5 Marvel Marketing Tips

Subtitle: What the Avengers can Teach Churches about Marketing

Ok, full disclosure…I’m a comic book geek. I know Captain America and Iron Man from when they shared Tales of Suspense and I still yell out “There’s Stan Lee!” when I see the Marvel Mogul in any TV show or movie. I admit to my geekiness but it wasn’t just comic book nerds that went to this opening weekend. What marketing lessons can church leaders learn from the box-office frenzy that is Marvel’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron at the box office?

movies-avengers-age-of-ultron-ew-coverAs you can imagine, Marvel (an LLC owned by Disney since 2009) is a marketing machine. Marvel rose above its comic book competitors with superior marketing before being acquired by Disney. Now with Disney, one of the greatest marketing companies in the world, behind the Marvel characters they no longer just target only hard-core comic geeks. No, their target is world domination (cue evil villain laugh Mwuhahahahaa!) Ok, I promised marketing lessons for churches.

Let’s look at the way Marvel marketed this Avengers sequel as part of their BIG-picture plan to market all their films…and look at how we can apply these techniques to church marketing.

1. Marvel got “non-comic geeks” excited about these movies.

My wife and daughters are not comic fans but they are as excited about this movie as I am. Moviegoers don’t have to be comic readers to enjoy Marvel movies. Their story lines we beautifully lifted from classic comic book moments but if you didn’t know that, the stories are easily understood and explained. Bottom line, you don’t have to be a comic book insider to enjoy!

If you look at the trailers, posters and other marketing pieces, you almost forget The Avengers are from a comic book. Marvel is advertizing a movie to any moviegoer who enjoys Action/Adventure pictures. That is a key for churches when marketing, target the general public in your area, not just church people.

Marvel Marketing Tip #1: Create Marketing for People Who Are Not Already Fans

2. Marvel put the right people in the right roles.

One reason for this movie’s wide audience is the quality of actors cast. There is star power in the leading roles, Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), Chris Evans (Captain America) etc. etc. That is expected in a blockbuster movie.

What is more amazing is the Academy Award quality in minor or supporting roles: Gweneth Paltrow (Iron Man’s assistant/girlfriend), Anthony Hopkins (Odin: Thor’s Dad), Natalie Portman (Thor’s girlfriend), and Samuel Jackson (Nick Fury).

Marvel Marketing Tip #2: Create Roles for People To Widen Appeal

When possible, leverage star power. The impact a quote from a local celebrity or a 15 second spot from a well-known guest speaker will draw people who would never be interested other wise. A testimony service from heavy metal legend Brian ‘Head’ Welch of Korn remains one of our churches biggest days.

Last thought on this…marketing doesn’t end at the front door, put quality people in support roles such as usher or café server to ensure people get a quality experience.

Beyond the celebrity drawing power, people must identify with your people. Ask some questions about whom you’ve ‘cast’ to represent your chfireproofurch. Is everyone in your marketing material a nicely dressed, thin, white, 30-something? Does your church look like that? More importantly does your city look like that? This isn’t about celebrity as much as having ‘characters’ people can identify with.

For example: Iron man is a flawed man. He has pride, daddy issues, a complicated relationship with his love interest, health concerns, and trouble getting along with others. To target real people, use people they identify with in marketing images and issues people identify with as topics.

3. Every movie has teasers about the next one.

One of my favorite things to do with my youngest daughter is to hang around the theater after the movie ends to wait for the teaser at the ending credits! This gets us thinking (and talking) about the next Marvel movie!

For example, two of the characters in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, were revealed in a post-credits scene from Captain America: The Winter Soldier two years ago! I remember explaining to my family who they were including that Magneto from the X-men franchise was their father.

There are some teasers during the films themselves also. In Iron Man 2, Agent Coulson hands Iron Man a half-constructed shield that would later become Captain America’s shield alluding to an upcoming Cap film.

Marvel Marketing Tip #3: Find creative ways to give information about upcoming services or events.

