So, was this the most horrible decision ever?

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If you’ve been keeping an eye on all things marketing, you’ve probably seen mention of a crematorium owner in St. Louis who made a…uh…let’s go with confusing choice in their recent ad campaign.

They went full meme. But that wasn’t the problem.  

(What’s a meme? Oh, my sweet summer child. In ‘net parlance, a meme is usually a graphic overlaid with some text that vectors through social sharing sites, getting tweaked or added to or subverted. Sometimes they’re funny. Sometimes they’re uplifting. Sometimes they’re offensive. But they’re a common currency online, so if you don’t know about ‘em, get your read on here.)

Memes can be a clever marketing choice, as Denny’s amazing social presence steered by Erwin Penland shows. But the thing about marketing? Context matters.

As I said beforeyou create mood any time you tell a story. And if you don’t think that mood through, you can create the absolute wrongest of wrongs by linking things that shouldn’t be linked.

Like, for example, adorable children and death.

It isn’t funny, obviously, because people are genuinely upset. No one likes to be reminded of their own mortality, much less that of their loved ones. But wow is it a good lesson in What Not To Do.

The owner of the business isn’t a bad guy. And he wasn’t trying to get all remember-Caesar-thou-art-mortal in the ads. He was just trying to put up cute pictures like he’d seen online, get a little brand recognition. Unfortunately, he didn’t think about how humans construct narratives from all of the pieces put in front of them. People tried to draw the connection between the cute pictures and the crematorium, and the connection was really, really depressing.

Basic storytelling know-how won’t prevent you from making any and all marketing mistakes. But it will keep you from putting your foot in it like these unhappy folks.

Just…think about the whole narrative, hm?

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