The evolution of church marketing

Believe in evolution? That’s your business.

Let’s talk marketing—the evolution of church marketing.

For obvious reasons, a lot more people will go to church today and tomorrow than usual. But religious institutions aren’t just looking for members in December.

More and more churches are realizing that a good location and word-of-mouth alone won’t always fill the pews.

So they’ve resorted to—gasp!—marketing, and some of it ain’t half bad.

Here’s an ad for the Collegiate Church in New York:

The ad was produced by Gotham, the agency serving corporate clients such as Remington, Newman’s Own and Lufthansa—and it shows.

Their campaign bridges television, radio, web and outdoor. Here’s a phone booth ad:

Collegiate Churches of New York - phone booth ad

Mosaic Seattle, a local church near my home in Issaquah, WA is no stranger to offbeat marketing: Many services are thematically packaged, and feel more like a movie or event promotion than something you’d see for a church. All of pastor Barry Odom’s services are recorded and available as podcasts, and I have a number of their printed pieces in our ‘idea box’ at Outsource Marketing exemplifying interesting print communications executions.

Mosaic realized that a lot of people only make it to church once a year—Christmas, so instead of promoting one service, they promoted four related ones:

Four Christmases from Mosaic Seattle

This is smart marketing regardless of category. Get people to come more than once, and you might get them to form a habit.

So, what are your thoughts about the evolution of church marketing?

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Source: Churches Welcome Quirky Approaches to Spread Their Message, New York Times

Photo of phone booth credit: New York Times

  • http://www.utahpulse.com Roxy Cross

    Wow! Serious ly effective marketing. Makes me want to go to their church and I haven’t had that urge in eons!

  • http://www.branddialogue.com Eric Weaver

    Seriously? I look at that ad and think, “HEY! Let’s go spend all our money on STUFF, ‘cuz that’s what Jesus would do! WEEEEEEEE!!!!!” ;)

    the episcopal church ran a series of professionally done ads (i think ogilvy did them) back in the 80s…in an attempt to make the church more relevant to the masses. they were well done, pointed and got people thinking. but the problem is the same problem any marketer faces: how do i create relevance (particularly if there is none)? what can i do creatively to make people feel affinity with my organization? what solution does my organization provide to the challenges of prospective customers?

    organized traditional faiths such as Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Lutherans, etc., are having a hard time because there’s often no connection between the past and the present in the existing liturgy, choreography or ritual. the only possible relevance comes during a sermon that may or may not be done by someone who is facing the same issues.

    born-again fundamental sects are doing well because they are answering hard questions and providing the help, reassurance and community that people often need. people clearly need community with like-minded people, have a need to understand a bigger picture, and want to feel forgiven.

    that said, i find no personal relevance in the hands-in-the-air, gospel-pop kind of organization…better to face and solve our own problems, to my thinking, rather than turn to some hierarchical authority organization composed of equally fallible humans, who have happily taken on the mantle of interpreting god’s will for everyone else. if there is a god, i think he/she would probably think we could do MUCH BETTER.

  • http://www.branddialogue.com Eric Weaver

    By the way…ministers call the holiday visitors “CEOs”: Christmas-Easter-Occasionals.

  • http://jeffstern.wordpress.com Jeff Stern

    For some interesting look at less flashy, more authentic church marketing using social media check out millennial Alex Steed’s series of posts where he critiqued the social media efforts of his mother’s church. The best part is that the church actually listened to his suggestions – listening to the customer seems like responsible marketing to me!

    http://www.netsquared.org/blog/alexsteed/revisiting-united-church-christ-social-media-case-study

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  • http://www.unitychurchmarketing.com John Panico

    Church marketing never stopped its evolution process since the day it was realized that the complexity of faith would be better served if ideals would be broken down and the faithful was given the honor of choosing for himself. It just so happen that the medium that we are working on right now had an unprecedented flexibility that the usual way of doing “church business” had to undergo series of modifications in order to keep up on what the faithful might be looking for nowadays.

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