New Year's Resolution: Move in next door

It's Christmas Eve and I have New Year's resolutions on the mind. You might say I'm moving on too quickly, but one is feeding into the other so I feel okay multi-holidaying. Consider my little math equation:

(Christmas + Gift-giving) x (New Years + Goal-setting) x Others / Self
= A Challenging 2010 with Kick-backs from Generosity 

Typically, seven or eight out of ten New Year's Resolutions have Self on center-stage: Lose weight, pay off debts, get a better job, quit smoking.... Still, I love the energy around this motivation-driven, list-making, endeavor. The cycle of time offers a yearly reminder and opportunity to straighten out the crooked parts of life, and many of us jump at the invitation.

But what if we mixed the goal-setting of New Years with the gift-giving of Christmas? We could end up with a more generous 2010. The cost of serving others will make it challenging, of course, but long-term rewards should outweigh any short-term sacrifices. What could this mean practically?

Practically speaking
Well, in the spirit of becoming vocationally good neighbors, it means using your imagination to move in next door to a consumer. In a recent article called "Eight Inches Away", I asked:

"If you practice law and your client lives next door, does this...make you treat her case differently? If you teach high school and your worst student lives next door, does it affect your relationship? And what if you make advertisements and your neighbor buys the gadgets you promote? Do you question what you're selling and how?"

I asked these question because I've lived and worked in a duplex for the past five years. My actual neighbor isn't a client but the situation has forced me to ask the questions. Loving your neighbor as yourself resides practically and essentially at the heart of work. This New Years, I have a chance to renew that goal of giving to customers and clients as I think about living eight inches away from them.

If you're looking for an addition to your resolution list, try this one out. The kick-backs are great (and they offer a nice little something for Self, too!)   

Read "Eight Inches Away" at The High Calling. Note to friends: No, we haven't moved. I don't know who lives in that photo.

The High Calling is a site about work and God.


Layer #4

I'm working on a little project that I hope to post soon. Art Direction isn't my specialty but I love to create. And because I'm focusing on vision and vocation, Advent is the perfect time to show you one of the images. It's presently called Layer #4.

Layer #4 depicts an advertising employee in relationships with her agency and with an end user. Becoming a good neighbor to the consumer next door requires attention to both of these, and as long as there is greed, laziness and self-centeredness in the world, she'll have her work cut out for her.

Most importantly, she views the end user as a recipient of her care. Then she continues by pushing and pulling her agency - including her subordinates, superiors, colleagues and clients - to do the same. The work is never done, and she knows it won't be.

She knows she can't cure us all of consumerism. She also knows her agency won't avoid every compromise of integrity. But she believes her work matters and that if she submits to a grander perspective, she'll find strength to keep at it.

On this note, I'll leave you with the oft-quoted, mis-attributed and wonderful poem, A Future Not Our Own:

It helps now and then to step back and take a long view.
The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of
saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession
brings perfection, no pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives include everything.

This is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one
day will grow. We water the seeds already planted
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects
far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of
liberation in realizing this.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning,
a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord's
grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the
difference between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not
messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.

- Attributed to Archbishop Oscar Romero, but composed by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw


"Is my map in the way?"

"No, no. You're good."

Besides the point being clearly and humorously made in this recent VZW commercial, the objectification* of signal reception is ingenious.
I had a second thought after seeing this TV spot. An often subtle difference exists between commercials that exaggerate consumers' sense of need and those - such as this one - that rightly highlight it. Of course, if AT&T provides adequate service in my area, I don't need a game-blocking coverage map. (Why would I need coverage for Alabama if I don't ever go there?) However, it isn't a stretch to consider that frequent travelers may very well need Verizon's offer (for the coverage, at least).

*While the VZW map image is clever (and their service memorable), I liked AT&T's use of objectification in Rollover Minutes better.


Two houses or one?

Update: Thanks for helping me choose the new header image! The two-house image won among commenters and e-mailers alike.


Toyota's Better Together: How can I get some of those?

I work alone, so guess who covers the phoning, filing, folding and food-getting? All me.

Normally I don't mind, but this guy made me wonder how much I could get done with four hands instead of two. Then my wondering turned to jealousy as I remembered that I lack the mental capacity to work so fast.

And then I remembered that two-handed people made this brilliant commercial. So in the spirit of gratitude for what I've got, and creativity that inspires average guys like me to keep at it, Happy Thanksgiving!


Gap Holiday Cheer - Happy Whateveryouwannakah!

I have a favorite shirt. It isn't wrinkle-free and yet it doesn't wrinkle. It's seven years old and shows neither wear nor the age of its style. It falls well on me (that's the Spanish translation of "to fit") and works whether tucked or hanging out; with jeans or khakis. It's perfect.

And it's from Gap.

I'm a cheapskate, but my wife has pushed me for years to spend more and buy Gap. After all, it is - in their terms - "the company behind some of the most recognized and respected brands in the apparel industry." I know why it's respected: Anything she's talked me into owning from this company has outlasted similar items from competitors.

But what am I supposed to do with a commercial like this?

Here are my two chief complaints:

1. If this is merely a controversy-pushing, promotional stunt to garner earned media (free public attention)- then it's monkey-trick advertising which I can't respect. Any copy-writer can predict a pot-stirring message, but manipulation of an audience for disingenuous reasons fails in the end.

You make quality clothing, Gap. You've been around since 1969. Show us your wisdom, not childish antics.

2. If this is not a stunt, but rather a corporate statement of belief, then like the teenager who pleases everyone to avoid rejection from anyone, this commercial reveals a cowardly, insecure response to human diversity. We don't have to agree with our neighbors' religious views, but pulling out a generic diversity eraser leads to a cheapened version of reality and a sense of being lost.

Furthermore, a statement of belief like this - in its clumsy pc execution - actually dismantles community. The song lyric, "Do what just feels right" selfishly contradicts the pluralism and diversity Gap is promoting. We can't be selfish and pluralistic simultaneously.

To Gap; to agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky; to Michael Gracey, the spot's director who is Catholic and seemingly a nice guy; and to musician, Pharrell Williams, whose lyrics - according to Anthony Henriques of PopMatters - "are typically inconsequential in a 'saying sh*t just to sound cool' sort of way," and who helped write the Holiday Cheer lyrics:

You can do more respectable work than this. You wish me a "Happy Whateveryouwannakah." Well, I wannabuy your clothes, but I'll refrain until you take a higher road.


Edward Lear's Complete Book of Adsence

Okay, so the following link isn't an entire rewrite of Lear's Complete Book of Nonsense, but it's a start, and a fun one at that. Adfolks, you'll have to check out Graphic Designer, Douglas Bonneville's fine list of limericks.

Here's a teaser:

There once was a graphic designer
Who could not draw a straight liner
Fresh out of school
She thought she was cool
And soon was a cook in a diner!

See some of Doug's more serious portfolio at the Behance Network, or more of Edward Lear's limericks at Aaron Belz' site.


