Today, we heard the words “Marketing Challenge,” and immediately sprang into action. (It’s kind of like the bat symbol for us.) Then, as we read on, we found that we were even called out. Advertising Age asked what we would think of the Catholic church’s position paper on Limbo. And how do we feel about this?
First things first. Theology precedes marketing. I trust the Catholic Church put a lot of effort into understanding this matter theologically, and that’s paramount to all the marketing in the world. If we’re marketing the wrong message, we ought not be marketing at all. For quite some time, the Catholic Church has abandoned the idea of Limbo–this is just pointing out the elephant in the closet.
The principle to be drawn here? Never change what you believe for marketing’s sake. If you believe that all babies are going to hell, then defend yourself. Don’t shy away from that because it won’t go over well. I’m pretty sure that there’s no free passes on Judgment Day for sweet marketing ideas. Don’t live like there is.
Onto how they did this. Publishing position papers is nothing new. Just listen closely and you’ll hear people yelling at Mark Driscoll for his. I do think, however, that it’s a great idea. It gives the world access to your theology, and it shows them that you do actually think about things, rather than stagnating. To say “We were wrong,” or “This is where we stand” is a courageous thing to do.
Think about successful marketing campaigns for a moment. The 1984 Apple ad. That talking chihuahua for Taco Bell. Any you can think of. Successful marketing will never be defined as indifferent, unsure, or ambivalent. Marketing your church will never be successful when people view you as these things either.
The Catholic Church went a little soft here. Essentially, they said, “There’s no Limbo, but we’re still not sure if babies go to Heaven.” (Note: extreme paraphrase.) Maybe not the strongest stance to take, but you at least have to give them style points for honesty. Just be careful how you deal with issues when the answer is, “We don’t know.”
So all in all, we see a couple things from this move. Firstly, theology before marketing–always. And secondly, be bold. Take a stance on things, and be prepared to dialogue with people about these stances.