Maybe this is me showing my age. Though I’m still under 30. So I don’t feel that old. But I yearn for the days when Christian conferences had descriptive names, names that didn’t need to be explained with a subheading, names that explained in a nice tight way what attendees could expect.
Names like the Queensland Youth Convention, National Training Event, Mid Year Camp, Katoomba Youth Leadership Conference. These names meant something. They may have been a triumph of substance over style. But so what.
Marketing can be about substance. I’d argue that communication/marketing is more effective when you know what you’re getting when you make a transaction.
Tell me what the following things are – from their titles:
Some are better than others. Some of these verbs carry a pretty strong idea. None works without some sort of clarification that takes, time, space, and creativity (to link an obscure verb with the substance in an authentic way).
Disclaimer: I have been to many of these events and believe they are valuable. I enjoyed them, was stirred, spurred, transformed, refreshed, and engaged by them – I think they are valuable and worthwhile. It isn’t my intention to undermine the work people are doing promoting these – you should go to them because the events are good. The product is worth investing in. This should be the case with everything you choose to invest your time and money into… But the one word verb thing is cliched, and, in my opinion, wasn’t ever a great idea anyway.
I’m an equal opportunity offender – so if you’ve got examples from outside the organisations that I’m familiar with (or involved with) – feel free to share them.
One of the problems here is that you’ve got to invest a whole lot of energy into developing and explaining the concept behind the verb as it relates to your product, and if the product doesn’t match what you’re aspiring to, it very quickly becomes just another stupid product name.
And tell me – if not me – a guy conversant with Christian culture, engaged in the Christian scene, who likes camps and conferences – who are these titles for? Who do they appeal to. I don’t get it.
And that’s the problem – these names offer nothing except some sort of wishy-washy aspirational verb.
And where do we go next? Adverbs? Conferences called:
Enough. The conferences or events I’ve gone to and benefited from most in the last two years had such sexy titles as:
QTC Preaching Week
Piper in Brisbane
Don Carson: Looking back, looking forward
Conferences rise and fall on the quality of their content – the quality of the speaker(s) and the relevance of the topic. Fancy names might help build a brand over the long term, but if the product quality drops your brand takes a hit. A hit it may not recover from. Personally I think you’re far better off having a strong brand behind a series of events, where people trust the organisation involved to put on something worthwhile. Investing in an essentially meaningless brand name is pretty short sighted. I think.
Plus everyone’s doing it. So it’s not cutting edge anymore. It’s blunt.
Savvy user generated content is pretty much the holy grail of social marketing – or marketing of any sort – generating “buzz” also known as “word of mouth” also known as “having other people blow your trumpet for you” is the best, and most cost effective, way to spread the word about your product, cause, church, or company.
There have been a few funny campaigns like this in recent weeks, where the collective imagination, or hive mind, of the Internet has turned on a couple of campaigns – in the crosshairs, in the United States, weighing in as one of the biggest companies in the nation, is Walmart, but Australia is not immune to such frivolity, as Queensland Rail can attest.
Walmart ran a vote to sent a hip hop character known as the Pit Bull to any of its stores, well, the store that gained the biggest number of likes. Voters jumped on board to send him to the smallest, and most remote, Walmart in the country with a campaign called #ExilePitbull. At Kodiak Island. Somewhere in Alaska. Where Russia is visible from the sporting goods department. The campaign seems to have originated from a Boston website called The Phoenix.
A couple of months ago QR launched a train etiquette campaign, where its online followers could generate, or customise, their own “Super Simple Stuff” campaign poster. The interwebs took over, many of the posters that resulted are far too crude to share, but it’s fair to say the campaign backfired.
That reaction highlights something interesting about playing in this sphere. If someone has it in for you online – like Greenpeace do with Shell – there’s not a whole lot you can do about it to come out a winner. The SMH piece has a few opposing perspectives on the issue…
“As an observer it would seem Greenpeace actually wants Shell to take legal action, which of course would draw even further attention to their campaign,” said McDonald.
