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.
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.