Catholic Charities dinner plate in the mail!

Several years ago, I sponsored a marathon runner through the Catholic Charities Foundation. Ever since then, I've received their mailings. I could have been more earth-minded and asked to be removed from the list, but it's generally creative stuff so I didn't.

Here's the most recent piece, shown in three parts. The first is the #10 envelope-sized item that came in the mail. (Click to enlarge.)

The second is what you see once you release the sticker tabs and unfold the "envelope." It reads, "For a local homeless family, this could be today's only meal."

The third is the flip-side, which says, "You can't have a home cooked meal if you don't have a home."

I know I said I've enjoyed CCF's mailings in the past, but, honestly, it didn't matter who sent this to me - there is no way I could keep myself from opening an intriguing piece like this.

I imagine quite a few readers withdrew the donation envelope and filled it out.


Reebok: Your Move...or not

Who can keep up with the "pop" in popular culture? I can't. Instead, I stash away items of interest in both electronic and paper files until a rainy day.

Today's selection is a Reebok commercial I saw back in June during the Stanley Cup Finals between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings.

The ad was part of Reebok's "Your Move" campaign, and it caught my attention for two reasons:

1. You have to pay attention to follow what's happening. I like that.

2. "But where you end entirely up to you." I don't like that.

Sports commercials often play this Just Do It card, and while it might pump the adrenaline a bit and offer some inspiration, it only speaks to a few folks in the world. Mario Lemiuex and Sidney Crosby are two of the best hockey players in history. The second little boy on the carpet can dream all day, but chances are he'll never get any closer to NHL ice than a seat behind the glass.

I hate to cast a cloud, but people really can't do whatever they want. We can't reach all of our dreams. We can't win every battle or overcome every obstacle. And that's fine. We are, in one way or another, wholly dependent creatures.

I don't suppose it's wrong to broadcast a wide message of inspiration like this - it's bound to hit someone. (And the opposite message would be a disaster: "Don't even go there, kid. You'll be lucky if you make the JV team. Your Move. Reebok.") But is there a better alternative?

Further questions to consider: Does a commercial like this lead to disillusionment? Is it honest? Where does submission regarding the direction of our lives come in to play? 

Related post: Going Pro


Temple Ad Club

I broke a cardinal rule of public speaking last week: I kept the audience overtime.

In September I traveled with a copy-writer friend to Temple University. He teaches there in Philly and asked if I'd present to his advertising class. Afterward, I met a sharp student named Michelle, and she invited me to return on behalf of the Temple Ad Club.

I did return and that's when I abused my time limit. How does one stop when the questions are good and the audience is engaged? I hope they didn't mind. I certainly enjoyed the evening and was quite impressed with the professionalism and hospitality shown by Michelle (club PR Coordinator), Justin (club President), Kelsey (flyer artist - click to see larger image), and other members of the group.

It was a delightful evening for several reasons, and I feel the need to mention two of them.

Movement shapers
1. The popularity of Cause-Related Marketing (e.g. Yoplait's Save Lids Save Lives) and Corporate Social Responsibility (e.g. IBM's green initiative), combined with the tremendous amount of consumer interest in such efforts, make this time period an historic one. What an opportunity for advertisers and communicators. These students will shape how we understand and respond to the needs of the world.

I was impressed last week because they seem care-filled enough to do it.

Commitment makers
2. The need for accountability and guidance is great in the world of advertising. We've all seen plenty of ad-trash. And we continue to see it because it so often "works." But we need new content. We need Jesus-like advertising to be the norm, not the exception. These students will need peers to keep them on the right track, and mentors to guide them.

I was impressed last week because they seem committed enough to strive in this direction.

A special thanks to my hosts! Press on in your good work.


Readers, Temple is not a religious school and I have no insight about the spiritual make-up of this group, but will you pray for Michelle, Justin, Kelsey, Rachel, Lizzy and others? They have quite a task before them.


Travelers Insurance: Prized Possession

I highlighted a Travelers Insurance commercial once before. Last night I saw another worthy of comment. The two differ so very much from each other, which is notable in itself, yet both equally affected my impression of Travelers.

In "Prized Possession," a dog worries that something will happen to his bone unless it's protected. I don't usually care for animal ads, but this dog (and the humans involved) should win awards.

The song comes from Ray LaMontagne and you can watch him sing it here.


Into the wild...of snow globes

If we were to-morrow morning snowed up in the street in which we live, we should step suddenly into a much larger and much wilder world than we have ever known. And it is the whole effort of the typically modern person to escape from the street in which he lives.

Heretics, by G.K. Chesterton

Not long after reading this quote, I saw the following commercial for the Travel Channel.

One success of advertising is the ability to transport consumers into other worlds. From shinier hair to roomier houses to happier friendships, we're willing to buy the promises offered because they do, indeed, appear to improve our current situation. We are not, conversely, willing to buy downward. It just isn't normal.

Likewise with traveling. In this particular commercial, the Travel Channel (Well, the folks from David&Goliath) encourages us to escape the mundane; to broaden our world by going to far-away places and interacting with strange people and customs. Yet Chesterton argues that "if what [a man] wants is people different from himself, he had much better stop at home and discuss religion with the housemaid."

Personally, I'm a fan of travel. I believe it's important to go somewhere new and exciting and uncomfortable if you have the chance. But I'm also convicted by the call to know and love my neighbor next door. Might advertisers play a role in strengthening this conviction?

Bear with me on the length of this excerpt. It's a good one and will help make my point.

We make our friends; we make our enemies; but God makes our next-door neighbour. Hence he comes to us clad in all the careless terrors of nature; he is as strange as the stars, as reckless and indifferent as the rain. He is Man, the most terrible of the beasts. That is why the old religions and the old scriptural language showed so sharp a wisdom when they spoke, not of one's duty towards humanity, but one's duty towards one's neighbour. The duty towards humanity may often take the form of some choice which is personal or even pleasurable. That duty may be a hobby; it may even be a dissipation. We may work in the East End because we are peculiarly fitted to work in the East End, or because we think we are; we may fight for the cause of international peace because we are very fond of fighting. The most monstrous martyrdom, the most repulsive experience, may be the result of choice or a kind of taste.... But we have to love our neighbour because he is there--a much more alarming reason for a much more serious operation.

Those who wish, rightly or wrongly, to step out of all this, do definitely wish to step into a narrower world.... [A]nything is bad and artificial which tends to make these people succumb to the strange delusion that they are stepping into a world which is actually larger and more varied than their own. The best way that a man could test his readiness to encounter the common variety of mankind would be to climb down a chimney into any house at random, and get on as well as possible with the people inside. And that is essentially what each one of us did on the day that he was born.

Could an agency like David&Goliath, which prides itself on bravery, dare people to do the mundane? To buy downward for the thrill of it? To go next door and discover a "much larger and much wilder world than we have ever known"?

How would D&G endorse this radical perspective? By Chesterton's account, with a great amount of bravery. I'll add creativity, too. It would take nothing short of an advertising genius to move us into a snow globe with each other instead of onto an exotic safari with friends.


