Seth Godin Asks: Is Marketing Evil

February 23, 2009 by

Marketing guru Seth Godin asks the question “Is Marketing Evil?” in one of his latest posts. Seth starts by saying that marketing, done well (aka that doesn’t suck), will:

1. Tell a story that spreads.
2. Influence people.
3. Change actions.

Oh yeah, I’m definitely on board with that.

“Marketing is powerful when it sells a product to someone who discovers more joy or more productivity because he bought it. Marketing is magic when it elects someone who changes the community for the better.”

Those who think the church should never be involved in marketing by saying we aren’t “selling” a product etc. should let that sentence marinate. While I understand the word “sell” is tough to swallow isn’t selling about consuming and don’t we want people to consume the Word and who Christ is? Once we get past that little word and look at the outcome–wow.

So when does Seth think marketing is Evil? Read for yourself.

Post By:

Michael Buckingham


With the goal of making the church the most creative place on the planet, Michael founded Holy Cow Creative, the church’s creativity and design studio. He is also the creative director for the Center for Church Communication and Church Marketing Sucks. You can find him speaking at conferences such as HOW, Echo, and MinistryCOM. Check out his blog, Jesus Hates Papyrus, where he continues to help the church intentionally reflect Christ in how it communications.
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5 Responses to “Seth Godin Asks: Is Marketing Evil”

  • jake dockter
    February 24, 2009

    the better question is Can marketing be evil?
    yes! emphatically.
    but is it only? no!
    I think this question can be asked of anything, and in the field of marketing, business, etc. it all goes back to the larger beast-money.
    “The love of money is the root or all evil”
    marketing for the purpose, to be the means to that end is where the evil steps in.
    because when forced to choose between money and people, money and honesty, money and truth, money and happiness it always seems that money stands on top of the pile.
    I have been apart of churches who pursue this in so many words.
    they won’t come out and tell you “its all about the benjamins” but they will start talking about attendance, size, new building funds and other “money” centric words.
    I was part of a church growing up and a friend and I wanted to use the youth building to put on a benefit show. We had contacted some pretty popular bands, we were going to bring a ton of people and we were going to donate the proceeds to a non-profit and to those who needed it!
    the church squashed it quick. they were concerned about the building, didn’t want to ruin the carpet or sustain any damage to the walls and sound equipment.
    so no money raised, no people reached. because the church was pursuing $$$ in the disguise of “responsible care”
    Marketing plans for churches are highly suspect in my opinion. Why do you want people there? Why are you trying to get people in the pews?
    Are you wanting to boost membership? why?
    for more souls saved or for more tithing members?
    do you want to motivate people to live better lives for God or are you motivating people to be comfortable?
    is jesus being taught or is your agenda?
    do you want people in the seats so that down the road you can get check marks for your big church…
    thats where the evil comes in.


  • Church Marketing Online
    February 24, 2009

    Cool. I wrote an article titled “Is Marketing Evil?” almost a year ago. So, I guess can imagine for a moment I’m out in front of Seth Godin on something. ;)
    I think what Seth is saying (and I agree) is that marketing can be evil if its either used to market something evil or evil means of marketing are used.
    With churches, we all agree that we are marketing something good. So, it really comes down to whether we use good or evil means of marketing.
    As I wrote last year, I think there are 4 general categories of “evil” marketing which we need to diligently avoid. But if we can do that then church marketing really becomes about introducing people to Jesus and the church in a way that genuinely conveys our love for God and people. And in that case it’s as Seth Godin described…
    “For me, marketing works for society when the marketer and consumer are both aware of what’s happening and are both satisfied with the ultimate outcome.”
    http://churchmarketingonline.com/2008/05/is-marketing-evil/


  • Thomas E. Anderson, II
    February 25, 2009

    I absolutely love the concepts presented here. Like you state, marketing is a pretty neutral phenomenon. And a church that doesn’t market is a dying church. In fact, there is even a marketing term called “evangelism”. And sadly enough, it seems that corporate organizations and entrepreneurs evangelize more than alot of churches do. But with concepts presented on your website, that will change.


  • nate houge
    February 26, 2009

    Marketing is consumer focused, Evangelism is Christ focused, stop confusing the two. My experience with consumption is that it leads to waste. The more I buy the more goes in the garbage, the more I eat the more I flush. The church doesn’t need consumers it needs incarnation. The ends don’t justify the means. In this case the means only cheapen the ends.


  • As always, the tension with “marketing” and “the church” is in semantics and definition. Regardless of what people think, marketing is not selling, or advertising. It’s a lot bigger than that. I always come back to “communicating,” simply because it seems to be a little easier for churches to swallow.
    At the end of the day, marketing is the process of creating a message and then effectively spreading it. Sounds almost Christ-like, wouldn’t you say?



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