Marketing the Church
A Little History
I’ve been involved in marketing, in one way or another, since I graduated from University. My first job out of school was as the marketing copyrighter and TV production department (I was a one man band) for a manufacturer of heavy equipment. I left to join Sony as a sales person in their broadcast division. Two years later, I was starting a company with two former clients from Loblaws, that produced training and marketing videos for the retail sector.
In 1984, Imbi and I launched MKPL, a production and post-production company that did everything from producing corporate television through creating network branding to editing international TV series. Marketing not only played a role in growing our business, but we also spent a lot of time working on advertising and marketing campaigns with clients. (In fact, I’ve just finished a couple of marketing projects for a major US manufacturer of broadcast equipment.)
There is Nothing Inherently Wrong with Marketing
As I’ve stated ad nauseum, I’m a student of one of the most brilliant marketers in this millenium and the last, Roy Williams. Imbi and I have spent significant amounts of MKPL money to attend courses at the communication arts school that he and his wife, Penny, founded. It has been money well spent.
I believe that knnowing how to effectively market in the ever changing landscape we find ourselves in, is critical to the success of any business. But is effective marketing critical to the “success of the church.” I’m not so sure.
Church Marketing really does suck
I’m afraid the entire concept of church marketing may have the exact opposite response than that desired when addressing emergents and/or millenials. (Emergent as defined here, here and here.)
We know you have tried to get us to church. That’s part of the problem. Many of your appeals have been carefully calculated for success and that turns our collective stomach. (“Sarah, a gen X church visitor” quoted by Earl Creps in Off-Road Disciplines, Page 151.)
They’re just not buying what we think we’re selling. Roy Williams wrote this almost exactly three years ago
…today’s teens are rejecting Pretense. Born into a world of hype, their internal BS-meters are highly sensitive and blisteringly accurate. Words like “amazing,” “astounding,” and “spectacular” are translated as “blah,” “blah,” and “blah.” Consequently, tried and true selling methods that worked as recently as a year ago are working far less well today. Trust me, I know.
In some ways, Roy is echoing The Cluetrain Manifesto (a book he turned me onto). It’s not about hype. It’s about conversation. From the Cluetrain, the first five of the 95 theses,
- Markets are conversations.
- Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.
- Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.
- Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived.
- People recognize each other as such from the sound of this voice
I’ll dig a little deeper in Part 2 and spend a bit more time in Earl Creps’ book, Off-Road Disciplines. I’ll also refer a bit to my own book, A Networked Conspiracy and talk more about the idea of conspiring – literally, breathing together – in what one might consider a more missional approach to growing the church.