Something to ponder: What products or services might assist such a genius?


Top 10 movies: Marketing success or human nature?

It’s a Wonderful Life, 12 Angry Men, The Green Mile, Gattaca. These are a few of the movies on my Top 10 list. Bring together a compelling story, redemption, fine acting and a smart script, and I’m hooked.

What we watch says a lot about what matters to us. Show me your Top 10, and I bet I can make a few accurate assumptions about what you value...

This excerpt comes from an article I wrote for last week. If you have four or five minutes, go and read "Culture Corner: Top 10 Reasons to Hope." You'll see the Top 10 Worldwide Box Office movies from 1999-2008, and you'll have to consider why these particular films made it to the top.

At least I had to. For you folks interested in advertising, I'll also note that this list made me consider the relationship between advertising and human need. Advertising creates awareness, encourages participation, dispenses information and influences consumer expectations. But, as I've said before, it can't create needs. You may disagree with me on this point, but I believe advertising can only borrow from what already exists.

If this is true, what already exists in us for these films to work? What do consumers need that these movies address? If there really is something to address, how much influence does advertising have in turning them into global hits?

READ MORE at the High Calling Blogs website.

The High Calling is a site about work and God.


Lovenote to Snuggie Blanket

I recently posted on Snuggie Blankets and learned helplessness, but my eye-rolling has had little to no effect. It seems that the world has fallen in love. This morning I came across a creative bit of earned media for Snuggie Blankets at Sharon writes:

Dear Snuggie,

I’ll never forget the first time my eyes met yours. I was sitting at home on the couch, cold and lonely, in a dead-end relationship with yet another blanket....
Read the rest of it here.


Basing the future on a college slogan

According to the Higher Education Research Institute's Freshmen Survey, the top three reasons students give for attending college are:

1. To "learn about things that interest me."
2. To get a better job.
3. To be able to make more money.

If these are true, then it follows that students try to pick schools that help them achieve these (ahem*self-serving*cough) goals. The marketing question I'm curious about is, How much influence does an institution's slogan have on the decision process? Does a prospective student, fence-riding between colleges, read slogans like the following and make their decision?

"Your revolution starts here."

"Minds in the making."

"Grasp the forces driving the change."

"Where you're a name, not a number."

I don't remember my college's slogan, or if it had one, though if it did I suppose it could have played a small role in my decision. No idea. But if the topic of writing good college slogans interests you, check out this humorous article by copy-writer and teacher, George Felton (That's his book cover), and the Columbus Society of Communicating Arts from which the article came.


Tiger, Barclays and "Fake"

I watched a bit of The Barclays Golf Tournament this afternoon. I don't catch much golf but I see enough to marvel at Tiger Woods' fandom. Unlike many celebrities who garner attention because they have pretty faces or make a splash on TV, Tiger is the real deal. Crowds stretch and shove and fly thousands of miles because it gets them within touching distance of genuine, unparalleled, talent.

And it isn't just the masses who bow. The greats in golf do the same. Here's a Nike commercial from early 2009 demonstrating the point:

During today's tournament, I caught another sign of the real deal. At least, that was the claim. I don't know enough to discern best from better in investment banking, but that's what Barclays - the bank - claimed. Maybe they aren't the best, but I sure liked their TV spot that said so:

From the agency that made "Fake": "Directed by Nicolai Fuglsig, the spot reached number one on AdCritic’s Top 20 and was also featured as the Spot of the Day. Campaign Magazine has also recognized it as the Ad of the Day..."


David Berman: Do Good Design

Graphic designer, David Berman, recently published Do Good Design: How Designers Can Change the World. I wrote a note in my Moleskine months ago to learn more but then I forgot about it.

Today I found this video where David spells out his "three-part pledge for designers." Watch it here.


Buyer's guide and something I'd purchase

Answers from my previous post:

  • Moen disqualification: I see no conceivable reason to use a faucet extension as shown in the ad. There may be good uses for it, but this one just shows another helpless consumer wrestling out of a blanket. Regardless of the quality and actual benefits of the faucet, this presentation insults my intelligence. Won't buy it.
  • Kenmore disqualification: "Why use those heavy pitchers...?" This line betrays the picture of health in several ways: Pur water filtration, healthy diet (apple and non-Kool-Aid), and the other line of copy, "Ideas for the good life." Why would a family who cares about such things spend a couple of thousand dollars, at least in part, to avoid lifting a "heavy pitcher"? This isn't a valid perk. Won't buy it.
More compelling? This pork. I'd buy it, because it really is like bowling. (Click image to read text.)


Buyer's guide for my occasional break from thrift

I'm not quite ascetic. By birth and by religious conviction, I'm thrifty, at best. And once in a while, I even buy an extra product or service I don't need but that makes life easier. That's what this post is about: how I buy the extras.

When I succumb to this bit of self-spoiling (assuming I get through the subsequent and always-accompanying spell of buyer's remorse), I still like to know that both 1) my purchased good and 2) the act of obtaining it were necessary and intelligent. Let me explain.

1) A purchased good
By necessary, I mean that the purchased good ought to provide a service to me, perhaps practical, perhaps just pleasurable. Either way, it can't do nothing for me. By intelligent, I mean that the product must inspire and not insult my imagination, my aesthetic leanings, my logic and intellect, etc.

2) A good purchase
I also like to know that the purchasing itself was necessary and intelligent. Here, necessary means that even though the product may have been an extra, I "needed" to buy it. It was the right time, the right place, and so on (Same goes for spur-of-the-moment purchases, which are simply faster slow decisions). Intelligent means I made the decision for the right reason.

Examples that wouldn't make the cut
At first glance, the following two magazine ad products may appear to meet my "necessary and intelligent" qualifications. But they don't. One clue in each is to blame for my disinterest and disqualification: a visual clue in the first and a written clue in the second. Click on each image for a larger view and take a guess why. My reasons may be easy to spot, surprising to you or even disappointing, but guess anyway and I'll let you know in the next post.

Further questions to ponder: Do you have a buyer's guide? If so, how much is it informed by your faith? By your upbringing? Personality? Amount of disposable income?


Subaru. It's what makes a Human a Human

Houston Heflin (Abilene Christian University) asked me about the seemingly recent marketing interest in love. Great question. Immediately I thought of "Love. It's what makes a Subaru a Subaru." Then I found more examples. Tell me about ones that catch your attention. If I get enough suggestions, I'll do another post.

Here are three for Lipton Green Tea (listen to the song), Subaru Forester and - the funniest of the bunch - Klondike Bar:

How about this print ad for Newman's Own salad dressing?

I must also include a post from last year called "Sex from a box." It definitely belongs in this line-up.

Last night, I saw a commercial for Glade Lasting Impressions plug-ins. It would have been a perfect fit here, but I couldn't find it on line. Any help?

What do I think about this marketing interest? Here's a start:

1. Lovemarks
2. Lovemarks: Part 2
3. And my interview with the creator of Lovemarks (and possibly the biggest influence behind this love trend), Kevin Roberts.


