Sunday, December 4, 2011

How will your marketing materials be misused in an unat-tract-ive fashion?

A rare Sunday post, for reasons that will become obvious.

Many businesses and organizations produce marketing materials to hand out to clients. In many cases these items are not necessarily controversial in and of themselves, but if they are distributed under certain circumstances, they can become controversial. For example, funeral homes apologize in advance if their marketing materials happen to be received by someone who has just lost a loved one.

Religious organizations often hand out brief marketing messages called tracts. In a sense, they're the Twitter version of a theological discourse, carrying a brief message that closes with something that salespeople refer to as a "call to action." In the case of a Christian tract, that "call to action" is to accept Jesus into your life.

Of course, you need to get the person to look at your marketing material in the first place. Thus, tracts, like any other piece of marketing fluff, are often designed to attract the eye.

And in American culture, one sure-fire way to attract the eye is to design a tract that looks like money. If you're involved in handing out tracts, money tracts can become an important part of your tract ministry.

Of course, there are some legalities to be observed:

For money tracts to be legal to hand out, they need to be no more than 75
percent of the size of a regular dollar bill.

But they certainly can attract attention:

I have been starting out with Giant Money lately in the grocery stores, etc. and people are going crazy! Yesterday I went to this computer store and to my surprise, they were training a new set of employees for a new store they are opening. Wow! I gave away 25 of them. I started at the service desk and asked if they had change for this big money. They all laugh and of course, reached out to get one (it's as if it had a magnet on it)….Managers also ran over to my check out line--they were thrilled to receive big money…people go nuts over it no matter what age they are. They tell me that I made their day and most often say they are going to hang it on their wall. Of course, I must tell them that there is a cool message on it to read during their break so that they won't hang it on their wall before they read it.

It's all right and fine if it's given out under these circumstances. But someone used the fake money in an inappropriate fashion, making it look like real money. As a tip. For a waiter or waitress.

This actually happened. A restaurant worker saw a $10 bill sticking out from underneath a plate.

As a waiter I make $2.65 an hour. I really do live off your genorosity. I'm stoked because I've been saving up for Battlefield 3.

The waiter then discovered that the $10 bill was no more than 75 percent of the size of a regular $10 bill.

I thought it was a pretty good joke and looked around for an actual tip. Nothing.

All salespeople know that you do NOT want to put a potential customer in a bad mood. So you can imagine how the waiter felt when he turned the fake bill over to read a message "Some things are better than money," followed by a reference to John 3:16.

To put it in secular terms, Jesus didn't make this sale.

This particular tract appears to have been printed by, a site which no longer exists. Presumably didn't intend for its tract to be used in this fashion, but the damage has been done. See The Consumerist and its comments, and see Friendly Atheist and its comments.

And incidentally, Battlefield 3 has a suggested retail price of $59.99. Sounds like a good way for restaurant workers who have been stiffed to take out their aggressions.

And that's all I have to say, except for the postscript. And if you're a friendly atheist (or an unfriendly one), I suggest that you skip the postscript.


The postscript is coming...


P.S. As I noted in a Google+ thread on the topic:

This is what happens when you do the work of evangelizing without caring about the people you are evangelizing - in which case, the evangelism is empty.

Along these same lines, Christianity Today published comments from several people regarding the effectiveness, or ineffectiveness, of tracts.
blog comments powered by Disqus