“For Shell it’s the nightmare of juggling perception and reality and right now they are probably damned if they do, damned if they don’t.
“My only advice to Shell in this instance would be to suggest that they launch a fake Greenpeace site and laugh it off.”
“”It’s behaving, smelling, looking as though it was Shell under siege so the only way that you would ever know that it wasn’t Shell is through the Twitter ‘verified account’ but I know that a lot of brands haven’t gone through the verified account process.”
Gloria said she saw a real Shell “Let’s Go” banner advertisement on a US site that “looks identical” to the spoof Arctic Ready site.
She said Greenpeace had realised that it was much more effective to campaign online rather than appearing as “hippy do-gooders”. Why chain yourself to polar bears in the Arctic when you can create a fake Twitter page and do more damage?
Gloria criticised Shell’s response, saying it was behaving too “corporate” and not adequately responding to the campaign in the channels where the hijacking is occurring.
“They mistakenly believe they will give Greenpeace traction by ‘dignifying’ a response. Unfortunately the opposite is occurring – by not responding, Shell look corporate and out of touch,” she said.
I tend to sit somewhere between the two – Shell needs to do something funny and brand salvaging, in a voice the collective mind of the internet will appreciate, or it needs to issue a mea culpa on its practices and promise to change, and then actually deliver (a bit like Maccas have done with responding to rumours and criticisms about their burgers in Canada)… This is partly to do with having thought out a Crisis Communication Plan for social media stuff – which the books I reviewed last week touched on, and also with figuring out your “voice” or personality online so that you can respond accordingly.
Of the three situations, only Walmart has come out a winner, QR hasn’t been particularly damaged, but at the very least their campaign shows that not all publicity is good publicity, and the Shell situation surely demonstrates the utter foolishness of that idea – their brand is being hammered and laughed at, with no potential positive outcome, unless they think that motorists are more likely to think Shell when their “fuel empty” light flashes up on the dashboard on their next drive, and less likely to think about dying polar bears.
Sacha Baron Cohen has a new movie out, and by all accounts it’s incredibly puerile and terrible. I’m not going to see it. Borat was enough for me. I’ve always had a soft spot for Baron Cohen and the way he used outlandish characters to highlight the outlandish traits in normal people, as uncomfortable as that became. But his kind of under the radar shock humour, luring unsuspecting victims into making fools of themselves, always had a limited shelf life as his notoriety increased. I reckon he actually peaked with Ali G. Who is, for mine, the funniest interviewer ever.
It seems though that to create genuinely funny humour of the type he had become accustomed, Baron Cohen had to create a terrible movie that then became the vehicle for catching people unaware and reproducing some of his shock comedy, in character.
So, we have examples like this train wreck on the Today Show. I’ll embed it. But watch it at your own risk, it’s crude and it’s simply here to illustrate a point. It’s some of the most uncomfortable breakfast television you’ll ever see.
Baron Cohen is maintaining his brand – people will still think of him as an edgy, and funny, comedian who puts people in awkward situations, this time journalists, because of the press circus surrounding the movie. The TV opportunities are now the vehicle for his comedy. I’m no more likely to see the movie because of moments like this, but at least it has generated the kind of response I’m sure Baron Cohen enjoys most. It’s where the art is now. I wouldn’t be surprised if his press appearances become the main reason people buy the DVD version of the movie, so it’s a tactic with a bit of a silver lining.
Here’s how a boingboing review (which contains a vivid description of the offensiveness of the movie in the opening para) describes what’s going on:
“This is what The Dictator was made for; to spew, into the world of the living, the fully-formed obscenity that is Aladeen.
Sacha Baron Cohen’s characters come into their own when they are put into contact with real people—and even chat show hosts are people—because, as Ali G taught us, the embarassing reaction and our own cringing is at least half of the humour, innit.”
