Key Takeaway: DeadHappy’s wisecracks, animations and black humor on social media seek to get younger people talking about death and buying life insurance. Venture funds are smiling.
For a company that deals in death, U.K. insurer DeadHappy seems to be having an awfully good time.
From the laughing skull logo, to blog posts about “Putting the FUN back into FUNerals,” to the wisecrack responses to customer review on Trust Pilot, the company is on a mission to get people to talk about life after they are gone. And to sell insurance.
“The whole reason for the business, on a broad scale, is to look to change attitudes to death,” co-founder Phil Zeidler told Karma. “Death is one of the final taboos to be breached.”
The thinking is that if a person is comfortable discussing their own death, then perhaps they are more likely to consider the consequences of it. DeadHappy’s main product is pay-as-you-go life insurance policies, a policy format that Zeidler says the company invented. The policy looks at a user’s next 10 years rather than the 25 or 30, making it more likely to have a cheaper monthly premium for young individuals.
Any innovation in the industry has the potential for significant impact, as the U.K. insurance market was measured as the fourth-largest in the world by the Association of British Insurers, with over two-thirds of its $220 billion premium volume going to life insurance. The company has partnerships with big insurers Covea Insurance and Berkshire Hathaway’s Gen Re.
To start, the company offers a “DeathWishes” service that tells a customer’s loved ones what he or she might want to happen when they shuffle off.
Zeidler says that DeadHappy has 60,000 DeathWishes on the platform, with a goal of reaching 1,000,000 in 2020. Improving the tech platform of the DeathWishes and making them shareable on social media is the most important next step, Zeidler explains, but what could be more exciting is the potential market for creating a legally binding digital will without a wet signature.
“In the U.K. you have to get a witness with two independent people, wet signatures, and we think that’s unnecessary if you have this digital technology,” Zeidler says, noting that DeadHappy believes it could charge less than one-tenth of the expected average cost and can eliminate the need for a lawyer. Zeidler was not ready to share how it will be able to accomplish this.
Venture funds apparently aren’t squeamish about death. The company received $5.2 million in series A funding last month, from e.ventures — which itself has it’s own interesting investing policy — and Octopus Ventures.
“You’ve got lots of other taboos around mental health opening up, but people still can’t have conversations about the one thing that’s guaranteed, which is your death.”
Zeidler brings 25 years of experience in the industry, including as the founder of several companies and as chairman at Simply Business, which was bought by Travelers Insurance for $490 million in 2017. However, Zeidler and DeadHappy’s other co-founder Andy Knott, who is the design and tech side of the brain for the company, see as an integral part of its business model the DeathWishes, which are personalized messages regarding your final request whether it’s using the last of your money to send your friends on a vacation together or having a bronze statue of yourself made.
DeathHappy’s pitch may strike a chord with younger insurance buyers, one expert said.
“It kind of matches a lot of what we see from the millennial culture,” says Ulrike Gretzel, the director of research at Netnografica, a market research company that provides Fortune 500 companies with insights based on online conversations, and the co-author of two books on social media. “Millennials want to leave a legacy,” said Gretzel, giving one potential reason young people could be won over by DeadHappy’s marketing.
From a marketing standpoint, Zeidler sees no issue with a campaign that appeals to younger generations, even if they are not likely to die any time soon. From the smiling skull logo to the very name of the business, DeadHappy’s marketing campaign has focused on finding humor and an edgy tone to attract younger generations towards having conversations about death.
“You’ve got lots of other taboos around mental health opening up, but people still can’t have conversations about the one thing that’s guaranteed, which is your death,” he said.
Gretzel has done research into the use of humor in social media as a marketing tool and says it is quite effective. “Usually we don’t joke about death,” says Gretzel. “No matter what the company, humor plays an important role because it’s hard to reach people to get their attention to create engagement. Humor is one of the things that actually makes it easier to achieve that.”
Though the company is not yet profitable and expects to be in growth mode for some time, Zeidler is also encouraging users to simply create DeathWishes without giving any financial information to DeadHappy. The reasoning is simple: the more people talk and think about death, the better for DeadHappy’s business model. And if they share their wishes on social media too, that helps get the word out even further.
“If we hit our DeathWish goal, some people will want to buy insurance to back them, some will want it to be a will, some will think of other services related to death. It’s a natural consequence of getting them to the first stage, which is what we’re all about: just think about it.”