Let me give some marketing advice to organised religion…
I remember getting into trouble when I was at school, like when I was maybe 9 or 10.
We were in Religious Instruction, and the volunteers from Church were going on about Easter, telling the story about the crucifixion and the resurrection.
All fair enough.
But at some point, I asked, so where do the rabbits and the eggs come into it?
I wasn’t trying to be cheeky. I was genuinely curious. I was genuinely interested in everything they were saying, but I just couldn’t see where rabbits and eggs and hot-cross buns were going to fit into this picture.
I presumed they were there for a reason. I wanted to know what it was.
But no. I got in trouble. I got told off. I think she actually told me to stop being cheeky.
(Seriously, I really gave school a chance. But there’s got to be a better way…. Maybe it’s better now.)
And I guess I just felt the confusion that most kids with a religious upbringing feel. We’re commemorating the Light of the World being nailed to a cross and murdered by eating chocolate eggs that were supposedly left for us by a magical rabbit.
No, no. Makes total sense.
And I get that modern life is the bastard child of religious colonialism and pagan cultural practices. I get that.
But kids have no capacity to understand that.
And so of course the poor buggers are confused. We celebrate the most significant moments in the life of a middle eastern Jew with a magical rabbit and a fat man from the north pole.
Seriously, as cute as these traditions are, we’re planting ridicule in the minds of children that is bound to surface at some point.
Sooner or later, they’re going to feel the confusion, and doubt everything about the whole story.
And so little wonder that religion is in decline – at least statistically speaking.
So I’m in marketing. Let me give some branding advice to organised religion.
First, you’ve got to push-back harder against the commercialisation of your traditions. Your traditions are your brand. They’re your stories. They’re the access points for how people understand you.
But right now, it’s like the world has free license to slap whatever meaning they want on to ‘the message of Christmas’ or whatever.
I get that it helps spread a beautiful message by enabling people to pick up the ball and run with it, but you’re paying a heavy price for a bit of brand recognition support.
I mean, imagine if I wanted to use the Nike symbol on an event I was doing. I could tell them, hey, it’s great for you guys. People will have more awareness of your brand.
To which they would say, you’ll be hearing from our lawyers dickhead. Brand awareness is great, but only when we control the message. We’re not letting any random idiot come up with their own interpretation of what our brand means.
But this is exactly what religion does. The modern Santa Clause was developed by Coke. And so the brand message is confused, contradictory, and clearly co-opted to serve corporate interests.
Hardly the foundations of faith.
The other thing I’d say is have a little confidence.
I know you guys went hard on the whole guilt thing. It tapped into a cultural mindset and gave you moral power – You should go to church and give us money, because Jesus died for worthless tight-arses like you.
But that only works when people are subservient. Subservience is so 19th century.
People need to see what it’s in it for them.
But luckily there’s so much to celebrate about the message of Christ. It gives so much. At it’s heart its empowering and life-affirming. In fact, contrary to what I was told in school, I’m pretty sure Jesus never said don’t touch yourself and never talk back to your mother.
His message wasn’t one of control, but of total freedom.
It was one about living with such beautiful intensity, such ferocity of mission, that being nailed to a cross was a small price to pay.
Easter should be a time of celebrating that most beautiful of human instincts – sacrifice. The ability to sacrifice yourself for something beautiful, something you truly believe in.
Everything beautiful in the world comes from this most beautiful instinct.
The instinct that was perfected in the Christ, and the Passion.
From a branding perspective, there is so much to work with.
So drop the chocolate and the toys. You might think you’ll lose the kids, but the kids are more capable of appreciating beauty than you think.
Oh, and celebrate the curious and inquisitive kids. You’ve got nothing but sheep without them.
Have a great Easter everyone.