This is an interesting theory – treating content creation as a launchpad for something more long term.
As a media strategy it’s not bad – particularly in the social media world where engagement and conversation are the big goals that lead to conversion. The idea is that you develop loyal fans of your brand who purchase your products and become advocates who talk about your product to their friends. You do that by producing content they want to share, or content that gets people talking. And the movie and associated interviews have ticked that box.
This has me thinking a bit about how this principle applies to church communication and social media stuff. I’m doing a bit of thinking at the moment about how the church I’m part of can use Facebook better, and get people being ambassadors not just for our church, but for Jesus, when they’re online (incidentally, there’s a great Church Marketing Sucks post/series on this).
This is one thing I reckon Mark Driscoll does really well. He’s phenomenal not just at scouting out opportunities in the press, but creating them. I have started to wonder if that is why he and wife Grace went so far and were so graphic in their marriage book – for the shock factor. It’s pretty much the Christian equivalent of the Dictator. The book flew up the best sellers list, fanned the flames of controversy around the Christian blogosphere earlier this year (seriously, google it), it certainly had people talking, and Mark and Grace Driscoll have been touring the US on the back of the book seemingly ever since – including this amazing stopover on CNN with Piers Morgan, who’s not a massively successful TV superstar, but still gets around 500,000 viewers a night.
“MORGAN: But why was — why should it be one rule for her and one rule for you?
DRISCOLL: I think I was selfish and I think I was being a hypocrite. And I’m not going to defend things that I’ve done or said or thought that were wrong. No.
But I do believe — and this is where we’re going to get to Jesus — that he died, he rose, he forgives me, he helps me, and I hope to keep changing and doing better.
MORGAN: But for people watching this, you know, especially younger people, for example. They said, well, it’s all right for you. You know, you had all this sex until you were 19, then you get —
DRISCOLL: Well, it wasn’t a lot of —
MORGAN: Then you got born-again so you had sort of sown your wild oats and then — and then you’ve become a born-again virgin. But for them, you’re trying to punish them and they can’t have anything.
DRISCOLL: Well, I think, ultimately, sex is best reserved for marriage. And I think if you look at the statistics of sexual assault, sexual abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, there’s a lot of people that are suffering, too.
I mean you’re not your average pastor, are you?
DRISCOLL: I don’t know.
MORGAN: Saying stuff like that.
DRISCOLL: I have fun. Sometimes I get it wrong.
MORGAN: Do too many people in the world of religion take it too seriously?
Is that part of the problem?
DRISCOLL: I think we should take Jesus seriously. We should take the Bible seriously. We probably shouldn’t take ourselves nearly as seriously. And that’s how I approach it.
MORGAN: Do you think you’re a tolerant kind of guy?
DRISCOLL: I love people very much and it’s — it’s —
MORGAN: That’s not the same thing.
DRISCOLL: Well, it’s — how do you disagree, sometimes, with people that you love?
That’s a very difficult issue for everybody, but for a pastor in particular, because —
MORGAN: But do you preach tolerance?
DRISCOLL: I’ve preached that we should love our neighbor, that we should accept —
MORGAN: But tolerance — tolerance in particular.
DRISCOLL: Why — you keep hammering it. What — what do you mean by tolerance?
MORGAN: Tolerating people who may have a lifestyle or a belief that you don’t agree with.
DRISCOLL: Yes, we have to. And that’s — when Jesus says love your neighbor, you know, he knows you’re not going to agree with all your neighbors, but he wants you to love them, to seek good for them, to care for them.
However, like everything in life, shouldn’t it be dragged kicking and screaming into each modern era, and be adapted, like the American Constitution.
MORGAN: Because, you know, my — my view about this is — is not that I don’t respect Christians or Catholics or whoever who — who absolutely swear by every word in here. It’s just that it’s — I just don’t believe anyone who is genuinely Christian should be spouting bigoted opinions about sections of the community for their sexuality.
