Category Archives: Marketing

Real to Reel to Reel too Real

Latest The God Project Dot Net claim proving our utter clinical insanity in a world gone mad: That standard Hollywood screenplay structure as taught at pagan institutions globally is unknowingly soaked, steeped, marinated and architected by none other than the Jesus story as written by those woefully underpaid early screenwriters Mark, Luke, Matthew and John.

Last time we laid out what that screenplay “structure” looks like. Herewith, we present the Gospel parallel:

The New Testament Screenplay Blueprint

3 Acts: Standard Hollywood Structure (SHS) demands three Acts, each of which take place in a different location. Each Act starts at dawn. Act 1 ends up-beat, Act 2 ends down-beat, Act 3 ends up.

The Jesus story has 3 Acts — Act 1 is in Galilee and covers Jesus’ birth and preparation for ministry … Act 2 is outside Galilee in the rural areas as Jesus preaches with his band of sidekicks … Act 3 takes place in Jerusalem and includes his trial and death.

SHS demands an incident at 10 minutes (sometimes called the “Inciting Incident“) that shakes up the routines that have been presented in the opening scenes. Jesus’ birth is the Inciting Incident.

At 20 minutes, there is an important meeting or landing and the formation of the Heroes’ team — Jesus meets John the Baptist, who is his first team member and starts his ministry by baptizing him.

30 — SHS demands an odd mini-war where the Enemy does something evil to raise the stakes. Jesus goes into the desert here and is tempted by Satan (the ultimate Enemy).

Act 2 starts at 40 minutes — Jesus starts his ministry proper here. He’s assembled his 12 core team members (aka disciples). This is the “Love Act” where we slow down and get to like the good guys, seeing them at their best: Jesus turns water in wine, cures sick people, delivers inspiring Sermons on the Mount, etc.

At 60half-way up the mountain! — SHS requires a sudden physical event that amounts to a declaration of open war on the Hero. This is the point when Herod executes John the Baptist. So starts Jesus’ fatal war with the Jewish authorities.

Somewhere before the end of Act 2, SHS asks that the Hero has a kind of “leap of faith” — s/he commits to the journey totally and the ultimate goal becomes clearer. Here is Jesus’ transfiguration when he reveals himself as divine to Peter and James and predicts his own death.

Act 3 begins at 80 minutes — SHS demands a scene change (often at dawn). Jesus goes into Jerusalem on a donkey and will not leave until after his death.

SHS asks for a series of escalating thrusts-and-parries among the Hero and his allies and the Enemy. Jesus complies mightily, taking on the moneychangers, the high priest Caiaphas and the Jewish authorities, and the Romans.

In the midst of the escalating tensions, SHS requires a major Revelation or Betrayal at 90 minutes. One word: Judas.

The ending of the SHS is the most predictable section: a confrontation with the Enemy’s subordinates, the Enemy itself … Jesus’ trials before the Sanhedrin and Pilate are archetypal, as is his Passion (the cross, the flogging, foul language) ….

Here’s where I think the SHS gets most explicitly Biblical. Think about your typical action movie — how Bruce Willis or Rocky or The Rock is physically knocked around almost to the point of death … and at a certain point, they literally almost die. Remember E.T.? He’s dead … No, he’s not!

Parallels with Jesus are obvious. Pay attention next time you’re at the multiplex. See if there aren’t 3 acts — up, down, up. See if there isn’t a major Judas-like Betrayal in Act 3. See if the Hero doesn’t get beaten up (physically and/or emotionally) and “die” … only to rise again!

It’s sort of unsettling if you think about it too much, as we have. Why?

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How God Created Direct Marketing Using the Incredible IBM 650 Series in Rural Wisconsin in the 1960s

On the theme of church and marketing, I recently stumbled across an article from the December 1961 issue of a magazine called Business Automation, courtesy of the superfun retro-modern blog ModernMechanix. It blew what little of my mind is left since I took up boxing to beat the Minnesota winter.

Provocatively titled “Faith, Hope and Computer,” the article featured a photo of an office building at the top of the page with the amusing (to me) caption:

Society of the Divine Savior Data Processing Center

Think Science & Religion are always in conflict? Think again, padres!

Written for geeks rather than believers, the article starts with a bang: “Aided by the most sophisticated use of ultra-modern electronic data processing equipment, the world’s most efficient, most effective …” — but hold on a second! Pause tape. Rewind. The “WORLD’S MOST efficient, MOST effective” [block caps and bold type used for incendiary diabolical effect] … high praise indeed, Mr. Business Automation writer (aka Donald Young).

Young backs his bold assertion up by showing us pictures of the latest IBM 650 magnetic tape system and the Addressograph-Multigraph Series 900 data processing system, with its 943 processor that features, of course, “fully-transistorized arithmetic and logical devices in modular form.” (And costs $12,000 a month to lease.) The system is blazing fast, able to read 250 to 750 cards per minute and (through a its A-M 950 offline stylus printer) output 60,000 mailing labels per hour, while an A-M 960 high-speed line printer churns out 600-900 lines per minute of customized letter appeals. (Anybody else smell an IBM press release here?)

