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::: Marketing a Metanarrative :::_::: written version

Here’s the written version of my latest •audiopost•.

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The following are my afterthoughts after listening to an 11 minute  U R B A N G L O R Y  podcast entitled Marketing a Metanarrative.

Is marketing merely about selling a product?  Well … not when marketing has come to the place of getting people to associate ideas, beliefs, messages, and metanarratives with their product.  This is when the power of marketing goes beyond merely selling products to shaping the worldview of its target audience.  

Most marketing techniques do this even if their message is not explicit.  For example, how many times have you seen a Budweiser commercial where people were bored, depressed, unattractive, etc.?  Never.  What Budweiser would love for their target audience to do is associate happiness and attractiveness with their product.  

But marketing doesn’t stop with this kind of association tactic.  Marketing media often attempts to give much more in depth interpretations of life, values, and the world.  Sometimes it’s explicit, sometimes it’s subtle enough that you don’t realize your being asked to believe something like, “World peace exists,” or “Your life is incomplete without our product,” or “Sex before marriage is OK, but you better wear a rubber,” or “Being yourself is more important than anything else,” etc. 

These kinds of messages are commonly communicated in highly sophisticated ways without some sort of explicit declaration.  This means marketing strategies, branding, and really all forms of media, can are are being used to promote points of view, messages, and values that are capable of shaping ones worldview.  

In light of this, contra the recent article in Christianity Today by Tyler Wigg-Stevenson, “Jesus is Not a Brand,” marketing strategies do not turn Jesus into a product or idol.  Rather, marketing the gospel (i.e. Jesus) is simply a way of translating the gospel into the language of marketing in order to communicate a worldview, values, stories, messages, etc.  We should never disengage these venues as Christians out of fear, ignorance, a fundamentalist mentality, legalism, etc.  Rather, we should fully engage this cultural language for the sake of the gospel.  

If you don’t like the way Jesus is being “Branded” in the media, critizising the enterprise of “Branding Jesus” is not the answer, providing alternative media that better communicates the gospel and engages the culture is.   

____–__–__HT: U R B A N G L O R Y

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2 Comments

  1. Dustmite says:

    I have seen this discussion pop up a few times within the past several days. Although I am somewhat cautious agreeing with the principle, I believe that I am/would be fine with this perspective so long as we as Christians do not compromise the message in order to be more attractive for the marketing. If we have to leave out or alter the message to take full advantage of the marketing capabilities then the marketing potential is not worth the sacrifice.

  2. theophilogue says:

    Dustmite,

    Thanks for your interaction. I enjoyed reading your thoughts.

    Often, we see Jesus represented poorly through media (what you call a “compromise” of the message) and begin to associate media with compromise of the message. This, I think, is very unfortunate. I’m glad you are able to avoid this misunderstanding by your distinction.

    We cannot, of course, however, expect every piece of Christian media to be some sort of comprehensive gospel presentation anymore than any one conversation with a lost co-worker has to necessarily be a comprehensive worldview presentation or gospel presentation. Planting seeds is part of everyday evangelism. With each seed, the lost person become more and more aware of the nuances of the Christian message. I think (hope) you would agree that taking a “one seed at a time” approach with media (like everyday relational evangelism) is not a comprise of the gospel just because it does not present a comprehensive summary of the gospel in each individual piece.

    There are media presentations, however, that actually attempt to share a summary of the gospel. The most common method borrows from the marketing strategy of business cards (we call them gospel tracts). Most gospel tracts I know are poor quality both in their content (they tend to actually get the gospel message wrong) and in their visual quality. Therefore, applying my principle, we should appreciate a guy who uses this form of marketing to get out a gospel message that is more accurate and more visually engaging—-this could be a summary of the gospel, one aspect of the gospel, or some engaging biblical truth that might speak to them where they are and make them more interested to visit a gospel saturated website or talk to a Christian friend.

    Thanks again for your thoughts.

    Bradley

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