DRISCOLL: Well, I think when it comes to the Bible, you’ve got three options. Take it, I believe what it says. Leave it, I don’t believe what it says. Or change it —
MORGAN: Or adapt — or adapt the wording —
DRISCOLL: Which would be the changing it.
MORGAN: If it was in — the majority of Americans believed in it, would you then go along with it?
DRISCOLL: Would I officiate same-sex weddings and things of that nature?
DRISCOLL: I couldn’t, according to conscience, no.
I think the big issue for families in America is really men who walk out on their families. I mean, right now, the average child born to a woman under 30 is born out of wedlock —
MORGAN: Yes, but that’s why —
DRISCOLL: — with no father.
MORGAN: — see, that’s my whole point about this. There are so many feckless guys out there —
DRISCOLL: That’s really —
MORGAN: — right?”
I’ve gone a bit nuts with the quotes – but I reckon this is a great example of public engagement that is both Christ focused, and engages with social issues. Which is what Driscoll does best. This interview almost makes the (by all accounts justifiable) controversy around the book worthwhile. And like Baron Cohen’s work one wonders if Driscoll produced the book with half an eye on how things would play out past its release.
The third little example takes the form of a book review, a public discourse between critic and author, the book is Ross Douhat’s Bad Religion (which I’m reading on my bus ride at the moment), the discussion happened on Slate.com (starting here). It’s an incredibly gracious discussion which I think is probably more valuable than the book – and it was why I purchased it.
None of these cases simply involve the content producer reproducing their content – in each case there’s a development of the core concept before a wider audience, that adds value. It’s good stuff. And now I’m wondering how this works at the level of the local church – how we turn the content we produce regularly (sermons etc), into sharable chunks, or leverage the work on new mediums.
Anyway. That’s a long post about some stuff I noticed in some stuff I read.
I just saw the first Mormon ad to feature high profile league player, and grand final winner with the mighty Manly Warringah Sea Eagles, Will Hopoate. Sharp. They’re a great ad for Manly. And, like all the ads in this campaign, are visually appealing and tightly produced.
There was a higher profile League star than Hopoate – Dizzy Izzy Folau. Israel has been out of the spotlight in the last year because he made a big money switch to AFL. To a team that doesn’t exist yet.
Right. I’ve been meaning to put some thoughts into writing for a few weeks. Doing so now was prompted by a possibly throw away line in the Q&A at the Moore College School of Theology as collated by my friend Kutz. I wasn’t there. But this line resonates with a position I’ve been trying to articulate lately (the line is from Peter Bolt):
“Manipulation can be positive. If you’re doing it to align people to the word of God then it’s a good thing.”
Manipulation and persuasion are essentially seeking to do the same thing – move a person from point a to point b. So what’s the difference? I’ve settled on this distinction…
Persuasion is the transparent act where two parties enter a dialogue with one hoping to move the other from point a to point b.
Manipulation is less transparent and involves one party trying to shift another party from point a to point b, probably without their knowledge.
I’ve settled on this because in my experience if you catch somebody trying to shift your position when they haven’t told you that’s what they’re doing you feel annoyed and accuse them of “manipulating” you, where manipulating is a pejorative. There are heaps of ways to manipulate, and most of them fall outside the classical tools of persuasion – pathos (emotions), logos (facts and words), and ethos (how you act/live). Tools of manipulation tend to involve tugging really hard on one of those threads, where persuasion is a more subtle movement, kind of like a puppeteer with a marionette.
