In 2010, Kevin Systrom posted the first ever Instagram photograph. There was nothing special or particularly exciting about the photo. Unbeknownst to him, this was the beginning of a photo-sharing platform that would help over 500 million people share the story of their lives in pictures.
What Instagram locked into was the ability for us to capture, mold, and retell our stories. What differentiated Instagram from just a regular collection of photos was the way in which added filters, cropped photos, and personalized commentary allowed us to edit and rewrite how we wanted to be remembered.
Nobel prize-winning Daniel Kahneman talks about the notion of dual-self in his TED talk: The riddle of experience vs memory. In this talk he presents two selves: the "experiencing self" and the "remembering self".
The "experiencing self" lives in the moment - about 3 seconds to be exact. Any mundane moment not spectacular enough to make it into a memory is forgotten forever to make way for newer, potentially more interesting experiences.
On the other hand, the "remembering self" is the historian of our life. It is the storyteller of our mind that keeps track of the extremes of our experiences (both the good and bad, the momentous and the disastrous). The "remembering self" tells your story one highlight at a time.
What Instagram enables us to do is hack our memories. Because of this platform, we're now able to dictate our own story. What was once mundane can now be seen through rose-colored glasses to be stored away and recalled at will. This new, altered historian has changed the way we now view our own, in-the-moment, experiences.
Now Introducing: the Anticipated Memory
Remember the old question: If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? The same holds true now, but for experiences. Our new dependence on being able to rewrite our own memories on social media has created what can now be referred to as an Anticipated Memory. When modern consumers look at potential experiences, they no longer think about how memorable it will be in the moment, but rather how amazing the experience will be remembered in the future - or in a more specific sense, how awesome it will look on Instagram. Experiences are now ranked based on how amazing the anticipated memory will be remembered.
With this new understanding of how the Internet Generation views experiences, you can begin to understand what customers are looking for . Anything that is not seen as unique or special is almost guaranteed to be forgotten. If the experience is not thought to be special or unique enough to be written into the history books of your customer's life, you'll quickly turn into a commodity.
We need to start looking into ways to provide unique experiences outside of the traditional, cookie-cutter ceremonies. A family should come to you seeking advice, not service fulfillment. Cremation family? Offer them interesting ways to memorialize the remains. Burial family? How about a mushroom suit or a natural, eco-friendly burial? If you're able to help paint the picture in the minds of the families that you're going to create something worthy to be written into their Instagram story of life, you'll be speaking to a new type of customer in a language they understand.
Almost every funeral home website touts the uniqueness of their services. However, I would imagine there is not much different between each service. It's time to get creative about death care.
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