Recently there have been a number of firms voluntarily restricting their marketing activities to kids. The driver behind self-regulation is the recognition that children are easily misled by advertising and “authority.” In short, they are gullible and wide-open to marketing messages*. And obviously it is not right for large organisations to exploit this.
Advertising to children is appropriate, only when it is conducted in an environment that supports the parental role, or where the child has reached an age of cognisance and reason, which is now generally accepted as eight years.
However some organisations just can’t resist the urge and are happy to market ruthlessly to young people. And we let them get away with it…
Churches are the original masters of harnessing emotional benefits in exchange for cash and consideration (they also were the first to work out franchising). So we brand marketers can learn a lot from them. Take a look at this brilliant – and unethical – marketing from All Saints church in St Peters, Petersham (Sydney).
This church has no shame. But they are smart marketers – just look at the clever way they are doing their recruitment.
- PLAYTIME: A ministry for PRESCHOOL KIDS (yes, a “ministry”)
- CLUB WOW: A ministry for KIDS IN YRS 4-6
- SALT: A ministry for HIGH SCHOOLERS
Because this church is deliberately setting up a well-targeted campaign to catch and funnel children at preschool age through a series of “ministries.” And their intent is very clear. Their church bulletin
tells of their kids’ ministry: The over all message of these stories has been Jesus loves the children and they need to follow Him.
If Cadbury had advertised to a similar age group and suggested that the kids need to buy Freddo Frogs (and on pain of eternal damnation), there would be uproar because KIDS are susceptible to this kind of message. The will BELIEVE more readily than adults. Which of course is why the All Saints marketing is so wickedly well planned.
Back to the funnel. Once the littlies are in the swing of “following him,” they can be shepherded (i.e. like SHEEP) through the different stages of continued brainwashing
ministry – through CLUB WOW and then to SALT. In marketing terms – the perfect brand funnel. By the time the kids get to SALT, they start recruiting
And if you doubt how business like churches can be, take a look at their business plan, from the December church bulletin. It could be straight from a marketing textbook:
Their mission – to RECRUIT (seek and save) and then to develop brand LOYALTY over time by networking and repetition (Strengthen Faith). And they link this all to a higher purpose – a VISION of service to the church (INCOME) and community (VISIBILITY and…. RECRUITMENT).
This is really quite an excellent summary of how churches manage to codify and repeat a process to keep themselves alive – and all despite all of the normal challenges of running a business. It’s especially good when you consider that the brand benefit they are promising is intangible and only accessible beyond your death, and the premium price they are asking is a 10% tithe from your gross income! Nice work….
You may have noticed that the noticeboard also advertises “LEARN ENGLISH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE… contact the minister” – which is another example of great targeting. I would imagine that someone arriving in Sydney, and with limited friends or family to connect with, would be an ideal target for recruitment too.
Hats off to these guys – they are marketing masters. I just wish they’d leave the kids alone. Adults can make up their own mind, but the littlies should be able to live without a business model forced on them.
*Richard Dawkins suggests the predisposition of children to obey and believe authority figures may be due to an evolutionary advantage picked up by children; i.e. if they “do what they are told” (as opposed, say, to ignoring parents or authority figures and subsequently being eaten or falling off a cliff). He also considers child-indoctrination into religion a form of child abuse.