By: Jake Ramage
(Photo from PublicDomainPictures)
In the age of the internet, clicks mean everything. Using social media is the new standard for marketing and everyone from mom and pop diners to Fortune 500 companies have found their way onto social media platforms all across the world. This boom of social media has made sure that brands and companies constantly try and stay updated on the current marketing strategies that will allow them to create new sales and customers. Businesses are not the only ones hopping onto this trend though, megachurches have also hopped on the digital wave and found a strategy for themselves. This marketing by the megachurches is important to look at for IMC as it is an exceptionally effective way of bringing in new members and could easily be adapted to serve a brand for sales.
This strategy employed by the megachurches is called Devotional-promotional communication campaigns, and is a specially curated marketing strategy that maximizes the amount of new members that come to the church from social media. This marketing strategy draws in people who are looking for spiritual community and salvation and attracts them in from social media. Not only does this bring in new members but also the money that comes in their pockets ripe for donations. This Devotional framework is broken down into three different engagements.
- The brand and the audience.
- The brand and an object.
- The audience and an object.
It’s best to let the experts explain this strategy. Morehouse and Saffer, authors of the Journal of Advertising described it as:
The “object” was originally titled an “object of devotion,” and can be a deity, religion, saint, person, service, or issue. The “object of devotion” is something worthy of devotion that serves as a central feature in both the brand and the audience’s life. Within the context of this study, the “brand” is the church, temple, synagogue, or mosque that is advertising and the “audience” is religious consumers. (Morehouse & Saffer, 2021, 410)
This combination of interactions has proven to be extremely successful for the mega churches. According to CNN “the mega church on average has about $6.5 million in income a year” (CNN, 2010). This staggering figure for a nonprofit organization is built solely on donations from the “audience” or religious consumer who attends these churches and donates as a way to give back. These often questionable megachurches who historically have been linked to scandal and embezzlement are able to bring in such large amounts of donations through the constant search for new members and use devotional-promotional communication campaigns to bring in the new audience.
(Photo from PublicDomainPictures)
The Devotional-promotional communication campaign is extremely relevant in IMC today as it is an effective social media engagement strategy designed to create connections between a brand and audience through a common link. This strategy of linking a brand with an unassociated object could easily be implemented by companies in order to connect them with new customers that are interested in a similar space as what a company is trying to sell. A brand could attach themselves to an object in a person’s life regardless if the connection is real or genuine in order to market towards the audience that engages with that object. Brands already have begun to use this strategy as you see brands such as Tostitos with football themed packaging in order to appeal to football fans even though there is no direct connection between a football fan and a chip company. For the megachurches it’s about getting people in to donate, but for brands making that connection to customers to buy products.
Aspects of this strategy are currently being implemented by other brands but few have exclusively tied themselves to a single object such as the megachurches do. The partnerships between different companies are a start but few brands are willing to go all in on a single object like the churches because faith for many is held above everything else in their life. Because of this extreme devotion to religion people can be blinded, and not able to see what is going on behind the scenes for some of these megachurches. Many brands tend to steer away from marketing towards religion but based on the success of the megachurches it is likely in the near future more brands will try and tie themselves to religion to increase sales.
Marketing is always changing and evolving with different strategies to bring in the most customers and money. With the digital age here to stay it is likely these megachurches will continue to use Devotional-promotional communication campaigns over social media and likely other companies will begin to hop on and try and get a cut of the profits. It is important to really make sure one understands the connections between their “object of devotion” and the brand they are buying into before falling for this marketing scheme. From an IMC perspective successful campaigns such as this are important to watch and monitor as these marketing strategies can be applied to everyday businesses.
CNN. (2010, January 21). Mega churches mean big business. CNN. Retrieved September 17, 2022, from http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/americas/01/21/religion.mega.church.christian/index.html
Morehouse, J., & Saffer, A. J. (2021). Promoting the Faith: Examining Megachurches’ Audience-Centric Advertising Strategies on Social Media. Journal of Advertising, 50(4), 408-420. https://web-p-ebscohost-com.liblink.uncw.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=0&sid=e43de47e-ded3-43b0-a57f-aa72e4233f1f%40redis