “Modern Consumer.” What do you mean by that?

Cole Imperi: There is always a Modern Consumer, it just changes with the times! The Modern Consumer in 1995 was dealing with websites (Should our company get one? Will this even be a thing in 10 years?), email (“You want me to do what instead of just pick up the phone?”) and the fact that online shopping was unsafe and scary. (eBay came on the scene in late 1995, as an aside.) That’s just one little slice.

How do we apply this to real life? Here’s one example: As funeral directors, we need to be aware that we are dealing with families who, might—pick up their cell phones 22 times a day or be staring at them 4 hours a day. So—that might mean you need to have your website in ship-shape for mobile usage. Meet your families where they are, instead of expecting them to come find you wherever you are.

Come back for part two, where Imperi shares three ways that Funeral Directors can make sure they are ready to connect with the Modern Consumer.

Meet the Modern Consumer Where They Are

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About Cole Imperi

Cole Imperi is an award-winning designer and thanatologist. She is the Owner and Creative Director of Doth. Cole is a Certified Integrative Thanatologist and a 200-hour Registered Yoga Teacher. She holds a post-graduate Certificate in Typeface Design from the Type@Cooper Condensed Program. She is a Certified Crematory Operator. Cole was appointed by the City of Covington, Kentucky to the Board of Overseers of Historic Linden Grove Cemetery and Arboretum. She is teaching faculty for the ICCFA Cremation Arranger Certification program, and a public speaker covering topics ranging from generational marketing, end-of-life issues, design and grief/loss. Cole is Associate Producer of MORTAL, a feature-length documentary film. Find more at

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