The limits of selling through God

Sophisticated marketers are targeting African-American churchgoers. By targeting this group, companies reach as many as seven million people every Sunday morning.

by Knowledge@Wharton online
Last Updated: 23 Jul 2013

At first, marketers targeted this segment with products that would have an obvious resonance. Examples include Mel Gibson's film 'The Passion of the Christ' and a book entitled 'The Purpose-Driven Life' marketed by a Christian publishing house.

The author Rick Warren ran a '40 Days of Purpose' campaign, in which he signed up 1200 churches to devote six sermons to the content of the book. Church members also read a chapter every day for 40 days. Warren and his publisher thus created an army of 400,000 'customer evangelists' whose recommendations helped to sell 18 million copies in 18 months, without a national advertising campaign.

More controversially, the Outreach Media Group offered church pastors the chance to win a free trip to London and $1,000 in cash if they mentioned the Disney film, 'The Chronicles of Narnia' in their sermons. Also, Chrysler sponsored gospel singer Patti LaBelle's music tour in churches across the country, in the hope of selling a luxury SUV. Some churches even organised 'ride and drive' events where churchgoers and others could test drive Chrysler vehicles.

However, there are plenty of critics of the new marketing drive into churches who refer people to Jesus's warnings that you cannot serve 'both God and mammon'.

Product placement in the pews? Microtargeting meets megachurches
Knowledge@Wharton online, 15 November 2006 

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

What Lego robots can teach us about motivating teams

People crave meaningful work, yet managers can so easily make it all seem futile.

What went wrong at Debenhams?

There are lessons in the high street store's sorry story.

How to find the right mentor or executive coach

One minute briefing: McDonald’s UK CEO Paul Pomroy.

What you don't want to copy from Silicon Valley

Workplace Evolution podcast: Twitter's former EMEA chief Bruce Daisley on Saturday emails, biased recruitment and...

Research: How the most effective CEOs spend their time

Do you prefer the big, cross-functional meeting or the one-to-one catch-up?

6 rules for leading a remote team

Our C-suite panel share their distilled wisdom.