I reckon manipulation is fine. I know we hate it. But it’s a great art, until you get caught. Like pickpocketing, not Oliver Twist style, but like the TV guy who takes your watch while you’re talking to you and then gives it to you later. Manipulation, honest manipulation, probably involves pointing out what you’ve achieved to the person after the fact, so they recognise they’ve moved from point a to point b, but during the process your mark should be a bit like the proverbial frog in a gradually heating pot of water…
This all came up, for me, when I was told I needed to engage a little more with the emotions when I preach (because I’m a pretty rational/stoic type of thinker). So the summaries of the Moore College Lectures on Kutz’s blog have been interesting. I react against this suggestion, not because I think tugging on the emotions is “manipulation” as though that’s a bad thing, but because I think I’m more likely to get caught out if I’m doing something that isn’t within my normal character. I’m all for subtle chord changes, a little bit of emotive muzak in a movie, and all the other little “manipulative” tools – I’m also for putting a bit of emotion into a sermon, like a tear jerking illustration, I’m just against doing it in a way that means I’m likely to get caught.
Persuasion is pretty safe ground, but doing both is potentially more effective, I’m just not sure what that looks like. Most people in the pews are there hoping to be persuaded (or taught), so there’s implied consent there for being “manipulated,” providing your end point is something you’ve implicitly agreed to (essentially the ends identified by Peter Bolt in his quote). It’s a little murkier when it comes to PR and marketing, but manipulation is where the fun is. It’s making ads that are more than just a boring presentation of a product, it’s also harder to do thanks to the Gruen Transfer and market awareness about the tools advertisers employ. Anyway. Those are my thoughts. What are yours?
What do you get the German skinhead who has everything? Especially if you want them to reform form their Skinhead ways? You get them a nice skull and cross bone t-shirt. And you give it to them. For free. But you make it so that after one wash the shirt changes completely.
“With a skull-and-crossbones logo and the message “Hardcore Rebels – National and Free,” some 250 black T-shirts given away at a recent right-wing extremist rock festival were quickly snapped up. But there was more to the tough-looking image than met the eye.
Once the rightist rockers washed their new shirts, they were dismayed to find an entirely different message: “If your T-shirt can do it, so can you. We’ll help to free you from right-wing extremism.” The offer, complete with contact information, came from a group called Exit Deutschland, which helps people get out of the neo-Nazi scene.”
“As a general rule, do not use the serial/Oxford comma: so write ‘a, b and c’ not ‘a, b, and c’. But when a comma would assist in the meaning of the sentence or helps to resolve ambiguity, it can be used – especially where one of the items in the list is already joined by ‘and’”
Talk about going off message – the brand guardians of the Oxford comma have lost the plot.
In my time as a PR hack for a regional lobby group one of the golden rules I learned for lobbying via the media (or for trying to change opinion via the media) is to stay on message. Over and over again. Make sure you get your point across. Make sure the questions you get asked become opportunities to give the answers you want to give. Done well, this is brilliant. A good message (or platform) is important.
We all hate the way modern politicians seem to simply repackage the same sound bite over and over again in broadcast interviews. When they do it, and get caught out, they look dumb. But most of the time they don’t get caught out. Because journalists, in reality, are after an eight second sound bite. And you’re much better off making sure that eight seconds is going to cover the message you want them to cover, not the message they want to cover. Being mindlessly on message is better than talking about things without being on message.
The best way to be on message is to know how your message, or more correctly, your platform, relates to the issue at hand. For a politician that doesn’t mean banging on about “creating jobs” or “stopping boats” it means giving reasons that the policy decision has been reached in a way that is attractive to a voter. A good way to do this is to involve real people. People like stories about people. But integrating one’s party platform with one’s media statement in a way that is catchy and repeatable is one step towards using the media effectively.
It can be hard being on message in the middle of a broadcast interview, and especially hard if it’s in the form of a debate, which has been the case in many of Wendy Francis’ recent TV appearances. But it is incredibly easy to be on message in a media release, and if a media release isn’t on message it shouldn’t be released, because anything you say that is not on message is a distraction from your real message. Let me repeat that in bold.
If a media release isn’t on message it shouldn’t be released, because anything you say that is not on message is a distraction from your real message.