Good Samaritans at work

I'm heading out of town for a few days, but I thought I'd leave you with a short, applicable, something to read. It's called "21st Century Samaritans," and I wrote it for The High Calling. Here's an excerpt:

Thousands of employees helped bring your chair into the world. Most of them probably never thought about being connected to each other in this grand chair-making community, but they are connected. This means they affect each other. This means their jobs are not self-contained personal enterprises. In fact, none of us have jobs that belong to us exclusively.

READ MORE at The High Calling website.

The High Calling is a site about work and God.


Peter Jackson's District 9: On saying it well

I just learned of District 9, a movie by Peter Jackson and Neill Blomkamp, due to hit theaters on August 14. It's about aliens who land in South Africa.

Actually, it's about humans and non-humans and, I think, about apartheid, segregation, racial fear and globalism (and aliens). Not sure if sci-fi action is your thing, but this kind of marketing fascinates me.

First, the interactive site is captivating and extensive at There is much to do and see there, like clicking on map points to watch realistic interviews of humans discussing questions such as, "Do you feel that the non-humans are taking our jobs?" or, "Do you have a problem with the way non-humans communicate?" Substitute "non-humans" with _____, and you and I could answer these questions, too.

Second, if the movie does end up being a social commentary, then I appreciate Peter and Neill putting the time, money and thoughtfulness into saying what they want to say. (If it doesn't, you can chastise me later.)

Warning: motivation coach ahead.
Not all worldview messages require Halo-esque video game delivery, but if you have something that needs to be said; if you want to awaken people or refresh conversations about important but tiresome topics like racism, then say it well - even with aliens if you have to. Use creativity and technology and collaboration and whatever other resources you have. Tell cryptic, compelling parables like Jesus did. Advocate non-violent sit-ins like MLK did. Powerful and fresh communication methods abound.

What if you just sit in a cubicle designing graphics for Rice-a-Roni? Slim chance that you'll help ease racial tension around the world. But maybe you can employ your talents to awaken us to new ways of addressing hunger in our own D-9's. The point is, you probably have something to say. So say it, and say it well.


Snuggie Blanket and learned helplessness

I've been accused of having learned helplessness. Fortunately, I don't have the actual condition. What my friendly teasers meant was that if I needed something and someone offered to do it for me, I'd take them up on the offer. It used to drive our receptionist nuts (but she still got the paper clips for me).

Having said that, one might think I'd like to own a Snuggie Blanket. And I guess I wouldn't mind having one. But I'll never buy one. No, no, ha! Not because someone else might, but because I hate to see people like me needing products like these for the reasons given in this commercial.

Do you know what humors me, besides the little joke that surprised me above? "Super large, one size fits all...perfect for children, too." (Umm...see 01:04) That and the press-and-open book light.

Am I really that helpless?


Clopay: Truly enviable

I know it's a joke. No one's sitting at Clopay Garage Doors maliciously scheming to pit neighbor against neighbor. (At least, I hope they aren't.)

But the ad - despite its playful take on this popular American saying - has truth to it because we do suffer envy. When you have something nicer, I notice. Enough nicer things and my notice turns dark - either against you for having them, against me in the form of discontent, or against God or a boss or a parent who didn't make nicer as possible for me.

Now the interesting part. The print ad here did little more than catch my intellectual attention. I saw the Joneses reference and finer print about calling "for your free guide filled with advice on how to make your garage truly enviable," but that's about it. It was the rotating display of homes on the website that grabbed me emotionally. I watched them and said aloud, "Wow."

That's when I felt bullied. The web pics are stunning and I'd live in any one of those houses. But I can't. Is it fair, then, for those who have, to push those who have not, even playfully?


Finding a Marketing Shoe that Fits

As my friends at *cino say, I hope you had a happy "interdependence" day.

I want to let you know about an article I had published this week. It's on three types of cause marketing. One of the examples I use is TOMS Shoes. You may have seen the recent AT&T commercial featuring this cool company. Here's the intro to the article with a link to read the rest. Thanks for reading, and for sharing my interest in these matters!

We live in the age of awareness. The world feels smaller, its problems are clearer, and its solutions—so they seem—are more manageable. No longer do I picture Africa as a distant place with insurmountable, unimaginable trials. I just see a $10 mosquito net. Creative framing and ingenious invitations have made getting involved a snap. And the sheer number of opportunities provides even the tiniest niche of people with something to do.

Since folks are in the market for buying causes, marketers are in the business of selling them. But not all cause marketing is created equal...

READ MORE at The High Calling website.

The High Calling is a site about work and God.


Believe It or Not! Fuse Teen Advertising Study

Is it okay to question respondents' answers in advertising surveys? I find it nearly impossible to believe that people really know themselves well enough to provide accurate feedback about media and its effects. I've felt this way previously and I felt it again this morning after reading through the FUSE 2009 Teen Advertising Study (hat tip to friends at CPYU). Below are a few of my observations.

First, I like the design and creative layout of Fuse's PDF. This has nothing to do with my opening question, except that maybe it influenced my emotional response to some of the content!

Second (also having little to do with my opening question but being more interesting than my first observation), video game usage is third highest among 13- to 18-year-olds, after Internet and TV. That beats e-mail (#4) and social networking (#7). Yet when respondents were asked, "How would you like...companies to advertise to you?" video games ended up at or very near the bottom of every list of media platforms in all eight product categories.

For example, when asked, "How would you like apparel companies to communicate with you?" 71% chose "Television commercials" while only 10% chose "Video games." In other words, out of 12 media platforms, "Video games" came in last place. No wonder advertisers struggle to crack this nut. Here's the third most popular media platform (read: lots of attentive eyes) and none of the users want to see advertising in it.

Third, and now to my point: Teens don't really know what's going on in the world immediately around them. They think they do. They, like all of us, convince themselves that the way they see life is the way life is. But it isn't, so how can they answer survey questions accurately?

I came across an example of this in Malcolm Gladwell's book, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. In a chapter on surprising ways we are influenced, he describes a study done on adults in the 1984 presidential campaign. The study "showed how people who watched Peter Jennings on ABC were more likely to vote Republican than people who watched either Tom Brokaw [NBC] or Dan Rather [CBS]." Why? For no other reason than because Jennings' face "lit up...when he talked about Reagan." You can read the fascinating details of the experiment in the book, but here is what connects to our content at hand. Gladwell writes,

"[T]he ABC viewers who voted for Reagan would never, in a thousand years, tell you that they voted that way because Peter Jennings smiled every time he mentioned the President. They'd say that it was because they liked Reagan's policies, or they thought he was doing a good job. It would never have occurred to them that they could be persuaded to reach a conclusion by something so arbitrary and seemingly insignificant as a smile or a nod from a newscaster."

This phenomenon shows up in a Fuse question asked in each of the product categories: "What is appealing about your favorite...advertisements?"

