What the Public Don't See in the Hearse

    In the last post I discussed the symbolism and significance of the hearse to the mourners.  There was no doubt by the end that the hearse is a very important vehicle for mourners.  Yet at the same time there is a discrepancy with what mourners see and what the hearse is.

    Despite the significance placed on the hearse many aspets are overlooked.

    In a recent survey I looked at both recognition and recall rates of various funeral companies, to explore how well people actually remember these companies and the industry as a whole.  Part of this survey involved matching photos of hearses with all company logos and names removed to the companies that owned them.

    This was due to the fact that the hearse is a big and expensive symbol, companies put a fair bit of effort into making their hearse unique and tying it to the brand.  The hearse is in many ways part of the company identity and marketing (which I will discuss in detail in an upcoming post).  However, my survey found a rather low recognition rate for the hearse, basically those who never work(ed) in the funeral industry could not correctly identify who owned which hearse for the majority of cases.

    A rather interesting and telling result, that the public do not recognise hearses as they do not know hearses that well.  Many might not find this that surprising, after all, not a lot of people from outside the industry are comparing hearses or looking closely at the hearses.

    But think about it in relation to the last post, all about the meaning, symbolism and significance the public puts on the hearse.  The hearse is bound up in so much important symbolism and emotions, one friend I know is uncomfortable looking at photos of an empty hearse as it will remind them of death and funerals.

    The hearse holds so much symbolism and significance that a mear photo of an empty one can make this friend uncomfortable, evoke emotional responses and reactions.  Yet in follow up discussions this friend has very low knowledge of hearses, not just who owns them, but also with regard to what they are like inside and general information about a hearse.

    To place so much importance on the hearse that it can make them have an emotional reaction at seeing it, then not know about it, is a bit strange in a sense.  This person might feel emotional by looking at a hearse, but has never really taken a good look at a hearse.  They did not know about the side or wing doors under where the coffin sits, that the back windows can open up, that they are modified regular cars, and so on.

    Some have suggested that because the hearse makes people upset or uncomfortable that they do not look at it.  However, in this example it is not the case as the friend (and others) looked at and described different hearses that I showed them.  Despite looking over several hearses they still did not see certain key physical features.

    One might assume this person to be a minority, to be a rare example, but that is not the case at all.  I find a surprising many fit this description in some way, just this one friend is a perfect example of the point.  Very few of the general public know much about the Australian hearse, what it is a really like, how it works, where it came from, or anything else like that.

    There are many notions about it, many perceptions, much symbolism, and yet so few actually look at it.  Many will not look at the hearse physically, but will look at the symbolism and notions surrounding it, which means they overlook the physical side to the hearse.  Other than colour the public have little other interest in the appearance.

   It is not surprising that the public have limited knowledge of the hearse on a physical level, in a way the significance of the symbolism attributed to the hearse clouds the understanding of the physical aspects.

    Another factor is of course the roles we occupy and our knowledge base.  That the public simply has not been taught to look at the hearse on a physical level like funeral staff, the public does not know what to look for.  This is quite likely a senario, what we are taught (even passively through what we do) has a big impact on our perceptions.  So those who have never worked in the funeral industry were simply never taught these things, never knew how to look at it physically.

    If this is the case it makes the hearse a wonderful example of social knowledge and perceptions, I can think of few examples more telling, that demonstrate this point so well.  Which is all the more reason we should be looking at the funeral industry as a viable way to explore complex concepts.


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