See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. - James 5:7

Monday, December 06, 2010

Marketing trends: The use of religious symbols to sell products.


I noticed on another blog mention of 'the use of religious symbols to sell products' in a post featuring a popular soft drink ad, as if it was some sort of new trend.  I don't think it is.  Silent monks were often used to sell products from Beano to Cappuccino hot drink mixes - and of course nuns in habit were always a good sell for fast food establishments selling fish sandwiches on Fridays in Lent.
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I get the 'watch' for anti-Catholic/anti-religious ads.  I'm not always so sure the ads are deliberately intended to alienate religious people however - especially when it involves mass marketing and high profits from a popular product.  I honesty think some of the irreverence is cultural, the result of de-Christianized, secularized cultural attitudes in a manic-consumer driven society.  Many people in marketing have no idea what goes on in a church, much less understand what is so special about 'holy' stuff.   These are post-Christian times we live in folks.
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I'm not defending this stuff, I'm just saying not everything is deliberately anti-Catholic - a lot of it is just stupidity, bad manners and bad taste.  Christians have also been known to exploit icons and tasteless religious kitsch to market themselves...  some even engage in multiple product placement on their blogs to increase their profits.
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As a side note, what I have noticed about Christmas ads this year is that most of them are in your face, hard sell, bargain ads - buy, buy, buy.  I have yet to see a really good institutional ad meant to arouse emotions and foster a feel-good holiday mood.  It seems to me Americans - religious or not - are more consumer driven than ever - in the middle of such a severe economic downturn no less.  Looks like greed to me.

18 comments:

  1. In Germany, it seems every other beer brand has a monk on it, even in still=heavily-Catholic Bavaria. Actually, especially there. One beer company (Erdinger, I think)even has "exclusive rights" or something to sell "Pope Benedict XVI Weizenbier", with a picture of "Papa Ratzi" smiling warmly.

    I don't know if it's the Holy Father's brand of choice, though, but I do know he likes Weizenbier.

    Some people just really need to worry about other things. Love the "donate" button.

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  2. This post was brought to you by the fine folks at Essenbahn Strong Golden Ale.

    (I thought the ad was funny - and this post gave me the opportunity to use it)

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  3. I've always thought the hanging of crosses on the rearview mirror and the pasting of fish symbols on bumpers were advertising religion myself. The whole 'do business with a fellow Christian' campaign with Christian Yellow Pages and so forth is a bit elitist at the very least.

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  4. To take it one step further re: Catholic groups/comunities using logos/marketing strategies, I sometimes get the feeling certain new communities have this kind of thing going on...advertising; pushing an "image"; being almost like the "cream of the crop" while the rest of us "losers", small, poor, obscure and not "with it" have to settle for KMart or the Dollar Store.
    Me? I don't give a rat's behind. Let 'em have the attention and adulation of the crowds.
    Because sooner or later (and sooner it has been in some circumstances it as been).
    I want no part in marketing, logos,
    being pasted on a race car (!).
    Let them do what they do; not all of us are impressed.

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  5. Anonymous4:53 PM

    Mr. Nelson - why do you pick on Fr. Z all of the time? Are you envious that he is a priest and you can't be?

    Anonymous Priest

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  6. I guess I don't think religious symbols on a trademark or label are necessarily bad. I always liked the Blue Nun wine label. That, and the monks on the beer bottles, seem to refer back to a day when monasteries and convents did their own brewing, made sacramental wine, and were known for herb gardens and natural medicine. Think Brother Cadfael. Maybe it's sometimes affectedly quaint, but then so are a lot of things. Of course if the religious picture is used in a disrespectful way, that's another story.

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  7. I'm with you on over-sensitivity to cultural irreverence, but are you suggesting that monks should not use religious imagery (even their own images) to promote their own products?

    Also, what is wrong with a blogger promoting such products. I'm delighted to promote Mystic Monk Coffee on my blog. It's an excellent product and it gives a lot of satisfaction to be involved, if only in a very small way, in the work of the Carmelite Monks of Wyoming and the building of a great new monastery.

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  8. Do you think that "anonymous priest" was Fr. Z himself? I don't think he himself would say something that silly to be honest. I'd assume Fr. Z himself has a sense of humor and could take a joke.

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  9. I forgot my Advent rule - I'm not reading or responding to comments until Sunday. Since that won't work...

    Fr. Anonymous - I don't pick on Fr. Z. The answer to your 2nd question is - I don't think so.

    Daniel - no, I'm not suggesting monks or religious should not use religious imagery for advertising.

    Mercury - I doubt Fr. Z would ever say anything like that - I believe he does have a great sense of humor and a very thick skin.

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  10. Many religious communities do make and sell products. There may be a history of that, particularly like the monks and nuns who brew their beer or make their own bread - as a business, even. Yet the REAL problem - i think - is when the business has gone into partnership with with non-religious groups that the religious character of the "business" is questionable. I have seen a certain Trappist milk ad misleadingly imply that buying Trappist milk can support the Trappists, as if giving a donation. The fact is that the Trappists own very little of the company now and their share of the profit is their rightful share, not a donation.

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  11. You've got it 'in' for Father John Abberton, havent you? Nasty. I am watching you.

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  12. Shadow - it isn't quite like that. But I do find the goings on to be curious. Obviously you received a first draft of a post I'm working on, which I mistakenly published rather than saved it to drafts.

    Br. William - I have no issue with religious groups supporting themselves or whatever business they happen to be in through clever marketing or whatever industry they engage in.

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  13. +JMJ+

    I remember a restaurant advertising their annual menu adjustment for Lent--some fish steak--with the slogan, "And they say that Lent is the season for sacrifice."

    PS--We all know that "Fr. Anonymous" is really the lady commenter who leaves a different name each time, right?

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  14. Hi E! I miss you. Do you think Fr. A is her?! I love conspiracies.

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  15. I think the anonymous poster is Keyser Söze.

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  16. I think it's Bishop Williamson of the SSPX, but he says it's the Jews ...

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  17. It was Julian Assange, he's such a troublemaker.

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Please comment with charity and avoid ad hominem attacks. I exercise the right to delete comments I find inappropriate. If you use your real name there is a better chance your comment will stay put.