Marketing has always been primarily about seduction
We assume marketing relies on a certain amount of hype, and consumers who are willing to suspend their disbelief. But does it? No one readily admits to believing any product will provide them with ultimate happiness or inner peace. But every good marketer knows that the key is a pitch that speaks to our emotions, which at least pretends to fulfill some primal need. And consumers seem eager to cooperate.
It’s a bit like romance. Everyone wants it. But make it too obvious or crass, and it’s a turn-off. Too passive or indirect, that’s unattractive too. But just the right message at just the right intensity will seduce the target consumer into a sale. A seduced and happy customer will be grateful to the marketer for providing a bridge to an improved life experience. And such a happy customer will come back for more, developing brand loyalty, the holy grail of marketing.
People spread their entertainment dollars widely– religion is only one venue. Churches have a bit tougher job than–say–theme parks, since what they provide is both less and more. Less tangible yet more socially immersive. Watching a film, for example, the price of admission is declared in advance. The marketing is over once the trailers end and the opening credits begin. The film is the product, an end in itself. You are free to leave.
At church, the cost and experience can vary widely, depending both on the denomination and on the personality of the preacher. When the service starts, the marketing is just beginning. Savvy pastors never stop selling. And they’re deadly earnest–it’s no mere entertainment. And they weave guilt and redemption into a sort of ballet. They ask their congregations to “dig deep.” And the appeals can be wide ranging–from fund drives for church expansion to poverty initiatives, to sponsoring scout troops. Churches will do good with your dollars. Better than you could do. And they expect you to be generous with your time as well as money–come early and often and stay until the end.
From Seduction to Fear
In a casino, the customer responds to a changing emotional landscape of winning and losing with impulsive spending decisions. In church, a similar emotional process applies. Customers may try to purchase salvation or assuage their guilt, spending far more than they might have expected. And it’s up to the preacher to ratchet up that pressure, dwelling on “sins” that people might have committed that very week. Or simply the sin of having been born. The greater the guilt and fear, the higher the donation.
We see that this is how religions have adapted. They began as authorities. As their power has waned, they’ve resented having to accommodate a consumer-friendly environment: Authorities dictate, marketers persuade. Authorities threaten, marketers run focus groups. Authorities have subjects, marketers have customers. Customers demand, marketers obey. It’s not easy or trivial to pitch customer satisfaction when you’re also pitching the ultimate authority–God. Which brings us full circle back to fear.
Fear is the handmaid of authority. Religions’ trick has been to convince people they are naturally deficient. It’s a similar sell to life insurance. “You may think you’re a good provider, but we all die someday. Will your family be protected when you’re gone?” No one with any kind of concern for their loved ones can resist the logic. Fear sells up a storm. So life insurance companies have become some of the wealthiest organizations in the world. And churches are in the same business. They actually sell Eternal Life Insurance. Some even have the sheer effrontery to call it that.
- “You love your family.” (you want to be a good person)
- “You never know when you might die. Everyone dies.” (your mortality makes you a deficient provider)
- “You would do anything for your kids wouldn’t you.” (guilt about something you can’t change–that you’re not immortal)
- “If you want us to provide for your family when you’re gone, you must pay the premiums.” (pay us now, you’ll have to trust us to pay your family later.)
- “Let us help you decide how much protection you need.” (We’ll even figure it out for you.)
Eternal Life Insurance:
- “God loves you.” (so you should love him back–pay us)
- “Everyone is a sinner.” (deficient soul–you need us)
- “Jesus would do anything for you, he died to pay for your sins.” (guilt–pay us)
- “You must pay the price for your sins, unless you accept that Jesus paid it for you.” (And if you want a clear conscience, pay Jesus, pay us.)
- “Pray and recieve Jesus Christ as your savior.” (Donate generously, or something bad might happen.)
There’s one important difference between the life insurance product and the Eternal Life Insurance ‘product.’ Though you might personally never see a penny from your life insurance policy, by law someone gets paid.
With Eternal Life Insurance, no one seems to worry about the “company” delivering on its promise. Even the mafia was never this slick. The Constitution blocks any government regulation of the industry. Pundits bristle at the slightest notion of disrespect. And that, my friends, is how thousands of Eternal Life agents all over these great United States continue to get away with collecting tax-exempt premiums every day for a non-existent product.
And why should they stop? It’s working brilliantly. And people who’ve invested their hard-earned dollars into Eternal Life Insurance give eternal brand loyalty. So sign up at your local branch or at Faith Baptist Church today. Pastor Tim Rasmussen is standing by in Canoga Park, California to serve your Eternal Life Insurance needs.
Do you know for sure that you are on your way to heaven…?
Considering a large portion of the population cannot read not own a computer.
As social networking sites proliferate our lives, we are less susceptible to the lure of a religious group for company. We are less needy of a one pointed view in order to feel like we belong.
Paper drops from the church lose their potency, replaced my a community of readers galvanized to enlightenment by the next they can read, and share, from the internet. It is a wonderful thing. Variety rocks. It aids the individual to self reflect about their OWN opinion in the face of ideas they might never have been exposed to before. Reflection. A privelige of the comparitively $$rich$$, the well endowed DNA and the good environment.
Anyone with an authentic personal voice immediately recognizes the usurpation of the voice of authority in the marketing pitch and rightly feels insulted by the gall of some disembodied third person telling him what his inmost thoughts and feelings are. The prevalence of marketing in every aspect of our lives demonstrates the imbecility of our thinking worlds, the loss of respect for true individuality, and the ascendance of the mass- or herd-man. Branding is the apotheosis of our lust to define ourselves by the accidents of our existence. What an emptiness lies therein. There is no one of any worth who does not hold very close and very dear to his heart the power of disbelief.
Yeah and thats what government does every day…whats new….oh yeah Rome fell….so can this one….just like religion does every so often evolving itself into something else, so has government but no matter what the human in fear always makes the smae mistakes wether its with religion or government the human continues its riduculousness because it fears and holds on something that isn't TRUE….Humans have not reached the frontier of absolute Freedom when they hold onto lies and Government is one of them
Well said. The life insurance analogy is perfect.
I don't think so! It isn't perfect. For example I don't use any life insurance and advise it everybody!
Sean, I wish that there were a way for readers to rate your posts, on, say, a five point scale. If there were, though, I'd complain bitterly, because this one deserves a 12. On the Richter scale. :)
So how would you give the truth of God's Word without "selling" it?
…Well, it assumes that the person 'selling' insurance actually knows that God's Word is true, which is unfortunately lacking. The truth or falsity of any statement, however, doesn't require selling: anyone can find out without some extra conditions, such as joining the group. So, in principle, no selling is needed.