In the comments of an earlier post Nathan complained when I called the missionary efforts of the church “marketing”. He voiced the feelings I imagine many people have about marketing by saying among other things:
I’m not one of those who disdain marketing and commerce; I think they are good, solid, honorable Terrestrial pursuits. But I do think that the gospel belongs to a higher plane.
Unlike Nathan, I believe the principles of marketing are so fundamental that even God uses them. I believe that God is indeed a marketer.
First, we should go back to Marketing 101 and discuss the Four P’s that make up marketing:
Product. What is the product or service? How does it meet the needs or wants of people? How can it be improved to better meet those needs/wants?
Placement. How will the product or service be made available to the people? What is the distribution method?
Promotion. How will you make people aware of this product or service? How will you help people understand its desirable and helpful characteristics?
Price. What is the cost of the product or service? What price must people pay to get it.
That is it. Marketing is not just one of these things (like promotion) but all of them.
So let’s look at how these basic principles apply to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints:
The service the Church provides to humankind (Product)
The first thing to recognize about this service is that God is the originator and provider of it. He has created and instituted an organization to bring about his goal: To bring to pass the exaltation of as many people as possible. Exaltation of course is exactly what people deeply need and want so that part cannot be improved on. The Lord’s strategic plan is to get as many people as possible to freely choose to join the organization and then follow the instructions taught therein until they receive that exaltation.
In terms of what can be improved on, there are some things. God runs this organization by delegation to servants here and those servants, while usually trying hard, do make occasional mistakes. I believe the best way to improve the service is to improve communication between God and the church members at every level of the church. We’ve discussed that already here.
Distribution of this service (Placement)
Distribution has been a major problem for the Church through most of the history of the earth. In order to join the church one must have access to it. Only now in the last several decades is that possible for most of the earth. Every country the Church gains access to increases the placement/distribution. The goal of the church is to have placement/distribution in every nation of the earth. The work for the dead is also a major part of God’s distribution plan.
Sharing/promoting the restored Church (Promotion)
How do we make people aware of the benefits of membership? God himself handles all the actually effective promotion through the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless He expects us to help bring people to the point where they sincerely ask him for such manifestations. What do we do? Well, we try mobilizing a massive grass roots word of mouth program. The Church focuses much of its promotional effort on press and other PR activities (like a large church-owned university or two for instance). The organization also utilizes some limited paid advertising campaigns. We also have a large and visible sales force deployed throughout the world and membership in the Church continues to be accepted a steady rate.
The cost of discipleship/membership (Price)
This is not something we have control over. Christ sets the price of membership and we simply try to show that the benefits of membership in His church far outweigh the costs. The price is a major barrier for most people though. Despite the astonishing benefits of membership, there is no denying that in the long run the price to us is also very high. The long term cost involves giving up everything that the Lord has given us, including all of our time, talents, and resources. (Of course for that price because He offers everything he has in return).
What do you think about marketing and the Gospel? Is God a marketer or not?