And he slips in: this operation is “the first of its kind in the country.” In other words, the Catholic Society of the Divine Savior housed the country’s most sophisticated [something] in the early 1960’s in an anonymous office park in rural Wisconsin. Wow. What?

You saw this coming: it’s a direct marketing operation. An outfit that claims “an unbelievable 80 percent response.” You read that right. How? Well, Young says the mission’s database:

“… is not a mere directory of names and addresses, but a carefully-controlled collection of ‘personal histories’ on every one of their past benefactors. Recorded and maintained on magnetic tape, each of these histories contains 341 characters of coded information on the donor, including when he was last solicited, how long it took him to respond, the type of appeal to which he responded, the size of his contribution, his total donations during the year …” etc.

Just wait till they start including women [sexist language “joke” – ed.]. But seriously: the mission’s technique will ring a tower of bells to those of us in the direct marketing business. It hasn’t really changed at all.

The God-data-center’s director, Father Alfred Schmitt, boasts like the oiliest Google rep:

“By electronically sorting through our files, we can pick out a choice mailing list comprising names of donors whose past histories indicate that they will be receptive to the type of appeal we have in mind.”

Trigger-based marketing! CRM! Dare I say it: segmentation modeling! It’s all there, fifty years ago. Right down to the illusion of personalization: both the monthly reminders to non-respondents and thank-yous to donors are put out by “automatic typewriters which produce ‘personally’ typed ‘thank you'” notes, which are then signed by … well, actually, “Father Alfred’s ‘personal’ signature is affixed to each letter by one of three Autopens.”

Aside from the scale and speed, this is a fully modern Direct Mail (DM) empire with what’s got to be the world’s-best-ever response rates (26% for a first touch!). Why, only yesterday I was on a call for one of our clients where we discussed the pseudo-personalized content of our monthly reminder e-mail and which one of the client’s execs would “sign” it.

In direct marketing, as in so many other things, God was there first 🙂

Top 5 Branding Secrets of Christianity

I recently contributed a few posts to the BNET business blog. In the spirit of meta-blogging, I chose as my topics “The 5 Worst 5-Worst Lists” and “The 5 Best 5-Best Lists” — since, as even the most casual glance at BNET’s content reveals, 80% of the most popular blog posts take the form of a ranked list. Today’s top posts: “12 Cool Gadgets That Could Have Changed the World” (e.g., PicturePhone) and “Top 10 Lies That Customers Tell” (e.g., “I will read your brochure”).

In America, job #1 is to follow in the dinky, twig-like footsteps of the great Rachel Zoe: “I am frus-tra-ted, Brad! I am working on my brand!

Jesus was a Jew of the first third of the first century; he lived and died a Jew. All his followers were Jews. At his death, there were at most a few hundred devotees of this executed criminal. Yet today, there are over 2 billion Christians in the world and only about 40 million Jews. That’s branding!

So as our gift to you, to incorporate into your own Personal Brand, we offer “The Top 5 Branding Secrets of Christianity”:

  1. Be Open Source — Judaism is the BlackBerry of world religions: it has a proprietary operating system. It was (and is) a collective, rather than individual, religion founded on a particular ethnicity with a significant (for males, anyway) initiation rite. After the Jerusalem Council around 49 AD, Paul convinced his fellow Jewish Christians to admit gentiles freely, with no restrictions or requirements beyond a simple sprinkling with water.
  2. Create a Cult of Your Founder — Apple is a good example, of course: a highly charismatic founding figure, whose origins are shrouded in mystery, somewhat asexual, smart but not an intellectual, casually dressed, a great talker. Think also of Microsoft, KFC, and Wal-mart.
  3. Flatter Your Customers — Successful brands exude optimism; nobody likes a gloomy product. The Hebrew Bible is a monumental work, of course, but it can be rather dour (“The living know at least that they will die; the dead know nothing” – Ecclesiastes 8-9). On the other hand, Christ forgave even a guilty criminal at the end of John, and Paul admits all to salvation.
  4. Build a False Sense of Urgency — The original cult around Jesus was apocalyptic. They literally believed the world would end soon: “This generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (Mark 13:30). Certainly, John the Baptist (“The time has been fulfilled”) and Paul himself (1 Thessalonians) thought the end was near. Many Christians to this day believe the world is ending soon. The effect is like the clock on QVC — “Act Now! And by the way, Act Now!”
  5. Keep Pushing Out “New News”Hershey’s keeps its delicious brands top of mind with a bewildering rat-a-tat of line extensions: Reese’s Big Cup, Hershey’s Drops, Almond Joy Pieces and the super-yummy new Reese’s Minis (test markets only) — a continuous stream of innovation that keeps fans wanting more. Likewise, since the Reformation, Christianity has unleashed a bewildering variety of splinter cells, denominations, sects, cults and more — all calling themselves Christians. Don’t like Methodism? Try another flavor.