Before I tell you what the teens said, I need to address two possible meanings for the word "appealing" in this question. The first refers to that which is accessible by respondents' opinions. For instance, a top response in every category was, "The ad is funny." Humor provides a noticeable, perceivable, experience. We can easily access and name what we find funny.

The second refers to that which occurs on the subconscious level. Many, many factors "appeal" to me that I do not perceive. I cannot easily access or name what influences me there. Therefore, I find it difficult to believe respondents when the answer, "The ad has a powerful message and/or uses powerful imagery," ended up in the lower half of the list in each category. I agree that funny advertisements have more (accessible) appeal than powerful imagery, but what about on the subconscious level? What appeals to me most beneath the accessible surface?

I also noticed that in every category the answer, "I feel an emotional response from the ad," ended up in one of the lowest three spots. Hmm.

Do we really know what appeals to us? Despite Fuse's informative report, there is more to it than what meets the eye. I'm baffled by this. Awed by it, too. We are amazing creatures with very little grasp of the world we live in. And until we have a very big grasp, I'll take opinion surveys with a grain of salt.


Answer to "Why Hershey's Chocolate here and not there?"

As I said in the last post (which I accidentally deleted just now), my brother-in-law and I had an interesting conversation at Hershey's Chocolate World.

He started by asking, "Why is it such a big deal to buy a Hershey's chocolate bar here when you can get the same thing back at home?"

Here was my shot at it. It's because chocolate upstream is more valuable than chocolate downstream. Have you ever seen advertising for bottled water from a delta? I haven't. I'm not saying that downstream chocolate (the candy bar you buy in Anytown, USA) is contaminated. Just that buying Hershey chocolate upstream - from the headwaters themselves in Hershey, Pennsylvania, USA - is more valuable.

We always prefer the source. We say, "I didn't buy this chair from a box store. I bought it from an Amish craftsman who made it in his shop." Or, "This isn't a knock-off watch. I got it from my great-great grandfather. It's an original." Or, "I didn't get this candy bar from 7-11. It's a Hershey bar from Hershey Chocolate World from my trip to Hershey."

And, somehow, that makes it taste better.

On a theological note, you can argue that our immoral behavior shows the converse; that we prefer the knock-off, the idol. But that's only because the Source isn't as available as we'd like. We can go to Hershey and get the candy bars we want. We can't always go to God and get the answers we want.


Thomas Kincade and Oreos

In both commercial art and fine art, there are good works and bad works; good art and bad art; aesthetic triumphs and inaesthetic failures. This morning I found a fascinating article on the commercial/fine art of Thomas Kincade over at First Things. Joe Carter's post is a criticism, yes, but an interesting one and I recommend it to you. (Note how Joe manipulates when he compares these two paintings. I love it when writers do something to me, and here he does just that.)

Several questions come to mind. One involves how we poo-poo commercialized art. Advertising has its share of sins, but how often do we throw out its good art when we berate the industry in general? Another question is, How do we encourage commercial artists to refrain from selling out? What is required to maintain integrity as a creator of beauty and goodness while also selling, say, Oreos? (This, IMHO, is how: Limited Edition Strawberry Milkshake Oreos. Got milk?)

Listen to Joe's response to one of his readers (you can read the rest in the article's comment section): "My criticism is not that Kincade is a bad artist but that he is a very good painter who has decided to squander his God-given gifts in order to sell mass-market kitsch. The waste of his talent is what really irks me about him and his work. If he couldn’t produce anything better than it wouldn’t be nearly so bad."

I'm eager to hear what you think about all this. Check out the article and report back.

Read more... or Why I don't Tweet

A friend called this morning to ask why, on earth, I'm not on Facebook, and why, pray tell, I have no Twitter account. You have to understand, he's a Web 2.0 guru of sorts, managing his own 400 member community of bloggers and constantly experimenting with better ways to connect people.

He's the perfect person to ask me these questions because he has thought through them and cares enough to discern whether they'd be a good fit for me.

I suppose several road blocks explain my abstention from these magical tools so far. Today, I'll highlight one of them: I'm a content guy. Yes, I like information and curiosities and news bits, but I tend to spend more time on the bigger questions behind them. Yes, I can chit-chat with friends and strangers, but I tend toward more substantial content in conversations and I prefer to go there quickly. In movie terms, I'll watch Gattaca or The Truman Show long before Die Hard or Indiana Jones.

"Why" is my favorite content question, and I get energized when Whys lead to other Whys and occasionally reveal a single common Because. This type of exploration takes time, which makes a blog useful to me. New Breed of Advertisers provides this exploration outlet to discuss Whys and Becauses related to marketing. It's a slow, long conversation about a single subject and how that subject affects the world around us as well as inside us.

This commercial for speaks to me. Bing claims to be the antidote, or at least a discernment tool, for information overload. I don't really think Bing can play this role, but I like the idea. It confirms that focussed, filtered, content-rich conversations help us communicate more meaningfully.

Maybe I haven't added Facebook or Twitter because they threaten to fragment these conversations.


The Gift: Something from Mako Fujimura

Started discussing The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World, by Lewis Hyde yesterday over at High Calling Blogs. Interesting to me: Hyde studied folk tales, tribal customs and Scripture to learn about gifts and gift-giving.

Stop in to read this week's post, and feel free to add your bit.

Mako Fujimura's Gladiolas-Blue 2000, lithograph on Rives BFK paper, 22 x 30 inches


Let's Read: The Gift

I've been out of town for a couple of weeks, hence the unusually long silence here at NB0A.

Invitation: On Monday, June 8, I'll start hosting a weekly book discussion on The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World, by Lewis Hyde, over at You can read my discussion invitation here.

If you care to join us, buy the book (preferably) from my esteemed book proprietor friend, Byron Borger, at Hearts and Minds Books. Mention the High Calling Blogs discussion when you order and you'll get a 20% discount.

Why should you join us? Because you're an artist in the traditional sense of painting, poetry and photography, or in the commercial sense of advertising and graphic design. Or not. If not, you should join us because your work - whatever it is - is a creative expression, even if you're "just" an accountant. Second, because your work must be given away, like a gift. Hyde writes, "What is given away feeds again and again, while what is kept feeds only once and leaves us hungry."

The Gift is not a Christian book, per se, in case you're wondering. Nor is it a spoon feeder. But I feel convicted already and can't quite let Hyde's concepts pass without further thought. See you there!


What consumers bring to the table

Consider these lyrics to Brendan Benson's "What I'm looking for." Then watch them in the commercial below.

