Death is a messy affair. From wills to widows, mistresses to musical instruments, the moment someone dies, they often leave a mountain of mess for loved ones behind. As the old saying goes, death is not the end.
Indeed, the fragmented reality the departed leave in their wake is the result of centuries of bereavement bureaucracy, wherein different parties with different interests, skillsets, and knowledge all discuss and compartmentalise the deceased’s left-behinds in ways that would make Kafka blush.
And not only is death a mess is a mess that, thanks to a global pandemic, has become more relevant than ever before.
Research has found that more people, and in particular younger people, are writing wills. In 2020 for example, there was a +465% surge in Gen Z writers of wills. More generally, the first pandemic year saw a 267% increase in people making wills from home. When there’s a will, there’s a way — a lot of ways.
This is because, from the law firms to the legal practitioners to the pension funds, the entire death ecosystem is one of the most complex and debilitating. This is understandable, when a system is so fragmented, no one party will be proactive in fixing it. As such, any company that is able to harmonise the noise had a huge task ahead of them.
As Nicos Dermintzoglous, brand strategist at EveryFriday, says: “The different stakeholders on all sides realised the problem, but didn’t want to spend money sorting out something that would benefit them all collectively. In the end, it required someone from the outside”.
This was a problem that no-one was willing to take the first step in solving, and, more importantly, even if they did, they wouldn’t be placed to actually solve it, as each stakeholder would approach the problem from their own perspective — all the while speaking variations of legalese during what is an emotional time for the customers involved.
Enter Exizent, a B2B death-tech startup that wanted to build the first bereavement platform and bring together all of the stakeholders involved when someone dies and bring simplicity into the splintered probate process. To do this the startup needed to attract funding and create a brand and platform as well as attract law firms to beta test it.
The death tech startup instead aimed to facilitate win-wins all around by resolving systemic inefficiencies, speeding up the process, and more generally promoting closer working relationships between the various stakeholders. Over time, it hoped to become the ‘industry utility’ on which this new sector is built.
If this was achieved, the reward would be exponential. As the first mover, Exizent would become a temporary monopoly, that, once more and more people signed up to the service, would be bolstered by the network effect.
For such a change to be brought to the industry, first the idea had to be bought by the various stakeholders who would be using it. However, for many, the bureaucratic process was simply like it had always been, and the recognition that it wasn’t working just wasn’t there.
Not only that, Exizent needed first and foremost to recruit the team who would actually build, market, and run the platform. In Scotland, where the startup industry is thriving, this is no easy task. A brand identity that could convey why talent should choose a company dealing in death and bureaucracy over something livelier was required.
Herein lay the challenge. The startup needed to convince a multitude of stakeholders that Exizent was the place to work, the people to work with, had a vision they could all get behind and perhaps most importantly, that there was a problem in the first place.
Such stakeholders required clarity in the messaging. Law firms and financial institutions are generally dogged by slow processes, so in order to get them onside, quickness and coherence were key to getting that first meeting. On top of this, the brand could never lose sight of the sensitive nature of the category itself.
“As a new business, you need to cut through the maelstrom to get noticed. The bereavement landscape is particularly fragmented. We needed a brand and core message that spoke clearly to our many audiences and opened the door to the vital first conversation” says Nick Cousins, Founder of Exizent.
We recommended positioning Exizent as a no-nonsense challenger that had the answers. An outsider who was unburdened by legacy or vested interests and was free to ask the heretical questions about how the system was functioning and equipped to fix it.
“Making sense of it all” was the branding solution to this. A muted but considered identity that would work across all stakeholders in the death space.
The copy itself is clear enough. “Making sense of it all” declares unilaterally that Exizent stands for clarity in creating a simpler, easier process. Simultaneously, the words addressed the many elephants in the many different rooms: that the probate process wasn’t working. In this, “Making sense of it all” encapsulated both the problem and the solution.
The artwork itself emphasised the point that there is a better way to decipher death, using the idea of an untangled thread to drive this point home. Overall, the new brand identity is an illustration of how the bereavement process doesn’t have to have so many (if any) pain points.
That was ultimately what was important here: because at the end of the day, someone who knew someone else will have died. As Dermintzoglous says, “Although Exizent is technically a B2B –– in that it doesn’t touch directly the people connected to the deceased –– in the end, they actually affect them a lot. It’s a B2B2C company.”
This feeling, which most stakeholders working in death have some semblance of, was key to helping the brand present itself as credible and appropriate for the task at hand. As Cousins says, “The moment the team saw the Exizent copy and artwork we knew it was right. It felt different. Clear, distinctive, serious but dynamic. We wear our brand with confidence”
Ultimately, the work helps the death tech startup explain the benefits of a complex technical solution to a diverse bunch of stakeholders all with different and competing priorities and needs in a single-minded and compelling way.
The startup has since secured its £3.6 million in funding and is now suitably positioned to not only be a service to certain stakeholders but to go even further — lay the foundations of the underlying infrastructure on which a new sector is built.
Read more about the case study itself here.