Unless you have some sort of key performance indicator that involves distributing a certain number of releases per month, or some sort of contractual obligation, you should only put out releases that have a point. If you do have such KPIs or obligations you should seriously consider changing them. Nothing is more damaging than a brand than irrelevant and confusing messaging. Because when you have something valuable to say you’re either less credible, or a story will make reference to your previous position on an unrelated issue, or people just won’t listen to you because you’ve become the proverbial boy crying wolf.
Which brings me to the Australian Christian Lobby. And my big problem with how they do PR and how they’re almost never “on message”. Well, they’re not on “gospel” message anyway. A simple yardstick for being on message for a Christian Lobby would be talking about Jesus, wouldn’t it? Given that Jesus puts the Christ in Christian and is the leader of our political party, and that all our interactions with culture should be framed by the relationship we have with him by grace, and his Lordship over the world… I’d say Jesus is pretty foundational to Christian belief, and thus, Christian lobbying.
But not according to the Australian Christian Lobby. Now. A lot of the releases they put out in the Month of May are about good stuff. Serious issues. Issues where a Christian voice is valuable and necessary. And they get copious media coverage. They are nominally the spokespeople for the Christian cause in Australia. They keep getting wheeled out in front of cameras and recorders and notepads. And they keep straying off message. It’s foundational stuff.
Here’s a wordle of their media releases from May. I’ve removed the names of spokespeople quoted because they were a dominant feature.*
Now. You may think it’s unfair to take a sample of media releases about issues where they are on message about a response to an issue which may over cloud mentions of Jesus, word cloud wise. Which would be fair enough. But none of these releases actually mentioned Jesus. There is no flavouring of the gospel involved. Defenders of the ACL in recent days have mentioned that we’re called to be salt and light. Fair enough. But this isn’t even salty stuff. And, lest you think that just picking the word “Jesus” isn’t fair, I conducted the same exercise with the words gospel, God, and Bible. And got no results. Search results on their website reveal that most mentions of Jesus come in mentions of the Jesus: All About Life campaign, which they support.
A media messaging strategy for a Christian organisation of any flavour, but particularly a public voice of Christianity claiming to speak for all of us (they’re not called the Politically conservative Christians from Australia Lobby are they…), should fundamentally involve the issue that Christians of all flavours agree on. The Lordship of Jesus. Further, they should be motivated to see other people acknowledge that Lordship. While addressing injustice is a fundamental Christian activity, doing it in a manner so removed from our motivation is an off message distraction. This is why I think Christians who are interested in moral issues should form some sort of family/morality lobby (maybe stop the charade that Family First is a political party and turn them into a lobby group) and the Christian Lobby should get on with being a Christian voice (a role they try to claim for themselves on their about us page without actually mentioning Jesus, or the gospel, again). They claim a Christian “worldview” and yet don’t articulate it. A Christian worldview must start at the foot of the cross and work outwards, not start with morality and work inwards. The cross makes morality make sense.
Here’s what I think a Christian media strategy should look like, from 1 Peter 3:
15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
At the moment the ACL is failing on most counts, but still copping the slander. Why not do the first bit well, at least then you’re being slandered for a reason. And you’re not distracting people from the work of the gospel.
Deviations from the message of Jesus are a distraction from the gospel. But the message of Jesus has relevance to all areas and issues of society. The ACL, at this stage, aren’t doing a great job of integrating these two concepts.
This was the point at which the Old Spice campaign went from well executed and hilarious commercial to social media phenomenon. They organised an online campaign where the Old Spice Guy responded, in video, to interactions from around the internet. Here he responds to popular tech blog Gizmodo:
Here he helps someone propose to his girlfriend:
Here he, as Old Spice Guy, responds to himself, Isaiah Mustafa…
“In the room there are two social media guys and a tech guy who built a system pulling in comments from around the web all together in real time… We’re looking at who’s written those comments, what their influence is and what comments have the most potential for helping us create new content. The social media guys and script writers are collaborating to make that call in real time. We have people shooting and we’re editing it as it happens. Then the social media guys are looking at how to get that back out around the web…in real time.”
