Why don't we talk about death?

It’s a tough question that we here at Sue Ryder are trying to tackle. Our latest marketing campaign has been launched to encourage people to start the conversation about death, and to cement our position as experts in this area.

Our useful guide can help you answer lots of tough questions

The campaign aims to get people thinking and talking about what is a much-avoided subject, and offers help in answering tough questions about dying.

We are currently testing a mix of local radio adverts, digital media and outdoor advertising in one part of the UK with the call to action being for people to download a free guide titled A better death via the Sue Ryder website. The guide offers help and practical information, enabling people to plan and talk about the death they want.

The creative used within the ‘Why don’t we talk about death?’ campaign is the result of extensive research into what people want to know about dying. It is honest, upfront but understanding.

The 'D word'

“The ‘D word' is one of the society’s last remaining taboos," says Barney Cockerell, Creative Director at GOOD agency, who worked with us on the campaign. "And, because we don’t like talking about it, the media also largely pretends it’s not happening. But it feels like things are beginning to change.

“It’s really exciting to be involved in this brave campaign. We’re challenging people to overcome a lifetime of inhibition by confronting an upsetting subject. At the same time, we’re offering them help to do that by guiding their thoughts and conversations. So the tone of the campaign is provocative, but empathetic.

“Sue Ryder’s voice is joining a growing movement towards normalising conversations about death. It feels like an important moment for all of us.”

"People want us to be straight and upfront with them"

Before launching the campaign, we carried out focus groups with some of our patients who are currently receiving palliative care, their loved ones and wider audiences.

“Death is unavoidable, but understandably most of us find it upsetting to think about and we worry we will upset those we love by talking about it," says Angela Cummings, our Deputy Director of Marketing, Communications and Digital Services.

“Sue Ryder supports and cares for people at the end of their lives so our doctors, nurses and counsellors see first-hand the positive difference it can make when people have planned for their death and when they have discussed their wishes with their loved ones," she continues. “This campaign aims to challenge our reluctance to talk about death and to encourage people to discuss their wishes before it is too late.

“We tested out quite a range of headlines and posters, and we expected people to prefer the softer creative, but overwhelmingly people told us they wanted us to be straight. They were comfortable with us using the words ‘dying’ and ‘death’, and they wanted the topic raised in an upfront way.”

We will be assessing the impact of the campaign ahead of potentially rolling it out on a larger scale later in the year. Watch this space.

Download our 'A better death' guide