Few days ago, I received an article from my colleague. It is an old article actually, wrote around 2 years ago. In that article, I read how marketing has been used to promote the Church to be seen more appealing than others.
Churches started applying business-world’s marketing techniques (or secular marketing, refered to by the author) to ‘sell’ their church, and as we all know, the competition between churches start to begin, many marketing tools (especially promotion and communication) have been developed, and even worse, some institutions make ‘religion’ as a business.
I am a marketer, but also a Catholic. From my opinion, marketing has been used unwisely in promoting religions. Marketing should not be used to promote the church, but deeper than that, it should be used to “market” the good values found in a religion. The values of goodwill, helping others, loving thy neighbors, etc are something that should be communicated, and not the physical church itself.
The same ‘disease’ is also happening in the case of Sharia banking in Indonesia. Most of the Sharia banking bodies are strictly communicating Sharia-only values to attract customers, but I believe that to market Sharia (especially in Indonesia), we must communicate the common values that Sharia share with the universal virtues and emphasizing how Sharia is implementing those values sincerely. These virtues include transparency, fairness and honesty. Only by this way that the mass can understand better what Sharia stands for, and not viewing Sharia as something in silo, separated from the common society. This is because in actual fact, Sharia values can and should appeal to Moslems as well as non-Moslems because they are universal virtues.
Moreover, I just learned that in the savvy level, all religions have the same universal values, and that is LOVE. In fact, I have written some books about Compassionate Carketing: Spiritual Marketing and Berbisnis dengan Hati (co-authored with Aa Gym) and Marketing 3.0: Values-Driven Marketing (co-authored with Philip Kotler). The most important message in those books is just one: To Do Marketing with Meaning.
At the end, I have agreed with the author of the article's conclusion, “If we were selling Pepsi, I would tell you to attack Coke. But we are in the business of Christ and His Kingdom, and there is no benefit in smearing one expression of the church to make our version look more appealing to religious consumers”.