Northern Cemeteries Case Study

Legacy shines when cultural insights and media expertise join forces – Chinese communications for the Living Legacy Campaign


Northern Cemeteries is a not-for-profit organisation that looks after five unique cemeteries on Crown land in Sydney and Newcastle, NSW.

A number of Mandarin and Cantonese-speaking residents reside within Northern Cemeteries’ catchment areas. With multicultural and multilingual offerings and services, Northern Cemeteries was keen to establish meaningful connections with the local communities while providing better services.

Northern Cemeteries engaged Icon in June 2020 to lead on CALD communications with a focus on the Mandarin and Cantonese-speaking communities, primarily in Sydney. The campaign formed part of Northern Cemeteries’ Living Legacy campaign to introduce a NSW-first memorialisation that is environmentally conscious and culturally meaningful.

Living Legacy was a new service by Northern Cemeteries to return people’s ashes to the earth. The process uses proven science to transform the ashes so they can nurture and sustain a tree, through which family and friends can celebrate life in a different form while commemorating their loved ones.


The challenge faced by Northern Cemeteries was two-fold. The absence of dedicated Chinese communications staff meant the language barrier had to be overcome in campaign content development, coupled with a fundamentally different media landscape – Chinese media in Australia.

More importantly, building a strong emotional connection and a cultural link was imperative for the campaign. Northern Cemeteries’ services are primarily centred around death and celebration of life, which is the most significant ritual for many, even more so in a Chinese context. Finding emotional and cultural common ground plays a pivotal role in driving home the key messages, and requires a deep understanding of the Chinese culture.

For instance, the main campaign’s primary focus was on the program’s environment-friendly feature. There were concerns that this emphasis might not resonate as well within the Chinese community when it comes to life memorialisation.


After taking an initial brief from Northern Cemeteries, Icon’s Chinese team developed a culturally-conscious, multichannel communications strategy, based on the agency’s deep understanding in both the Chinese culture and Chinese media landscape in Australia.

Underpinned by Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism, the Chinese culture places unparalleled significance to family unity and continuity of life. Echoing the overarching campaign’s key messaging, Icon crafted a set of applicable Chinese key messages to highlight:
– The continuity of life after death
– An extended family tie
– Positive attributes that a tree possesses as a symbol within Chinese culture
– The associated environmental benefits.

In addition, the media release featured well-known cultural references to a Chinese classic poem, which offered extra appeal.

To maximise the campaign’s exposure among the target audience, Icon Agency engaged multiple relevant media channels; a selection of Chinese newspapers, online news portals, radios and WeChat official accounts. Tailored content was also produced to the Mandarin and Cantonese-speaking communities.

Specific approaches featured a combination of earned and paid tactics.


– Exceeding all KPIs, a total of 20 pieces of media coverage were secured across target media after the campaign month, featuring:
radio interviews on SBS Mandarin and 2CR (Cantonese)
– Editorial coverage in the top three Chinese newspapers in Sydney
– Articles in two tier-one Sydney-focused WeChat official accounts
– During the campaign, Northern Cemeteries received positive feedback firsthand from the local Chinese communities on the campaign content.

In addition, Northern Cemeteries had hoped to receive two to three community enquiries. However, over ten quality enquiries at least were received, including a successful purchase of the Living Legacy Tree during the campaign period.