In this week’s survey we’re asking whether or not non-Christian marketers can successfully market the church. So far just over half say yes. Coincidentally, we were pointed to an article from a UK Christian magazine where they asked two mainstream advertising firms to put together ad campaigns to promote attending church.
The piece started with a five-fold strategy for rebranding the church from Mark Ritson, Assistant Professor of Marketing at the London Business School, who came up with the list after attending a christening he didn’t dread as he expected.
- Only select church leaders who understand God, the public and who are good at strategy.
- Conduct research to identify the needs of society today.
- Position the church against the true competition-consumer culture.
- Replace hard pews and exposed brickwork with a better setting for experiencing God.
- Revisit the church’s approach to marketing communications. Ritson called for an integrated marketing strategy that embraces advertising, marketing and PR.
It was the final point that prompted the magazine to issue their challenge.
(Though I can’t help but notice how completely superficial and relative the fourth point is. I’ll concede that comfortable seating might keep people from thinking about how their butt is falling asleep, but how does exposed brickwork diminish anyone’s experience with God? I didn’t know God did his best work with sheetrock.)
But what’s really helpful from this article is the lessons from the two ad agencies who tried to promote church attendance:
- Current church ads don’t work: “I don’t think the ads I’ve seen appeal to non-church goers,” says Guy Lupton of Khameleon. “They often have a quote from the Bible or a cross–which most consider clichéd images and words that are preaching to the converted. They may appeal to church goers but probably not to others.” Jonathan Wilcock, joint creative director at Link ICA, agrees: “I’ve seen ads on the London tube for a particular church which I found patronising. They gave me the impression that they thought they knew what I needed. It felt like they were the boss and I was a child.”
- Find out what people are looking for, i.e., market research: “Churches need to be more approachable and contemporary. Crucially they need to spend money on proper market research to find out what people are really looking for, rather than presuming they understand the needs of people,” says Lupton.
- Increase participation: “If you feel part of it, part of a family-that appeals much more. If a church can get in touch with Jesus’ teachings rather than just ritual, so people actually live it out-that would appeal to me. I think people are also looking for a clear message that they could apply to their daily lives,” says Wilcock.
- Advertising isn’t a silver bullet, but it can help: “Adverts won’t grab someone and turn him or her around, but it could tip a person over the edge into going to church if they were close to that possibility already. Potentially the size of that market–people who are close to that tipping point–is huge,” says Wilcock