Here’s his sign off from a day of answering the audience:
It’s a campaign where everybody wins. Old Spice, the Creative company Wieden + Kennedy, the writers, Craig Allmen and Eric Kallman, the director and production company, and finally the actor himself.
Successful viral campaigns strike the right balance of humour, production quality, strategy, and level of interaction with the audience. If they’re pitched right they become juggernauts – like this one has – inspiring users to generate their own content. This is the Holy Grail of viral marketing. Getting people past talking about your product and into participating in your conversation.
Here’s an almost equally well produced parody.
This campaign, coupled with Tourism Queensland’s “Best Job in the World” campaign from last year, will set the bar for thinking about integrating marketing campaigns across traditional and new media. It’s an amazingly well executed feat. To close, here’s an analysis of where advertising might go from this point, complete with a nice little quote about the social medium:
“Start here: as it became apparent that this wasn’t just a one-time media drop, but instead an ongoing live performance—a spectacle in progress—I was reminded of some thing that I heard Rex Sorgatz say years ago. I’ll paraphrase, broadly: blogs are actually more related to live theatre than they are to, say, newspapers. The things that make a blog good are almost exactly the things that make a live performance good—and the most important, the magic catalyst, is the interplay with the audience.”
We spent yesterday afternoon at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA). Prior to hitting the corridors of culture I had a little “discussion” with Simone. Here is a proposition she vehemently disagreed with – for you to critique or agree with. Please, join in in the comments.
The true difference between a great artist and a successful artist is marketing.
I’m defining “success” as being “featured in a gallery” and I’m describing “great” as in “of a quality suitable to be featured in a gallery”. I think that for every artist that makes it there are several others of an equivalent level of ability who do not taste success.
I’ll share some further thoughts either in the comments (if you join in) or in a subsequent post.
Here’s one of those posts where I try to synchronise a few years working with a marketing and economic development agency with the realm of ministry. Hopefully it’ll be useful both to me, and to you…
I’ve been trying to figure the suburb of Clayfield out. It’s a tough one. I’m sure others I work with have faced the same quandary (Andrew, Simone and Kutz) for years.
Marketing is a confusing blend of guesswork and social science – with new theories cropping up all the time – most marketing budgets are limited, so most marketers spend a lot of time putting their advertising in places that will get the best bang for their buck. Because most churches don’t have big marketing budgets or the time to conduct thorough demographic research here are five ways that you can let them do the hard work for you, which in turn will help you understand the people you’re serving.
Read local magazines and papers – if you’re lucky enough to live somewhere that has a media outlet particular to your context have a look at what is being sold in the ads. Work out what kind of person buys those products. If your local newspaper features Tag Heuer watch ads you’re probably looking at an upper class suburb with high disposable incomes. Have a look at what stories are featured – editors keep their fingers on the community pulse, they talk to all sorts of people from your neighbourhood on a daily basis – the paper should be a reflection of the community’s values.
Watch people in public places – What’s in the average shopping trolley? No frills or brand names? Battery eggs or free range? Are people making ethical decisions when they shop or financial ones? Are they eating healthy food or junk, are they buying microwave meals or the ingredients for some sort of substantial and prolonged culinary endeavour? You can learn a fair bit about people based on what they buy. Are people buying instant coffee – perhaps you should hold a coffee event and convict them of that sin, while pointing them to Jesus as the cure for all sin.
I think you can get a good feel for a place by going somewhere busy and just sitting back and watching people. Sit in a cafe, on a park bench, or in a shopping centre and just watch the types of people who walk by, those who stop briefly, and those who also sit.
What’s on the billboards – While billboards on main roads are for those driving through your suburb, they’re also for people from your suburb. Billboard advertising is purchased by location. It’s expensive (and mostly dumb – don’t advertise on a billboard – have you ever purchased something because you’ve seen it on a billboard (other than Coke)?). Advertisers don’t like spending money (unless they’re in government). They spend pointless money with some thought – the kind of product being advertised at a prominent intersection in your place probably has some relevance to the people living there.