When I send out a mailer advertizing a special service, I try to have a ‘bounce-back’ event included, like a guest speaker. An example of this was Brian ‘Head’ Welch, mentioned earlier, was a January event advertized on our Christmas mailer. We also made it a big deal during the Christmas services to say ‘mark your calendars’ and to show a 30 second teaser commercial. It can be as simple as announcing your new comers gathering on Easter. Leaking info about an upcoming event is a great way to get them to come back and Marvel knows it.

4. Marvel Merchandises EVERYTHING.

Marvel will make millions at the box office, but they will also make millions more from merchandise affiliated with the Avengers. There are action figures, toys, video games, posters, collectables, lunch boxes, clothing, and partnership deals with places like Subway. This is an area where Marvel has always outshined their comic book competitors but now that Disney, the best in the world at affiliated merchandizing, owns them, you see Marvel products EVERYWHERE.

Marvel realizes that the residual money from this kind of marketing can outsell even the biggest blockbuster’s ticket sales. What does this mean to churches? We aren’t merchandising products to get more money.

Marvel Marketing Tip #4: Use merchandizing to keep your church in people’s minds.

A pen with your churches name and website will be found in a purse a month later. A free mug is a reminder to get back to church with their morning coffee. A T-shirt can be a conversation starter for a long-time member who is shy about sharing their faith.

5. Marvel Announces release dates way in advance.

Marvel has told us there are at least two more Avengers films, a two-part series called Infinity War, (They revealed the villain Thanos in one if those teasers). The next Avengers releases in 2018 (yes, 3 years from now), with the second part coming in 2019. Leading up to these films, Marvel has: Captain America: Civil War in 2016, with Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and Thor: Ragnarok both in 2017. People are talking about them now because Marvel announces dates well ahead of time.

Marvel Marketing Tip #5: Get important dates into people’s hands early, and in writing.

Don’t assume people know the dates or times! Ok, we may know that Christmas is December 25th each year but what time is the Christmas Eve service? Easter? Forget about it, they move the date every year! In your announcements, mailers, TV commercials, newspaper ads…PLEASE put the dates and times on them. The most effective marketing I’ve done is to hand out invite cards to our people with the dates and times to give to friends.

A big opportunity churches miss is to have a countdown. Marvel is great at saying “Three days until the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes hit the screen near you.” Count down to your big days on your website or in your marketing. A mailer that says “Easter is less than two weeks away” grabs attention better than “This Easter come to Church XYZ”.

In closing, when we are looking at marketing churches we should look at companies that understand how to put butts in the seats. Marvel is certainly good at that. I hope these ‘marvelous’ tips (I couldn’t resist.) will help us all market more effectively to grow our churches and ultimately touch more lives for Christ.

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House of Praise webTV

Well it’s finally here.  The House of Praise will begin broadcasting our service LIVE tomorrow at 10:00am.  (Feb. 14, 2010) Why are we doing this?  So we can feel important?  No.

We use any means we can to get the teachings of Jesus Christ to people.  We use creative means to portray illustrated sermons, everything from cars on stage to the pastor dressing up like Mr. Rogers and singing the theme song.  We hand out notes each service to allow people to review the teaching later at home or share it with a friend.  We record the sermons and make them available on CD or in a podcast.  Now we’re actually broadcasting the service free on the web. (www.houseofpraise.cc)  Web broadcast is just a natural step in sharing God’s word anyway we can.

While there is something special about the dynamic that happens when we gather together (Hebrews 10:24-25), it is our hope that when someone is home sick, or snowed in they will still be able to participate in worship and hear the teaching on the webcast.  One of the great things about this is we can all tell our friends that might be a little apprehensive about coming to church, “Check the service out on-line before you come in person.  Then you’ll know what to expect.” Wow ain’t technology grand? lol

Oh, by the way, if you miss the live broadcast or 10am is just too early.  The last 10 services will be archived, watch them when you have time.

It is our prayer that many people who aren’t ready to attend a church or who simply miss a service for whatever reason will be blessed by this new resource.

Presenting the Gospel in a Visual Society

We opened with a 10 minutes drama of people’s different fears, death, public speaking, heights, snakes, drowning etc. I’m so proud of our creative and drama teams! It was awesome. I think the sermon was very well received also.  Were the drama and message effective?  Well, 2 people gave their lives to the Lord for the 1st time!

