I had a fantastic long lunch celebrating a girlfriend’s birthday at a restaurant cum winebar. The decor is eclectic and the crowd is a nice mix of funky and tourist given the restaurant’s location. As all good Sunday lunches do it started at about 1pm and continued through the lunch crowd, outlasted the pre-dinner drinkers and skirted past the entrees of the evening diners.
The birthday girl selected the wine for us so I didn’t even look at the wine list. However I was definately left with the impression that this venue is really into their wine. Was it the decor which had an obvious ‘grapey’ kinda feel? Was it the fact there were racks and racks of wines around the walls? Well yes that was part of it, but the thing that had the biggest impact on my opinion was the toilets!
This wasn’t one of those high tech toilet experiences that new venues are into now – you know the ones, where you can’t figure out how to flush the toilet or get the water running from the taps. This was your old fashioned simple toilet with the plastic pump pack of handwash. But it was memorable!
In each cubicle, someone with a nice hand had used a black marker to scribe unattributed quotes about wine. Mostly they were funny and I gather from the ones I viewed in the female toilets also took the opportunity to have a dig at the opposite sex. These quotes got us talking at our table, as well as taking our phones to take photos every time we went to the toilet!
Te be effective content doesn’t need to be long winded nor expensive, it just needs to be relevant, memorable and ideally have a captive audience – like the one you find in a toilet cubicle!
Personal blogs are a kind of personal diary, but what about business blogs like this one? Should you tell personal stories? And how personal is too personal? At the risk of crossing the line and in the interests of issuing a fair warning, this post is about a) the passing of my father and funerals, b) his church and organised religion and, c) how the latter uses the former to sell their brands.
You wouldn’t think that funerals would be some kind of competitive sale opportunity but that’s basically what happened just two weeks ago. My dad sadly passed away after a long illness and the funeral was being held in his home town of Santa Cruz in Jamaica, West Indies. As the eldest son it fell to me to make the arrangements and I was surprised to discover that my dad had in the final months of his life become born again. His rediscovery of his faith had apparently given him great comfort and happiness in the late stages of his illness. Dad never did things by halves, and being a man that was very social it amused me that his ability to nurture many simultaneous connections had resulted in no less than two churches and four ministers competing for top billing on his funeral program.
At the funeral the competitive motivation became clearer. Jamaicans are by their nature quite religious and a high percentage of the population of 3 million are regular churchgoers. Dominated by the Protestant brand of Christianity, many people migrate freely from church to church based on whims and personal preferences. It might be the quality of the singing or the strength of the sermonising, but acquisition and churn are firmly in the minds of ministers who rely on donations and legacies for their personal and evangelical survival. Like most communities, there’s also a plentiful supply of lapsed Christians and lifelong heathens from which to draw fresh converts, many of whom only visit churches on such occasions.
Jamaican funerals are highly charged affairs with joyous singing, flowing tributes, scripture readings and thundering sermons. While I still feel up and down most days, I can honestly say that funeral was the most comforting thing I have ever experienced. It was simultaneously a celebration of his life and a promise he was already in a much happier place.
That we could join him in later – if we came to this church too.
Mid way through the funeral it dawned on me that this occasion was not for the grieving family’s comfort alone. The four ministers were out to use the occasion to recruit as many people as possible. Dad was a popular man. He was also loved and respected by his community and over 300 people had crowded into and outside the church to pay their respects. It was this fact and his recent conversion that the ministers seized on. Want people to respect you? Want people to come to your funeral and say nice things? Want to be comfortable with your mortality? Then follow this bloke’s example. The links were clear and shameless.
The use of scripture and allegory would put my best efforts of brand story telling to shame. My dad’s story and the parables of old and new testament, letter to Corinthians and poetic Psalm were woven together perfectly to create a brand experience that was authentic and completely relevant to the captive target sub-audience of elderly attendees. People suggest that the Michelin Guide was the earliest and most successful form of branded content given it’s worth over A$4billion but the Bible beats it hands down. No other single package of content so influences brand behaviour or consumer attitudes better.
Was I being cynical at my own father’s funeral? Right at the end of the sermon the minister asked “those who have not been to this church but who also want to be saved” to raise their hands. A deliberate and impeccably timed call to action, whose follow up began the moment proceedings had ended. I wasn’t cynical, I was impressed.
But didn’t this blatant use of my dad’s funeral upset me? Given my choice of profession perhaps it would be hypocritical if it did. We as marketers take full advantage of births and marriages and other key life stages to sell products and services. The death of an elderly parent who lived a full life, who died peacefully and happily — while a deeply saddening event — is an important life stage we all relate to. And the way the ministers told the story was true, apt and comforting to me so I couldn’t begrudge them.
When I sermonise in my business, haven’t I always preached that as long as you are transparent and honest, and put the needs of the audience first, it’s okay for brands to sell using real stories? My dad was proud of the work I do and the way my company goes about its business. He loved his church and he loved his family so I think he would have been happy the two benefitted from the same occasion. His funereal also reminded me that what I do is nothing new and there are always people I can meet who can show me how to do it better.
Thanks Dad. God bless
I was at a farewell for a friend, I didn’t know many people and was relieved when I saw a guy who looked really familiar. We went through the usual where do you work, where do you live and couldn’t come up with the reason we thought we knew each other. Later on that same night I met this guy’s brother, gee they looked alike!
It was then I realised that it was the 2nd brother who was familiar to me. Once again we went through the where do you work, where do you live line of questioning. We found out that we used to catch the same bus to work, our children went to the same pre-school and we knew people in common. Based on our new found familiarity we happily chatted away for quite a while.
Its funny how we can see faces in the crowd everyday and not register them until we are in a situation where we need to. Content can be a little bit like that.
On some days content is that face in the crowd, you notice it, you might even admire it but you don’t take any action. But on that one critical day when you are in decision making mode, content becomes integral. You’ve seen it a number of times before so there is a certain level of trust. You know where to go to find it so its easy. And when other brands haven’t bothered to make themselves known to you then your decision becomes easy. You gravitate towards the one that is familiar.
So maybe its actually content that breeds familiarity and helps your brand stand out from the crowd.
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