One of the biggest cultural shifts in urban India is the attitude towards death, from grievous tragedy to restrained eulogy. We are becoming remarkably Western in this dimension and the coronavirus has strangely accelerated this mature positivity. Which does lead to significant implications for businesses as Mortality Marketing becomes a sustainable practice when done sensibly.
In Indian culture, the death of a relative was the ultimate tragedy, unconnected to age or socio-economic stature. The expression of grief was thus violently loud and anybody who has been to crematoriums over the years will vouch for this. In certain socio-economic sections, the entire community became active stakeholders, showing empathy even with strangers. But over time, in affluent India, elegance infiltrated this spontaneous ecosystem as we were encouraged to behave like mild mannered Europeans, where tears were permitted as long as they were sotto voice and continuity of normalcy became an important badge of belonging.
As ever, popular culture instigated and mirrored this transition, from movies to advertising. In Bollywood then, any demise was a dramatic event followed by acts of revenge, state of penury or the beginning of unwarranted abuse. In Netflix now, Arya is the new role model who behaves unnervingly normally in the face of tragedy and is able to regroup in a matter of cinematic moments. While the Life insurance advertising has moved effortlessly from the morbid LIC sagas to the ‘Jeene Ki License’ popularised by ICICI and subsequently the many streams of routineness. Most interestingly, a Calcutta-based startup anthyesti.com is provoking Indians to be proactive and well planned about bereavement management, enabling non-resident children to handle the final rites of parents in an efficient and elegant manner. All of the above demonstrates that we are becoming realistic and mature about mortality, even at the cost of being perceived as insincere.
A further evidence of this argument is the streams of condolence messages that appear on Facebook, in recent times accentuated by the Covid crisis. Our primary focus seems to be articulating shared experiences which deliver documentary and thus emotional credibility of association, as opposed to superlative grief. Even the responses of the key stakeholders are usually very prompt and courteous, an imposed formality in what must be the most difficult times in living. We seem to be taking matters in our collective strides, regrouping with fellow citizens and recharting the remaining course of life, usually in a positive and affirmative vein. Most truthfully, the reinforcement of fragility is proving to be a springboard for sustainability as we use such moments to co-create the perfect formula for precious longevity. What aids this attitude is perhaps the financial security of those left behind, through savings or insurance, unlike the deeply dire narratives of Nehruvian India.
So apart from the usual suspects like Life Insurance and other savings products, who else can benefit from the tenets of Mortality Marketing? Quite truthfully, a whole host of indulgence and lifestyle products, including senior citizen travel packages, which encourage us to live life king size and not close the shutters as old-age penetrates. True also for legacy enablers, who empower talents to be duly fulfilled — whether craft, singing, acting or teaching. They add up to invaluable shared moments and thus become deliberate sources of continuity even when the body traverses to the relentless ages. An adjunct of this sentiment can be owned by YouTube, by aiding posthumous videos that are personalised messages for friends and family — which can be created anytime and constantly updated like a will. Banks can come up with post-death savings accounts which fund gifts to grandchildren on birthdays or endowments to charities, for a ten-year timeframe. Those in the self-publishing industry must specifically market autobiographies for specific or general circulation and this can well become a coffee table memoir. Family Tree group photos can integrate the living and the dead while AI led chat sites can simulate conversations with the departed, based on past evidence.
It is certainly proven that we are embracing death with greater candour and lesser fear. Which is provoking us to live more indulgently, create meaningful legacies and also mourn our dear departed with greater grace and empathy. As a logical offshoot, Mortality Marketing is here to stay as long as it steers clears from poor taste or petty opportunism. Every life is worthy of a perpetual celebration and yours or mine is no exception.
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