I loved the drama opening for the sermon but that sort of thing always brings questions into some observers mind. “Why do we need all those lights?” or “Is this just a show?”

Why do we use drama, video, decorations, give aways etc. to present the gospel?  It’s because we live in a visual society.  We are trying to reach a generation raised on television, movies, graphic design and the web.  Most of their classes in school will suppliment the teacher’s lecture with videos and Internet information.  Does this water down the gospel? No.

Presenting the gospel with more than words isn’t something new.  Jesus used imagery such as a “camel passing through the eye of a needle” and “a sower who planted seed.”  No, presenting the truths of the Kingdom of God in a visually stimulating medium isn’t a new idea or even’s man’s idea.  Jesus was doing it thousands of years ago.

The key is using the visual presentation to reinforce the message or present the message in a different way but the message never changes!!  It’s still that we are all depraved sinners worthy of judgment and damnation but God loved us so much that He sent Jesus to horribly suffer taking our punishment, then die, rising again to bring us the impossible reward of eternal bliss in heaven.

We will use the methods that will reach the audience but always remember to keep the message the same, we need Christ and thankfully He wants us.

Knowing What to Expect

On Easter this year we did something different.  We didn‘t do anyting different.  No Easter play, no choir robes, no lillies, just our normal service.  I told our over 20 1st time guest and dozens of occasionaly attenders why.  “I want you to see what this church is all about each week in the hope that you’ll come back.”  I continued, “We’re not just going to do a great show on Easter and let you be disappointed next time you’re here!  The same music, teaching style and welcoming atmosphere will be here every time you come.”

I hope this approach also made out members and regular attenders feel encouraged.  They know that any week they invite their friends to church that they can expect a few things to happen.

  • Their friends will be made to feel welcomed
  • The music will be off the chain!
  • The teaching will apply to their lives.
  • It will NOT be boring. (We use creative methods and humor.)
  • God will meet with them.

Do you clearly communicate to your friends and family what they can expect when they come to church?  Can they look at your life and know what to expect from Christianity.  Talk to people.  You’ll be very surprised at what they think is going to happen if they follow God.

Check out: http://www.houseofpraise.cc/whattoexpect.html

Things Learned from Made to Stick

Why do we remember the details of a funny or gross story yet have trouble remembering information that is vital to us?  The reason is the “stickiness” of the idea.  I recently read a book called Made to Stick.  It’s a marketing book by Chip and Dan Heath.  I thought I’d share some insights on making the gospel stick.

Simplicity is Sticky – We must answer the question, “How do I communicate my idea in a one-sentence proverb?”  The more complicated something is the more easily it’s forgotten, so “What can be stripped off the idea?  Sticky Ideas are Compact AND contain the Core of the idea. – Shorter sentences, less words are important to be remembered but not if the core of the idea isn’t communicated.  The most sticky ideas do both by communicating the core of the idea in a compact form, such as in a proverb.

To be Sticky, Use Unexpected Twists – Surprise is good but what is better is generating curiosity and increased interest.  This can be accomplished by generating gaps in people’s knowledge then filling those gaps.

Use Everyday Items to Create Clear Images in People’s Minds – Example: 37 grams of fat in a tub of popcorn means nothing to most consumers but saying, “This popcorn has the same fat as these three meals.” While showing a table filled with bacon & eggs, a McDonald’s Big Mac meal and a steak dinner is a clear message.   A Concept becomes Stickier When Tied to an Idea We Already Know.  Instead of giving a stream of data to be memorized using a well-known schema increases stickiness.  Example: a pomelo is a tangy, citrus fruit, with a yellow to pink flesh and a soft rind is much harder to remember or even comprehend than a pomelo is a super-sized grapefruit with a soft rind.

Avoid the Uncertainty Paralyses – In a study people were asked if they would go a on trip to Hawaii after a huge final exam that was important to their future.  They could buy the tickets and go, not go or pay $5 to hold tickets price for 2 days.  If the participants knew they passed the majority would go to Hawaii as a reward, if the participant of the study knew they failed, the majority still said they would go to cheer themselves up but if they wouldn’t know the outcome of the exam for 2 days, the majority would pay the $5 and wait for the exam outcome.  This doesn’t make sense since most would go whether they passed or failed.  The only explanation is caught up in uncertainty people postpone action.

