Columns

Hard life, strong faith

Franklin Johnston

Friday, September 28, 2012    

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There is an inverse relationship between faith and prosperity. We never had prosperity, but as life gets harder faith seems stronger. I sometimes feel there is a conspiracy to keep us away from prosperity. Sadly, we can only imagine how prosperity might affect faith. Still, faith is not inert or derivative. Jesus, the father of modern marketing, does not come across as business-minded, yet he spawned the largest consumer empire ever. He was Jewish, itinerant, could reason, maybe not read, a colonial subject; his people had been slaves, were transported across Mesopotamian empires and had dreams of a permanent state as all uprooted people do. They were flexible, resilient survivors who lived with their dreams of a Messiah - sounds familiar? Only those at the bottom expect a Messiah. The powerful have no such dreams - they rule! If you read Levantine history it is easy to understand the Bible and the people who wrote it. It is a wonderful book. To survive as a persistent underdog you have to win people, to market, and Jesus could market. At the start of his campaign Jesus trained a cadre of 12 associates - they delivered. Jesus may have invented the impromptu street sales meeting and the boat sales outings on Galilee. He may be credited with the master sellers awards banquet from which we derive the first principle of Eutychus: "When you dine with wine never sit near windows". There is also the "Nicodemus principle" which is: "What you buy and sell after dark can hurt you".

The market reach of Christianity was such that within a few centuries it had conquered the known world. Levantine faith was the powerhouse which lit the world and Jesus the brightest star in its firmament. How Europe captured Christianity is a marketer's tale of mainstreaming the marginal. It is so successful that most people think of Christianity as the white man's faith. Perverse and foolish!

Scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic in New York have found answers to a big marketing issue. To take over a population, you need only win over ten per cent. Using computer models they found as long as an idea remains below 10 per cent it will never be dominant, but after ten it may be unstoppable. Christianity was in stasis for centuries, but by 600 CE it was dominant. I was shocked to discover the USSR was only about 11 per cent Communist in the 60s and Nazis were less than 12 per cent of the German people. Yet they ruled; they were dominant.

St Paul was a good marketer. He pioneered the overseas sales trip and sales convention, in addition to the elegant Mediterranean sales cruise. He established the first multinational with integrated branch operations; later copied by Levantine bankers and insurers. His management letters were guidance to branch and territory managers, long, mostly boring epistles, but useful as all CEO memos. Jesus would not have set up branches. He was Jewish to the core; the Temple was his centre and knew you could not bring people back to the true and living God by moving to a new building after every challenge.

In the panoply of faiths, the Abrahamic ones are the marketers - well, most. The Jews were good, but not inclined, and none better than Christians - of course, all early Christians were Jews. The great ancient faiths Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism are not market oriented. They are self-assured like good W and N aged rum - want quality? Seek and you will find!

The seminal question in marketing is how to leverage a product so it becomes an item. This is the holy grail for a marketer. What is the tipping point into revenue positive free fall? Gladwell is useful, the Bible is good and Rensselaer says get 10 per cent and you are off. You choose. Today the commercial is gaining momentum over social marketing of Christianity.

MERCHANDISE is a strong element. Jesus did not invent the cross, but cases before the European Court says people will die for the right to wear designer crosses - not for Jesus. Steal a man's gold cargo and "he will shot yu!" Is dancehall bling religious? The merchandise of Christianity is massive. TITHING is now at industrial strength. The insistence of some parsons is akin to extortion. More is spent on vanity buildings than God's work and drives the need for tithes. THE OFFICE "blessing Bessy" is now a feature. For a feral and murderous nation the blessings are a surprise. The prayer marketer is in offices, football matches, weird signing before and after every race. Who do losers pray to? There are GSAT and CSEC prayers. When George's plays KC where does God sit? Some time ago I was upbraided for starting a meeting without prayers. I figure if you had to wait until 10.00 am to say "Good morning, God" then "Figgat it!" CHRISTIAN DANCEHALL and godly fashionista is now the rage. Is there a line between "Worlian" and Christian or just Jump for Jesus? Money, money!

THE INTERNET is a big market for God. Upload prayers, download blessing. If God had invented it earlier we could have avoided many wars and deaths. But has the marketing gone wrong? I visited an old lady with a photo album of Jesus; the aquiline features, beyond European; blond hair, a nose line you could use to slice paper. When did a brown mixed, Middle Eastern, Hebrew man; hirsute, with stubble and a sensible nose become a shaved, androgynous, Germanic model out of GQ? Can the consumer watchdog sue them for truth in advertising? Is church exempt? How can you trust people who put a lie on paper, carve it in wood and stone, knowing Jesus of Nazareth could not have looked like this? It must have been hell walking around Galilee in the heat and dust with this halo around his head and these rays of light from Dad's starship hovering in the clouds and the fish-and-bread people. He marketed to the end. When our history is written, will faith people be the sheep regularly slaughtered? Collaborators in oppression and lack of prosperity? Will criminals be the revolutionaries who expected more of society and tried to get it? Stay conscious, friend!

JEEP and FIRE HYDRANTS: It is becoming harder to find hydrants. Red is now the most common colour and they blend with every dancehall poster and billboard. Even what is shocking has to be updated. Penis and vagina were once "four letter" words! They are now common. Red hydrants no longer stand out and many have lost parts. Let's change to Caterpillar yellow - check the Pantone swatch. A JEEP paint force should be let loose on them. Stop signs and street signs are also a shambles; let's JEEP them too.

Dr Franklin Johnston is a strategist, project manager and advises the minister of education.

franklinjohnstontoo@gmail.com

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