Well I don't know what I'm looking for
But I know that I just wanna look some more
And I won't be satisfied
'Till there's nothing left that I haven't tried
For some people it's an easy choice
But for me there's a devil and an angel's voice
Well I don't know what I am looking for
But I know that I just wanna look some more

Well I don't know what I'm living for
But I know that I just wanna live some more
And you hear it from strangers
And you hear it from friends
That love never dies, love never ends
Now I don't wanna argue, no I don't wanna fight
'Cause you're always wrong and I'm always right
Well I don't know what I am living for
But I know that I just wanna live some more

I used to be involved, and I felt like a king
Now I've lost it all and I don't feel a thing
I may never grow old, I may never give in
And I'll blame this world that I live in
I visit hell on a daily basis
I see the sadness in all your faces
I've got friends who have married
And their lives seem complete
Here I am still stumbling down a darkened street

And I act like a child and I'm insecure
And I'm filled with doubt and I'm immature
Sometimes it creeps up on me and before I know it
I'm lost at sea
But no matter how far I row
I always find my way back home
But I don't know what I've been waiting for
But I know that I don't wanna wait anymore

Looking for...
What I'm looking for...
Looking for...
What I'm looking for...
Looking for...
What I'm looking for...
Looking for...
What I'm looking for...
Looking for...
What I'm looking for...

This TV spot, "Everybody Touch," plays on curiosity and information gathering and entertainment, but the rest of the consumer's story gets told in the unsung lyrics above. I'm not criticizing TBWA\ for making the ad, but the abbreviation of this song reminds me of something important:

Advertisers are in relationship with consumers. Professionally and transactionally, yes, but more than this, they're neighbors like you and me.

This human reality requires good old-fashioned hospitality. The consumer - here it happens to be Brendan - speaks first, not about his interest in iPods but about longing and hunger for Home. The advertiser, like any good neighbor, then responds. In this case, TBWA\ responds to the hunger for information and entertainment (fine things), but other times it must respond to the hunger to get out of "hell on a daily basis," or to not be "lost at sea."

Advertisers can't always meet these needs, and neither can I. But this is what it means to host. This is how we make way for healthy relationships. We listen well and respond as fittingly as we can.


Sunday School Musical: A rebuttal

Calm yourself, Sam. Jesus will make it all better in time. "There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain or Sunday School Musicals, for the old order of things has passed away" (Revelation 21:4, addition mine).

I saw this movie advertised in a catalog from Christian Book Distributors (CBD) the other day. I shook my head in disgust. Why do Christians do this?!

Turns out that they didn't. The Asylum did. The Asylum is a production company that makes "mockbusters." Basically, they listen for buzz about upcoming movies and then make low-budget DVD versions of the ones they think will hit big.

The Asylum will make anything - from clean to crass, from pretty to porn - as long as people buy it. This doesn't help consumers or marketing.

Today I'm more frustrated by CBD, the largest religious distribution company in the world who is committed to "offer customers the very best in Christian products at the best prices and with the best service around."

Note: At, Sunday School Musical got a 1.9 rating out of 10. How can that pass the "best in Christian products" criterion? Now go to CBD's site and you'll see that raters gave it a 9.0 out of 10! (Both ratings as of 5/8/09). Why the enormous discrepancy, I'm not exactly sure, but I can guess. For instance, one of the most common comments at CBD was, "My kids loved it!"

Guess what, kids love Twinkies, too.

So what can we do? Here are several suggestions:
1. Don't buy Sunday School Musical.
2. If your church library carries it, ask to have it removed. Talk (nicely, of course) with the volunteer librarian about art, Culture Making, the Church as leader versus poser, etc.
3. Talk with your kids about the same stuff.
4. Let CBD know what you think by

To Ray Hendrickson, President of CBD:

I am disappointed that Christian Book Distributors carries Sunday School Musical, a "mockbuster" movie produced by The Asylum (Read more about The Asylum here). As the largest religious product distributor in the world, you have tremendous influence and responsibility. But when you promote derivative products like Sunday School Musical, influence and responsibility are misused.

CBD's derivative products like Sunday School Musical, and also like God's Girlz Dolls (Bratz), Guitar Praise (Guitar Hero) and "Return of the King...of Kings" T-shirts (J.R.R. Tolkien's Return of the King), demonstrate a lack of creativity and a followership to the very cultural items so many conservative Christians critique. By carrying and promoting these faux products, you say, "We don't approve of your dealings, secular world, but do you mind if we take your money-making ideas and slap religious icing on them for our own benefit?"

I believe this is one of the reasons why people are turned off by the evangelical Church in particular. They don't enjoy associating with posers who do seemingly anything to entertain and make money.

I am sure your motives are purer than this, Ray, but whether you realize it or not, selling these products have negative consequences. Please consider removing your endorsement of Sunday School Musical, regardless of how family friendly it may be. Perhaps the profit you've earned on it so far could be used to patron an original film (and from a production company with higher standards than The Asylum.)

Sam Van Eman


Oh, so THAT's what Liquid-Plumr does

Excellent creaturefication of Liquid-Plumr. I can almost imagine renting one of these from an unmarked Chinatown pet store. (Click on the image to enjoy the detail.)

Related posts:
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Pam Helps You Pull It Off 


Palatable palette

I don't know a thing about painting. And I couldn't write poetry to save my life - unless "Roses are Red" variations count. In my world, dance looks like shifting from foot to foot and clapping, a thing altogether unfit for The Nutcracker. And photography? Well, I don't know what I'm doing but I have provided curiosities on occasion. Check out this disappearing car (Note where the tail lights end on the left. See? No car, but its shadow remains) and also this disappearing student.

So I'm not an artist. Yet I'm an artist. Ask me to design a student retreat or college wilderness trip and I can paint all day. I can dance through brainstorming sessions with energy and grace, and marvel at the endlessness of ideas. My mind moves freely then, playing off of others' thoughts, getting inspired by quotes and images and feelings, writing pages of poetry in the form of group activities and trip themes. "When I brainstorm, I feel God's pleasure," Eric Liddell might have said in my shoes.

Your digital SLR or brush or Adobe Illustrator is my national forest. The challenge is knowing how to use these mediums. Just because I can think doesn't mean I can wield wisdom. Just because I can lead a group from point A to point B, or you can persuade a product off the shelf, doesn't mean we've succeeded.

What if we were as talented in discernment as we are in idea-generation; in composition as in execution; in wisdom as in knowledge? We'd make fewer mistakes and have fewer regrets. My trip participants would be healthier. Your customers would be better consumers.

I think we'd all be better, truer, artists.

"Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold."
- Proverbs 3:13-14


What do you think, Greg? (Part 2)

Last week I posted Part 1 of my interview with Greg Stielstra on his new book, Faith-Based Marketing: The Guide to Reaching 140 Million Christian Customers. Greg was marketing director for Rick Warren’s The Purpose-Driven Life, the fastest selling hardcover in American history.

Read Part 1 to see what's going on, or jump right into some heated action below.


NBoA: But that first marketing tip sounds like a Power Juicer or ShamWow line at midnight. And the second, well, I appreciate real handwritten letters, but never generic, mass-mailed appeals with a font that looks like handwriting. These land in my round file every time. Same with the business person or clerk who sells like this face to face. I say thanks and leave the store.

Greg: I don’t like high-pressure tactics either, but realizing there is a deadline does encourage people to consider the offer rather than putting off that consideration. It’s certainly not unfamiliar to Christians: “If you died tonight, do you know where you would spend eternity?”