Sticky Ideas Command Attention – The biggest problem of communication is getting and keeping people’s attention.  To create an idea that sticks, this issue must be overcome.

Invoking Self-Interest in How You Present Your Idea Makes It Stick. – You can do ____________ in five days with our program.  Sales people have learned this by emphasizing the benefits over the features.  “You’ll have the best looking lawn in your neighborhood.” sells more than, “Our seed is guaranteed to be 90% weed free and to grow quickly.”

Avoid The Curse of Knowledge – Knowing to much causes people to want to share it.  Instead of focusing on 1 or 2 key points they speaking gives massive amounts of information and the listeners remember none.  It’s like trying to get a drink out of a fire hose.  It’s more effective to use stories and engage people’s emotions.

Let’s all examine our presentation of the gospel and our church vision by seeing if we’ve presented in a way that sticks.

 

Creative Church Conference – Part 2

The church should be the most creative entity on the planet!  Not Hollywood, not Silicon Valley, not the Times Best Sellers but the church of Jesus Christ.  After all we serve the one who invented creativity!  He is the only one who can create something from nothing.  He is the only one who ever had a new idea. Today Ed Young Jr. told us that children score off the charts on the creativity aptitude tests when they are under 5 but as soon as they start school it quickly drops.  Creativity is replaced with rules for how to play, when to sit, techniques for math and writing.  It’s not that education is bad; it’s that learning best works through repetition.  Repetition stifles creativity.

Romans 12 teaches us not to be squeezed into the world’s mold.  There is no right or wrong way to “do church”.  Jesus communicated in creative, illustrated ways.  He held up a little child and taught us how to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  This upset the religious people of their day.  Why because they had forgotten about making the truths of God simple to understand and easy to apply to one’s life.  It is the same today.  If you use creative communication techniques people will accuse you of being a “performance church” instead of seeing that more people understand the word of God that is being taught than before.

One of the main themes of the Creative Church Conference (C3) was that mature people reproduce.  Think of it, people are born, grow up, get married and then have babies.  The immature or babies don’t reproduce.  If you’re church isn’t birthing new babies in the kingdom then maybe it isn’t as mature as you think.

Spiritual babies say, “I’m just not being fed.”  A person can be a Christian for 20 years but if all they care about is hearing a new twist on a scripture they haven’t heard before, they are self-centered babies when they should be healthy, reproducing adult believers.  Ed talked further about church’s that were meant to hospitals where babies are born of hurting people are helped have been turned into discriminating restaurants where food critics sample morsels and critique the good food being served.

As communicators of God’s all powerful word we must never bend to the pressure to cater to those who are hearers only and not doers of the word.  We will continue to use every creative method we can to help people grasp and apply the word of God to their life.

Creative Church Conference

I am excited to be going to the Creative Church Conference (C3) regional at Northway Church in Clifton Park.  I’ve been to the C3 in Dallas for the last three years and always feel it’s so impacting for our ministry.  I’ve heard Ed Young, T.D. Jakes, Erwin McManus, and Perry Noble to name a few.  I can honestly say that these conferences have changed the way I “do” church. 

I’ve always believed that church should be fun.  That was our theme as the Children’s Pastors at Mt. Zion Ministries and now as the Lead Pastors at House of Praise we think adults should enjoy church also.  It’s much deeper than that though.  By using creative ways to illustrate sermons, we give people greater retention of the word of God that is being preached.

We use art, dance, music, video, costumes, decorations, give-aways, drama, costumes and games to help people visualize and remember what is taught.  For example:  When I taught on Small Groups a couple years ago, we called it “Honey I Shrunk the Church” and decorated the sanctuary with giant pencils, crayons, and a laundry line that had enormous t-shirts and socks on it.  Years later when I ask people about it they still remember “we grow larger by getting smaller” and that it was about small groups.  If remembering the word of God is your goal, Creative Sermons work!

Back to the C3 regional…Ed Young is taking his show on the road to Capital District, specifically the Northway Church.  Think about it 500 leaders from churches around the Northeast meeting to learn how the church can be more creative in presenting the message of Jesus Christ.  I can’t wait!