I love marketing. I guess that’s why I’ve spent over a quarter-century of my life in the business. Marketing begins with defining a product, business, or organization’s benefits. Next, we must craft a message to clearly and persuasively communicate those benefits to prospective partners or consumers. Finally, good marketing identifies and utilizes the best channels and avenues available to get the message out to the most qualified prospects.
unChristian, the new book co-authored by Barna Group president David Kinnaman, suggests that a new generation of 16 to 29 year olds—churched and unchurched—is more skeptical about, and resistant to, Christianity—especially, to evangelical believers—than were any previous generation. Kinnaman, with tongue in cheek, characterizes this perceptual challenge as a “PR problem.” Clearly, the challenge is greater than mere public relations, and Kinnaman and his guest contributors go far to offer useful insights toward a solution. But the statement about PR intrigued me. How, as a marketing man, would I work the problem?
Perhaps the greatest gaffe in the history of marketing was “New Coke®.” For those born after 1985, here’s what happened. As Coca-Cola® executives observed dramatic declines in their market share, obviously caused by sweeter-flavored rival Pepsi®, it was decided to change the time-honored formula—and brand—of the popular pop, in order to regain Coke®’s dominance at the soda fountain.
Well, consumer backlash was monumental, and—needless to say—Coca-Cola® beat a hasty retreat to its original, classic formula. But the lessons learned along the way might actually inform any corporate entity that’s trying to “improve market share.”
1) If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it: Don’t rush to fix a marketing problem with a product change. A lot of great products have disappeared because management teams automatically associated slumping market share with consumer dissatisfaction.
2) Don’t try to be all things to all people: I’m reminded of the old SNL skit…”It’s a dessert topping, AND a floor wax!” Nobody’s buying it.
3) Remain loyal to your core consumer: Don’t compromise what you have, in the pursuit of what you can never achieve.
4) Deliver what you promise: You can have the best commercial campaign in history, but if your product doesn’t live up to the hype, you’re toast!
In other words, church…we don’t need to reformulate the Gospel, in order to accommodate the sensibilities of this world. We shouldn’t water down our message, hoping to make it more attractive to seekers. We need, instead, to pray and study God’s Word with all of our hearts...that we might live authentic Christian lives, like Jesus…and always be ready to give an answer for the genuine hope that lies within us.
Let’s offer new wine, instead of New Coke®.