What Business Are You In? Part 1

This weekend I listened to an interview with Roy Spence, author of It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For. Spence is a marketing and communications expert and was part of the team that came up with the slogan “Don’t Mess with Texas.”

The slogan came about when Bob Linear, who was the chairmen of the Texas Highway Commission, asked why they were increasing the budget for litter removal instead of working to reduce litter. Spence’s company pitched the slogan (which, due to its macho tone, was somewhat controversial) to the Highway Commission as part of a broad marketing strategy; litter rates have since gone down in Texas and the slogan has become a culture icon.

According to Spence, the reason the slogan struck such a chord (beyond stereotypical Texas elitism) is that it shifted the conversation. As Spence put it in the interview, instead of trying to sell Texans on changing their behavior the slogan gave them something positive to focus on: “We got out of the litter business and got into the pride business.”

I think one of the reasons some church initiatives fail is because we aren’t clear what business we’re in. Are we sponsoring a program for our own ends, or because we believe we have something worthwhile to offer people? Are we giving them “a positive option?” For instance, if we’re engaging in evangelization just to put people in the pews, we’re going to fail because we aren’t giving people a reason to come, we’re just trying to increase attendance (either for the prestige of our parish or to increase the weekly offering). Why would people want to join an organization that only wants them to fulfill a quota?

Next: What is the business of catechesis?

Photo by Kaleb Fulgham / flickrCC