As a professional marketer I understand the power of advertising, promotion, public relations and the various ways of placing product in front of the public to increase awareness and sales. Put simply, it’s all about making enough memorable, repeated exposures so when consumers consider purchasing a product in your category they’ll remember yours and make a purchase that adds to your bottom line. 

This last week I read a book review in Advertising Age for Brands of Faith: Marketing Religion in a Commercial Age. Although I haven’t yet read the book the topic certainly got my attention. I’ve been thinking lately about how churches should market themselves, and although I’ve not developed any iron clad theories it seems the Bible’s idea of people sharing the good news with each other is a great way to start. 

Two things in this review especially caught my attention: The first was this, The book’s author, Mara Einstein calls religion a “commodity … packaged and sold the same way as other marketed goods and services.” To me that implies there is money to be made which seems to be somewhat of a mockery. While I hope people don’t view religion or God as a commodity my fear is that many may. Second, the author states that, “If spiritual hunger isn’t driving people to the big-box style of worship, then eventually the religious consumer is “going to feel disappointed.” This is a statement I agree with.

While I believe God can use a wide variety of ways to create spiritual hunger, I question the long term effectiveness of slick campaigns or exposure events. Sure, they may produce quicker results than people sharing the good news with each other one at a time but I’m not convinced the result is as long-lasting as what might be possible otherwise. In addition, once this pattern begins what needs to happen to maintain momentum? Does the weekly battle to “top the previous week” only further erode the real value of the gospel and increase the level of commoditization? 

What are your thoughts?

Yesterday morning I led a meeting reminding some of our company’s leaders of how things get done. How projects get completed and the order in which they’re executed most effectively. Every now and then, even in a professional firm like ours people need to be refreshed on what’s central to what we do. Sure, the fun part about marketing, at least for most people is the look and feel of what we create. Whether it’s a print ad, a direct mail piece, a web site, a 30 second spot or any host of deliverables, the fun is in the design. But as marketers we have to concern ourselves with the message before the design, and the message can only flow from the strategy which is developed through in-depth research.  

While I was leading this discussion I reminded the group that in my former career as a pastor I applied the same principles each week. I didn’t consider what I did on Sundays to be marketing but I most definitely worked very hard at honing the central message of the entire service (I wrote about it several days ago in fact). It wasn’t something I did hastily, nor was it done haphazardly. Whether it was a sermon or an entire service the central message was what everything else grew out of. The message, or the Big Idea drove the design.

While I’m convinced that approach makes a significant impact I believe even more strongly in the “So What!” quality of a take away. When my wife and I were pastoring on a weekly basis one of us (whichever one of us didn’t deliver the sermon) would conclude with a take away that helped apply the central message or theme to real life. Instead of people leaving the service and saying “So what!” they could leave knowing how to respond. It was a call to action. So, how often do you leave a service saying, “So What”? What do you do with what you hear and experience each week? Is it working for you?