NBoA: I need to push harder in this next question, Greg.

In several places, including one called “Commercializing Christianity?”, you address the concern about marketers exploiting Christians. Yet I finished the book with an odd, if not bad, taste in my mouth.

I appreciate the local business/local church connections, but the “corporate” and “national” thread throughout (E.g. Walmart) conjures up the monster, consumerism. The church is too plagued by consumerism as it is. We need to be a cultural model of simplicity and stewardship, not a new frontier for any and all marketing explorers. You’re right to say that Christians fail at Kingdom values like stewardship as often as everyone else, but we’re still called to do it. Help me, because this seemingly unfiltered access-granting by two influential insiders like you and your co-author, Bob Hutchins, makes me want to re-subtitle your book: Building Corporate Marketing Arsenals to Infiltrate the Church.

Greg: I think you’ve woven several questions/issues into one and I’d like to identify and answer them individually.

First, Local Business/Church Connections = Good; National Corporate/Church Connections = Bad. The appropriateness of business/church relationships depends on the nature of those partnerships and not on their scale. Wal-Mart isn’t bad because it’s global. And Fred’s carwash isn’t good because it’s local. Corporations are legal constructs and, like money, morally neutral. They’re also filled with people that the Bible commands us to love as ourselves.

The same stereotypes and impersonal attitudes that make it easy for Christians to demonize “evil corporations” are what often cause business people to demonize Christians. It’s time that stopped.

Second, Does Faith-Based Marketing Encourage Consumerism? It’s not as if Faith-Based Marketing will suddenly cause Christians to be exposed to advertising; that’s happening already – at an average of 3000 ads per person, per day, regardless of religious beliefs. Rather, Faith-Based Marketing will help ensure that the ads we already experience respect Christians.

In the book we expressly warn business against appeals to greed or encouraging people to covet. If anything, our advice should result in more responsible advertising that better aligns with Christian beliefs.

NBoA: I do hope you’re right about this.

Greg: Third, Unfiltered Access by Insiders allows Corporate Marketing to Infiltrate the Church. The idea that we should restrict access to the church, or that the church has “insiders” and, therefore, “outsiders,” is very troubling to me. Restricting access to the church flies in the face of the Great Commission. Should we send missionaries to the remotest parts of Africa but stop business people at the church door? Are churches bunkers that protect believers from society or a haven of hope for all the people God made and loves? Are churches private country clubs for believers or field hospitals for all people wounded by sin?

Fourth, the overall theme of this question seems to be, “When Business and Christianity Meet, Christianity Loses.” Whether you fear collaborations between businesses and churches, or Christians and those who haven’t yet found Christ, depends, I suppose, on which you believe is superior: the corruptive power of greed or the redemptive power of the gospel?

My God created the universe. He is more powerful than Satan, sin, and death. He has preserved his church throughout history and will continue to do so. And he will save whomever he chooses and nothing, NOTHING, can stop him. Wal-Mart is hardly a threat.

NBoA: This still doesn’t clean my palate, but I appreciate your idealism and shared belief in the redemptive power of the gospel.

One thing I do like about Faith-Based Marketing is the focus on local and personal business/church collaboration. We discussed this earlier and I have a really practical question about it. I attend a large church and our big service day is coming up. Last year, over 1,000 folks volunteered to serve on various projects in the community. What are some practical ways local businesses could serve, and sell, on this project?


  • Equipment rental businesses could donate tools like pressure washers and ladders. Get a list of the various projects and then suggest the array of tools that would make the volunteers more efficient and effective.
  • Local restaurants could feed the volunteers. Give people a free meal on the day of their service and coupons for subsequent trips to the restaurant. “You served the community, now let us serve you.”
  • The local newspaper could cover the event and provide a free paper to participants. Follow up to see if they’d like a subscription.
  • Local lawn care companies could volunteer to work alongside the church volunteers. Offer discounts on lawn care to service day volunteers. Offer to mow one elderly person’s lawn free for every ten church members who become customers.
  • A local photography studio could volunteer to capture the day in photos and create a webpage to display them. They could supply those photos to local media outlets and make them available for church members’ Facebook pages. The exposure would increase participation next year.

You get the idea. The point is that by discovering what the church is trying to accomplish, helping by complimenting or multiplying the church’s efforts, and then positioning their business to benefit (but not requiring it), businesses can do good things for their community, forge relationships with local Christians, and, ultimately, prosper themselves.

NBoA: Very helpful, Greg, and I’m sure you could think of dozens more (Readers, there are many in the book.).

I’m thinking now about ad majors and folks who work in an ad agency. Advertisers often get assigned to projects that take advantage of consumers’ weaknesses and that don’t model Jesus’ love. How might adopting your “Serve, Don’t Sell” approach toward Christians affect the agency where they work?

Greg: I’ve worked in marketing for almost 20 years and have never discussed “taking advantage of consumers’ weaknesses.” I’ve never been in a meeting where that topic was discussed either. Agencies recognize that the consumer is in control and that for advertising to be successful it must understand, acknowledge and respect the consumer’s beliefs.

NBoA: I’m glad you haven’t discussed this, and I imagine the conversation is rarely, if ever, so overtly named in any agency, yet thousands of commercials tell me it’s happening on some level in many places. Here’s a humorous example:

Perhaps this is another topic for another time. Let me restate the question. How would you recommend that a Christian advertiser influence her agency in a “Serve, Don’t Sell” direction?

Greg: I’d remind the agency that the consumer is in control. Consumers select and time-shift programming. They block pop-ups and skip ads with their DVR. They expose false advertising claims in consumer product reviews. If you want their attention you must be relevant. If you want their patronage you must serve them. And, since 77% of Americans consider themselves Christian, agencies had better learn how to serve and be relevant from a Christian’s perspective.

NBoA: Five years – and the book’s success – from now, what indicators will make you and Bob say, “It worked, praise God!”?

Greg: One indicator will be business people, agencies, and media talking about reaching and serving Christians as often, and with as much respect, as they talk about market segments like African Americans, Hispanics, Soccer Moms, or Gays and Lesbians.

Another indicator of success will be Christians encouraging their friends to support businesses sympathetic to Christians rather than boycotting those that did something insensitive. I’d like Christians to be known for their love of the things they support instead of their angry protests against the things they don’t.


Greg, thanks for joining us here. You are gracious and I pray that your work with Bob will encourage healthier relationships between marketers and consumers.

Readers, check out Part 1 of this interview here, and the book at Learn more about Greg at and about Bob at Finally, let me know what you think. Greg and Bob welcome your feedback, too, so don’t be shy.


What do you think, Greg?

The Purpose-Driven Life, The Passion of the Christ, and The Chronicles of Narnia are three global success stories shaped by effective marketing. Specifically, they were shaped by two effective marketers, Greg Stielstra and Bob Hutchins.

When I learned that Greg and Bob were writing a book called Faith-Based Marketing: The Guide to Reaching 140 Million Christian Customers, I had to know more.

