The Neptune Society has developed a first-of-its-kind marketing tool to compete with traditional cemeteries and do-it-yourself scattering of ashes at sea: It's built an underwater cement city resembling the legendary lost city of Atlantis, where ashes of the dearly departed will be set for eternity into a growing marine sanctuary.
|Photo: Mark Conlin|
Neptune hopes its artificial Atlantis will be a destination for divers and tourists.
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"We're trying to make the Neptune Society a green company," said Jerry Norman, president-CEO of the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., firm that handles 50,000 cremations annually, about half with ashes scattered at sea.
The sanctuary, 45 feet underwater off the Miami coast, has the potential to be the final resting place for 125,000. Under the sales plan, ashes will be mixed into cement and placed inside concrete columns, lions and other faux-undersea artifacts. If a starfish form is chosen, the entire family can participate in its creation, he said. Costs range from $1,600 to $6,500 depending on place of interment.
The underwater cemetery will do more than host coral, colorful reef fish, eels and other varieties underwater life, Mr. Norman said. He expects it to be a destination -- though not a final one -- for divers and explorers and tourists.
Mr. Norman said the Neptune Society, which spends $12 million annually on marketing, has a firm handle on its target audience: those who are 60 and older, live in Sun Belt states and aren't attached to a local cemetery. In addition to TV and internet ads, he plans a direct-mail campaign targeted at 18 million wildlife enthusiasts such as bird watchers and others with a love of the sea. The sanctuary's first marketing drive: an event at a convention of scuba divers.