Talk to the owners of small business – Cabbies are a great source of insight in regional areas, or if you want a general state of play in a bigger centre (there’s no guarantee they’ll hail from your part of the city in Brisbane) – but small business owners have an interest in knowing what’s going on in their part of town. Their livelihood depends on it. Good business owners know their clientele, they know their repeat customers. Businesses like newsagents that deal with the same people every day are the best bet. When I was a networking function attendee in Townsville I would always talk to the bankers, the media ad space sellers, and cafe owners to get a feel for how things were going.
Join a club or community group – head along to meetings featuring people from your area, join the P&C… contribute, but also watch and listen. What is going on where you live? What are the issues for people around you? How can you serve them practically? How can you hit them with the gospel?
Some bonus points for regional areas, unless there’s a suburb based equivalent these aren’t going to be that great for your specific context in a bigger city:
Subscribe to newsletters from your regional economic development agency.
Subscribe to newsletters from the Local Council.
Join the Chamber of Commerce.
Go to networking functions (who knows who you’ll be able to talk to about Jesus).
Listen to local radio, especially talk back.
Incidentally, age demographics are dead as far as tourism marketing is concerned. Age is irrelevant (mostly). Place is also mostly irrelevant (except that it has a bearing on income). People want experiences that they can fit into the narrative of their lives. Postcard perfect photos are a thing of the past – you’ll find most tourism ads from here on in (thanks to some new market segmentation work produced by the state tourism body) will feature a mix of people enjoying different experiences.
People want a holiday they can go back and tell their friends about. Holidays aren’t about collecting photos of the seven wonders of the world anymore – they’re about doing something authentic, learning something new, or meeting interesting people from interesting cultures.
This new way of thinking is possibly relevant if you’re putting together an event for your neighbourhood – because I think events are similar to holidays.
But demographics still have an influence over where people live – you won’t find many low income students living in the austere realm of Ascot (think the upper class eastern suburbs) so understanding one’s geographic context is important when it comes to pitching events and sermon applications at people.
I don’t think there’s a figure in history with talents as diverse as Leonardo Da Vinci’s. He was cool. A true renaissance man. If you require proof of this coolness – you need look no further than the fact that he has been featured in popular cultural texts as diverse as Ever After (the Cindarella Story) and Assassins Creed 2. Because his coolness is transcendent.
He was, it appears, an incredible self promoter. Here is a letter he sent to the Duke of Milan when he was thirty years old.
Where the operation of bombardment might fail, I would contrive catapults, mangonels, trabocchi, and other machines of marvellous efficacy and not in common use. And in short, according to the variety of cases, I can contrive various and endless means of offense and defense.
He was, it seems, a ninja.
I have means by secret and tortuous mines and ways, made without noise, to reach a designated spot, even if it were needed to pass under a trench or a river.
A ninja who made tanks.
I will make covered chariots, safe and unattackable, which, entering among the enemy with their artillery, there is no body of men so great but they would break them. And behind these, infantry could follow quite unhurt and without any hindrance.
It’s funny that Einstein is remembered for his contribution to weaponry though he set out to be a scientist – and Leonardo is remembered for his contribution to art though he set out to be a weapons developer.
Item number 11 on the list says:
I can carry out sculpture in marble, bronze, or clay, and also I can do in painting whatever may be done, as well as any other, be he who he may.
The promises even come with a satisfaction guarantee and demonstration…
“And if any of the above-named things seem to anyone to be impossible or not feasible, I am most ready to make the experiment in your park, or in whatever place may please your Excellency – to whom I comment myself with the utmost humility, etc.”
Clearly, in hindsight, he was both competent and capable. Which is probably the key to being successful. If you’re justone of these things without the other you’re doomed for failure.