Posts Tagged ‘religion’

Last week’s post, Do Religion and Marketing Mix?, stirred up some thoughtful and divergent opinion on LinkedIn, plus 14 responses to a Touch Point City MicroSurvey hosted on Poll Daddy.

To briefly recap, the post was triggered by a full-page, Easter-themed newspaper ad run by a Minnesota auto dealership. Click here if you’d like to review the ad and the original post.

If you assume the response to the question posed was a unanimous “no way,” sentiment wasn’t quite that one-sided. And if you guessed the predominant answer would be “absolutely,” it turns out not to be that simple, either. 

“It depends” broadly describes the overall tenor of the feedback and discussion, but with a clear majority expressing the view that blending religion and marketing is usually not good business nor smart branding.

Rather than attempt to capture all the discussion and feedback in this single post post mortem, you can find excerpts from the LinkedIn discussion and the MicroSurvey results here.

Meanwhile, one blogger’s thoughts on the advisability of this ad — and of mixing religion and marketing more generally:


If the No. 1 goal of a print ad is to stop the reader, I might be forced to give this auto dealer a point for creating a visual speed bump.

Beyond that , the ad struck me as the branding equivalent of a car crash. Hard not to gawk at for a moment. But ultimately unfortunate, sad, even painful to look upon and contemplate. And, ideally, something from which right-minded drivers (marketers) would want to steer clear.
This particular ad was problematic on so many levels, it’s hard to do justice to them all, but let’s try three:
  • Copy to Die For. I’m still scratching my head to think of a copywriter’s handbook that suggests it’s a good idea to work “died” into your promo or branding copy for — well, for pretty much any product or service.
  • Style Points for Subtlety. The ad’s design is so overwrought with religious imagery that it makes the actual church ads inside the paper look apathetic toward the holiday.
  • “Relevance, Line 1. please. Relevance Department, Customer holding on Line 1.” Car dealers have a lot to show and tell people about cars — driving, safety, maintenance, the automotive lifestyle, innovation, travel, reducing fuel consumption. Except for providing the transporation by which people travel to church, temple or synagogue, car dealers have no real basis, no credibility, no standing from which to address and engage us around issues of spirituality and faith.

On the broader question, is it ever wise to mix religion and marketing, clearly it’s hard to argue the two can never mingle. After all, in some cultures, and with certain products and services (e.g., foods, literature, clothing, music), there is a direct link to spiritual practices and belief systems.

But in this instance, like some of the conversationalists on LinkedIn, I’m making an assumption the ad was the brainchild of the business owner. An owner who decided to direct an overt appeal to members of a specific faith, even though his or her product and business has no real connection or relevance to religion.

In a case such as this, mixing religion and marketing seems like a patently bad idea — perhaps even sacrilegious, depending on whether the motivation is more communal or commercial. And, if a business owner decides to proceed with the ill-conceived idea, it seems incumbent upon him or her to step outside the brand, stand apart from the employees, and claim personal ownership for the ad and the message. 

After all, employees who blog are expected to distinguish the views expressed from those of their employers. It seems reasonable that a business owner’s religion-inspired ad message — exclusionary toward some, perhaps even offensive toward others, both inside and outside the company — be treated similarly.


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The middle two-thirds of a full-page newspaper ad published by a Minnesota car dealership on April 10, 2009.

The middle two-thirds of a full-page newspaper ad published by a Minnesota car dealership on April 10, 2009.

Is it a good idea to mix religion and marketing?

Apparently at least one Minnesota car dealership believes it can be.

Witness the April 10 (Good Friday) edition of my hometown weekly newspaper. The back page carried a full-page ad from a local car dealer. The ad’s headline proclaims, “The Best Automotive News Yet!…”

The ad goes on to attempt a thematic connection between “best automotive news” and the Easter holiday, when Christians celebrate their belief in the resurrection of God’s son, Jesus Christ, following his death by crucifixion.

You can see the ad’s core messaging and design elements at right. If you’re having difficulty viewing the image, the copy reads as follows:
The Best Automotive News Yet!…
Did You Know?…
Died For You…
Yet He Lives Today!!
He Has Risen
Happy Easter
To You and Your Families From…
I’ll take a pass on mentioning the advertiser by name, and on attempting to speculate regarding their motivation and reasoning, in the interest of exploring this broader question:

In your experience, in your opinion,
is it ever a good idea to mix marketing and religion?

If that sounds like a rhetorical question, perhaps not. After all, we live in an age when “God Bless America” is sung at public sporting events. And when the highest officeholders in the land, Republicans and Democrats alike, speak openly about solving societal challenges, at least in part, through “faith-based initiatives.”

So, might religious celebrations and symbols be a rich, mostly untapped source for potentially breakthrough ad creative? Can overtly aligning your brand with one of the world’s major religions constitute smart marketing strategy? Sometimes? Never? It depends?

Here’s an ultra-brief survey on the advisability of mixing marketing and religion. Please take a moment to answer the four questions. I’ll share results in a follow-up post, along with some personal thoughts on whether faith is fair game from which to draw marketing inspiration. Or, were there smarter ways, instead of this Easter wish and a prayer, for a car dealer to invest precious marketing dollars?
Do Religion and Marketing Mix?
Click here to take a Touch Point City MicroPoll

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