Pyro Marketing – Again

kinnon —  September 12, 2005 — 6 Comments

In late July, I commented on Ed Brenegar’s post regarding the Greg Stielstra book, PyroMarketing. The story was that Rick Warren was not happy with Mr. Stielstra writing about the marketing behind Pastor Warren’s best seller, Purpose Driven Life. Publishers Weekly reported this on August 29th:

Warren has issued a statement—which is running in Christian Retailing and which he also sent to PW —denying that he opposed publication of the title. The statement reads in part, "My request to HarperCollins was simply that Greg’s forthcoming book not use The Purpose Driven Life as example of ‘pyromarketing,’ since that would be inaccurate. The effectiveness of 40 Days of Purpose spread from one pastor to another through word-of-mouth endorsement, not through anyone’s marketing plan. That doesn’t mean ‘pyromarketing’ doesn’t work. It just means that it didn’t create the PDL worldwide phenomena!"

Warren said he wants all recognition for the PDL sensation to go to God. "My only concern was that no one, neither Zondervan nor myself, claim credit for the astounding success of The Purpose Driven Life book. The worldwide spread of the purpose driven message had nothing to do with marketing or merchandizing. Instead it was the result of God’s supernatural and sovereign plan, which no one anticipated."

Church of the Customer, in yesterday’s post God is a helluva marketer comments:

I most heartedly agree with the good pastor about the book’s word of mouth among pastors. It’s huge. But a "supernatural plan?" Well, that’s a pretty big leap of faith.

They go on to sight a 2003 Forbes article on :Christian Capitalism Megachurches, Megabusinesses that comments:

Pastor Rick Warren, who founded Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., in 1980, has deftly used technology as well as marketing to spread his message. His, which reaches 100,000 pastors worldwide each week, has e-mail forums, archives of all of his sermons from the past 22 years and a place to post prayer requests. He also sends a free weekly newsletter, Rick Warren’s Ministry Toolbox, to pastors. When it came time to launch his book, The Purpose Driven Life, last year, Warren used to invite churches to participate in a "40 Days of Purpose" event (to correspond with the book’s 40 chapters). The 40-day-long event attracted 1,562 churches and was kicked off with a simulcast broadcast to all those churches. Some 267 radio stations ran a "40 days campaign" during the same time period. And a CD of "Songs for a Purpose Driven Life" featuring well-known Christian artists was also released. From the start, the books and CDs were distributed in mass-market retailers such as Wal-Mart, Costco Wholesale , Barnes & Noble and Borders Group.

Marketing and merchandising, in and of themselves, are not evil. One can argue that in the marketing of a good product, you are doing your customers a service. (I have no problem with Mr. Warren having used his network to promote the book, whatsoever.) PDL has apparently had a positive impact on a lot of people (I’m not one of them, yet) – it’s been well received by its millions of readers (and yes, there’s a copy of it in our library – picked up at Costco). So why is there any issue with PDL having been merchandised & marketed? (Visit the twelve web pages of Purpose Driven stuff Zondervan sells here to further make the point. Maybe you’d like one of these. Or not.)

And if Mr. Warren does not want PyroMarketing to mention PDL, then he certainly IS opposing it’s publication by asking that references to PDL be removed from it.

It’s really rather odd to attribute the success of PDL exclusively to a supernatural and sovereign act of the Creator of the Universe – especially considering the facts. Stielstra was the Marketing Director for PDL while at Zondervan*. They (the Newscorp owned, Harper Collins publishing unit aimed at the Christian Book industry) obviously felt it needed one. The book used a number of different marketing techniques that apparently Mr. Stielstra outlines in his book PyroMarketing. It was phemonenally successful. Ipso facto – God made it happen? I love it when He does that.

*Mr. Stielstra has apparently joined Thomas Nelson.

Technorati: Rick Warren  Marketing Book




A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

6 responses to Pyro Marketing – Again

  1. Bill,
    I don’t know Rick Warren. I do know a guy who was in his D.Min. group years ago. For him to say, “Instead it was the result of God’s supernatural and sovereign plan, which no one anticipated.” is being a bit disingenuous.
    Yeah, noone anticipates 23million sold, unless your a hamburger dealer. The problem with attributing our total success to God’s sovereignty is that we have to also attribute our failures. For in essence, he is saying that their is no freedom of choice in the human experience. That we are all mere robotic-functionaries of a Wizard of Oz type power who is out of sight, inscrutable and never to be known. It would be far better to give God the glory for the opportunity to write a book that touches so many lives. It is humble and true. Instead he attributes to God his success and bankrolls the royalities. Like I said, I don’t know Rick Warren. But I couldn’t sleep at night knowing that fabulous wealth is in my bank account, and I am not responsible for it. I don’t know Rick Warren and I don’t know how he spends his money, but if his statement is correct, the millions he’s pocketed because of PDL doesn’t belong to him, but to God. The more humble approach actually provides a basis for keeping it all and sharing it with others in need.

  2. I have a couple of friends who’ve lead sessions and seminars at Saddleback conferences who speak very highly of Rick. They speak of his great humility – in their estimation. Which is why I find his response to be just plain weird.

    The good news for Greg Stielstra will be that the controversy should drive up the sales of PyroMarketing – although I doubt that it will hit the 10’s of millions – unless of course God wants it to.


Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

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    Miracle or Marketing?

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