Were they insiders leaking church information to the adman, or friends trying to redeem current marketing practices? Were they using their success to promote buying more stuff, or calling on businesses to love customers better?

In this fifth New Breed of Advertisers interview, you’ll find out why I support and complain about the book, and what Greg has to say about marketing as a Christian. Enjoy!

Greg Stielstra is the author of PyroMarketing and was a marketing executive at the world’s two largest Christian publishers, Thomas Nelson and Zondervan. At Zondervan, Stielstra was marketing director for Rick Warren’s The Purpose-Driven Life, the fastest selling hardcover in American history. Learn more at

Bob Hutchins runs Buzzplant, an Internet marketing agency that targets the faith and family market. He was instrumental in online marketing campaigns for the Christian hit movies The Passion of the Christ and The Chronicles of Narnia. Learn more at


NBoA: Thanks for joining us here, Greg. What started Faith-Based Marketing and how did Bob come on board?

Greg: While working on the marketing for The Purpose-Driven Life and The Passion of the Christ, I noticed how their success had opened business’s eyes to the size and influence of the Christian market segment. I also saw how poorly equipped many business people were to effectively reach it.

What’s more, there were no books on the subject and precious few other resources to help. Mainstream media routinely misrepresents business people as crooks and Christians as kooks so I was convinced of the need for a book on the topic. That’s when I began writing an outline for a project called The Ten Commandments of Faith-Based Marketing.

Around the same time, Bob and a business associate, Beth Cathey, started an organization called The Faith-Based Marketing Association and held a Faith-Based Marketing Summit in Dallas that brought ministry and business leaders together.

I spoke on PyroMarketing at that event and, because Bob and I both live in Franklin, TN, it wasn’t long till we discussed collaborating on this book.

NBoA: And the rest is history, they say. Fascinating how our lives unfold.

In Chapter 6, “Serve, Don’t Sell,” you provide quite a few simple, local, personal, logical, natural examples of how a business can serve a local church. In fact, the chapter made me want to re-subtitle your book, Winning by Serving the Local Church. What’s your favorite connection example?

Greg: I’m a little leery when people talk about creating win-win partnerships because quite often they want both of the wins. Yet, the best collaborations really are those where every participant benefits. That’s why I love the serve-don’t-sell ideas we provided. They honestly help the business and the church. Here’s one of my favorites:

Youth Group Car Wash: Church youth groups often raise money for mission trips by holding parking lot car washes. Kids stand by the road waving cardboard signs while others wash cars with inadequate hoses, water, and suds. It’s inefficient and doesn’t generate as much money as it could. Meanwhile, owners of local automated car washes could enjoy getting extra business from that nearby church with a simple partnership.

We say, let the youth group use your automated car wash on Saturday from 8-noon and give them the profits earned during that period.

The church would encourage its members to support the youth group by going to your car wash Saturday morning and the youth could spend more time promoting the fund raiser throughout the community and wash more cars with less work.

I like this idea from a church perspective because it’s a more efficient version of something they already do--host car wash fund raisers. I like this idea from a business perspective because it gives people an actual experience with the car wash while creating goodwill for its owner among churchgoers.

NBoA: I heard an evangelist say, “We don’t serve people so we can convert them; we serve because we’ve been converted.” I suppose you could say the same about a marketing evangelist. But is it possible for marketers to see people as the bottom line and not as a means to an end?

Greg: Not only is it possible, it’s how things were for centuries and how, very soon, they will be again.

For most of history, markets were places where people gathered face-to-face. Buyers explained their needs. Sellers offered solutions. You still encounter a remnant of this era today when the store clerk asks, “May I help you?” The focus was on people and their needs first, and product solutions second.

Mass marketing rudely interrupted this market conversation from 1920 to 2000, give or take a few years. Mass media gave business a megaphone that allowed it to speak to millions of people at once, but prevented people from talking back. The conversation became a monologue. Instead of asking people what they needed, sellers used media to tell nameless masses what they were selling. This shifted marketing’s focus from people to products. It insulated business from its customers, dehumanized markets and transformed people into consumers. And it encouraged business to view people as a merely as a means to an end.

Fortunately, the digital revolution is transforming markets again. Not only does the Internet restore the conversation between buyers and sellers, it also enables buyers to talk with each other on a global scale. People can tell businesses what they want, what they need, and what they don’t like. The opportunities for dishonesty and exploitation which tempted some advertisers during the mass marketing era are less available. Business cannot lie because the crowd will immediately set the record straight.

The digital revolution wrested the megaphone from marketer’s hands. Business can no longer shout about itself over the crowd. Instead it must, once again, join the conversation by focusing on people, not products, and learn again to ask, “May I help you?”

NBoA: I like your optimism, Greg, and I see this transformation taking place. While I don’t have as much faith as you in consumers’ ability to discern what they really need, or, at least, how best to meet those needs, I do enjoy the growing interactivity with business, and look forward to advertisers being more honest.

A frequent theme in the book is encouraging this healthy relationship between marketers and consumers, something especially important in a volatile economy. We know money strains relationships, so what advice/warning would you give to marketers trying to connect with churches today?

Greg: I don’t agree that money strains relationships. Money is morally neutral. The Bible says that the love of money, not money itself, is the root of all evil, so it’s our attitude toward money that matters.

If we value money more than people, then that attitude will certainly strain relationships. However, if we put relationships first, then the money will take care of itself. C.S. Lewis said, “Aim at heaven and you get Earth thrown in. Aim at Earth and you get neither.” I think that insight applies to doing business with the church: Aim at serving people and you’ll get fair compensation thrown in. Aim at money and you’ll get neither.

NBoA: You also spend time debunking stereotypes, pushing businesses to get to know pastors and churches, explaining basic theology and church practice, and even providing instructions to non-churched readers on how to go to church (Chapter 5, “Meet and Greet”). These have practical, relationship-building value. Are they also your subversive way of getting folks to church?

Greg: I went to college to get an education and wound up meeting my wife.

NBoA: Enough said.

Early on you tell readers, “We won’t provide you with ways to exploit Christians….” I’m not convinced. Despite the good points I mentioned above, I think you cross the line at times with this promise. For example, regarding direct mail tips you say:

  • "Create a sense of urgency without sounding desperate ('Act now and receive this bonus gift!')," and
  • "Consider various graphic techniques to grab the reader’s eye: ‘handwritten’ notes in the margin…"

This is infomercial material, and if I were a pastor and knew this was your approach to serving my congregation, I’d never let your message in. Why the manipulative gimmicks?

Greg: There’s a difference between effective marketing and manipulation. Churches put their signs in front of the building rather than behind it because in front it more effectively communicates with passersby. Is that manipulation? Good design or handwritten letters make a person more likely to read and consider an offer, but in the end, each individual still makes his or her own choice. A free gift sweetens the pot for those who take fast action. It gives the buyer more value for their money which is hardly the “devious influence” that defines manipulation.

NBoA: But the…
(Speaking of manipulation, readers, you'll have to click here for Part 2 if you want to see where this conversation goes.)


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