Once upon a time, I was on the public relations career path. I studied Communication in college with this goal in mind, and I even interned as a Public Relations Coordinator for the Girl Scouts. I got to promote the cookie sale and indulged in far too many samples of the product while I was at it (to this day, I have a hard time looking at a Samoa). After college, I worked at a community college, in the Athletics and Student Events Department, promoting their activities. But in the meantime, I developed a strong desire to teach.
But I’ve retained my interest in public relations, marketing, and publicity. And when I was offered the opportunity to read and review Tim Sinclair’s book about marketing Jesus to our consumer culture, Branded, I looked forward to brushing off some old skills and seeing how they integrated with my faith.
Sinclair is a radio personality on a Christian morning show as well as a marketer who helps companies brand themselves. He has a strong understanding of the market forces that shape consumer purchases and applies this to evangelism for Christ.
I read the book, pen always in hand, because I was constantly finding thoughtful points, things I wanted to return to and dwell on more. Sinclair has a good grasp of the one liner, good quips for radio talking points, such as: “People are like tea bags. You find out what’s really inside when you put them in hot water” (original source unknown). Or in the case of marketing Christianity, “the product isn’t the problem” (the marketers are).
Sinclair brings a lot of contemporary examples of commercials and ad campaigns that are resonating with today’s consumer and discusses what that might mean for a Christian trying to “sell” Christ to a disinterested public. Unfortunately, he spends far too much time discussing the secular ad campaigns and too little on how we Christians can apply the lessons learned from their success. But I see a lot of room for discussion here, in a Bible study setting, for readers to figure out how to apply this in their own efforts at evangelism.
My other main beef with the book is its lack of organization. I admit, I’m a bit fussy about it (just ask my composition students), but I like to follow an author’s train of thought more easily. There are so many tangents and alternate topics that I got lost at times as to the main point of the chapter. But the tangents were actually quite interesting, so I didn’t get too mad at him. For example, the last chapter is really amazing, but it has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the book. It’s about tearing down our comfort zones for Christ, and the questions he asks are extremely challenging and worthwhile to consider.
The biggest take-home point from the book, one we should all consider, is how the most successful marketing being done today by the big guns (Apple, Facebook, Amazon) emphasizes the relational and word of mouth promotions. Businesses encourage happy customers to “like” and “share” the company with their friends. And today’s cynical, consumer driven culture, sick of unsolicited and impersonal telemarketer calls, values the personal touch and relationships. These are things Christians can offer. They’re what Jesus offered and taught his disciples to offer.
Our biggest marketing tool is our authentic lives, lived out among non-believers, openly affiliating ourselves with our product, encouraging others to “like” Him as well.
Thanks to Kregel Publications and Litfuse Publicity for the review copy of this book. Purchase your own copy of Sinclair’s book here.