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Marketeer of the month

By The Drum | Administrator

August 4, 2003 | 6 min read

It’s not easy to write a feature when the subject is perched at your shoulder scrutinising every word that your digits tap out. It’s actually very disconcerting. Particularly when, if said subject sees something they disapprove of, they have the power to wipe your screen, eject your computer through the nearest window or, and this is the paramount concern, condemn you to an eternity of fiery brimstone and red-hot pokey things inserted into dark and unpleasant places. Which, although that might sound appealing to some of our readers, isn’t really my cup of tea.

So, as the ‘Big Fella’ himself is our Marketeer of the Month this issue, you’ll understand if we refrain from being overtly facetious or critical – we thought we’d get some creative directors to do that instead. After all, as one agency wag noted when we called to speak to his CD, “They won’t have anything to worry about, they all think they’re God anyway.”

Moving on ... God. What with keeping the solar systems oscillating and the tides ebbing and flowing Our Father clearly has a lot on his celestial plate. It’s therefore understandable if occasionally he may lose sight of some elements of his proposition, leading to a dip in their popularity and effectiveness. At the moment, it appears as though it may well be the turn of one of his main brands here on Earth, Christianity (think falling congregations, intransigence to homosexuality and all-round general scandal), to endure a difficult time in the marketplace. As the entity that is Jairzinho noted (Steve Daniels and partner in creativity Dave Harrison), the main problem seems to lie with maintaining the brand’s relevance in an ever-evolving environment.

“Like a lot of brands that were once hugely popular – Arctic Roll, The Accident Group, David Beckham – over time they’ve simply died, got too greedy or have been market forced into semi-retirement, often through a lack of skilful brand management and creativity. The problem is that the speed of technological change and modern day anti-moralistic living has rendered God’s Christianity largely irrelevant – hence empty churches, full bars.”

Nevertheless, it’s rather difficult to believe that a brand with the foundations, following and unique marketing network of Christianity will melt away with all the resistance of an unloved Arctic Roll. But, according to Propaganda’s creative deity Steve Dixon, if nothing changes there’s a real danger of irreparable damage being done.

“It lacks credibility,” Dixon stresses. “Go to any church and the believers are conspicuous by their absence. There is no modern day relevance to the brand. It’s boring. It’s something your grandmother used to use. And the brand communication on the street is less than single-minded: God is Life, God Saves Souls, Jesus Loves You – these are just a few of the conflicting messages.”

Dixon also made the point, not for the easily offended, that; “His UK agent base is also shooting itself in the foot every day as it fiddles funds, as well as the odd child or two.” And this is perhaps the key point that the founder and CEO of the universe will have to address sooner or later – his marketing team is clearly letting the Christianity brand down, big time.

With the budget, office facilities, staff numbers and all the countless other resources at the disposal of the Church, Christianity should be bigger than Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Microsoft added together and multiplied by the power of Nike. As it is, it’s a peripheral brand, with a hard core, but slightly ‘society-ostracised’ consumer base. The Church marketeers need to get real relevant, real fast or the brand could die as its current set of followers do. So, how can they achieve this?

“Create a soap opera around a Church,” and, for the clergy, “employ Jean Paul Gaultier to design some uniforms” were the suggestions from Dig for Fire’s Steve Loftus, whereas Jairzinho and PWLC’s Pete Camponi have similarly enlightened strategies.

“Put a new kind of Church on the high street,” ruminated Daniels and Harrison. “Re-brand religion as ‘spiritual refreshment’, then sharpen up the outlets. Holy water on draught – cheaper and definitely purer than conventional bottled water, and creative packaging could get over God’s message in a light-hearted and appealing way.”

Camponi thought affinity marketing could be the way to the Promised Land. “Why not turn all Churches into joint ventures with McDonald’s or Starbucks. You can have Sunday morning service with a Big Mac and large fries or evensong with a tall skinny latte and almond croissant – it’ll have ’em flocking in.”

Not as crazy as it sounds, perhaps. Such mortal strategies aside, all our worshippers of creativity showed a surprising degree of uniformity when it came to the one key way for God to re-ignite interest in his under-performing brand. Basically, if a job’s worth doing, He should do it Himself.

“Everyone would buy into God if he did one thing,” opined Jairzinho. “Made an appearance. We’d be sure to call a press conference with all the necessary media.”

Loftus thought God could “strategically place abandoned wheelchairs, crutches and invalid vehicles around with the message ‘touched by the hand of God’ attached”, whereas Camponi postulated that God’s brands would be bolstered if he “stopped all wars, stopped famine, cancelled Third World debt, and (last but certainly not least) made beer free.”

Ending this particular lesson, Jairzinho stepped down from the pulpit with the notion: \"He should do something positive like stopping the odd religious war, ending famine, or stopping a poor advertising campaign from running. He could sign off every miracle with a logo and a line that said something like – ‘GOD, actions speak louder than words.’ Again, people would talk about it and that’s the best advertising any brand can get.” Which, if you’re reading this Big G, is what people should be doing now, providing you with good advertising and hopefully avoiding a personal fate of red-hot pokey things for me. Amen to that.

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