Marketing guru Seth Godin has an interesting post (as usual) about whether you should be marketing for your category in general or for your specific product over the competition:
Confusion sets in, though, when you compare a pitch designed to get someone to buy any product in the category (you need an mp3 player because you can listen to music) vs. buying your product instead of the competition (ours is cheaper and bigger and better).
Are you trying to make the market bigger, or just grow your share?
This strikes me as an especially sticky question for the church (not only because it uses plenty of market lingo that makes some people uneasy). Most Christians want to say we’re promoting our category in general (Jesus!), not just my local church (First Community Church of Your City).
And that’s as it should be. I don’t care which church people are going to, I care whether or not they’re going to church (or more accurately, whether or not they’re connecting with God).
But I think Godin’s point still raises an interesting question for the church. If we’re all truly working to help people decide whether or not to go to church, what are we doing to help people decide which church to attend? I’m not suggesting some Baptist vs. Lutheran advertising war like Coke vs. Pepsi, but to be realistic and honest it’s hard to pick a church. How can we make that easier for people?
I’m not sure the best way to do it (though there are probably examples in the Church Marketing Lab), but I do know one of the foundational rules has to be don’t go negative. We still want to see people go to any church, not just our church, so it doesn’t help the Church if you bash the congregation around the corner.
Godin claims you have to pick one: the general category or your specific brand. While it’s a helpful distinction and an interesting question for the church, I’m not sure we really have that luxury in the church. Unlike Coke or McDonald’s or iPods, our message is too important to only do one or the other.