Jesus Christ is now the star of a blockbuster movie. His name endures forever. Many of my best friends would have a hard time with me comparing Jesus to a marketing brand. I hope they get over it.
Here’s another warning: I’m going to use the word “cult” in this story. Please understand this is a word that describes the adherents of an exclusive system of religious beliefs and practices. A cult is not necessarily destructive.
In his book, The Power of Cult Branding, BJ Bueno goes into depth to distinguish between harmful and benign cults. I believe true Christianity is certainly benign to its adherents. I also believe there are certainly people who have distorted the “brand” into a malignant darkness with the intent of harming many. Enough said.
Bueno outlines The Seven Golden Rules of Cult Branding in his book, and he goes into much more detail in his seminars.
Let’s evaluate the Jesus Brand according to these rules. I’m giving this to you the way I understand it.
1. Consumers want to be part of a group that’s different.
“No one comes to the Father except through me.” That’s certainly different. Christ says if you want to join the club, you’ve got to set yourself apart. It’s all or nothing. Kind of like trying to join a Harley Owner’s Group without buying a Harley. You won’t really be a member until you’ve made the commitment.
2. Cult brand inventors show daring and determination.
He invented Himself and then created his consumers. Daring? Early on, he gave his consumers a choice. Pretty daring move. They chose Brand B (death) over Brand A (life). Determination? He then had the determination to give his life for his “customers” in order to rescue them from their poor choice.
3. Cult brands sell lifestyles.
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” In this day and age (and countless ages past) that’s certainly a novel concept. He offers a lifestyle that is often misunderstood and just as often misapplied. But, it cannot be argued that there is not a distinct lifestyle associated with the brand.
4. Listen to the choir and create cult brand evangelists.
He blinded Saul, renamed him Paul and created the first big-name evangelist. A great many have followed in his footsteps over the years and kept the brand alive through dark ages and centuries of conflict.
5. Cult brands always create customer communities.
Can you spell c-h-u-r-c-h?
6. Cult brands are inclusive.
Just show up at a Star Trek convention with a Starfleet shirt on and you will instantly be welcomed to the club. Try wearing a shirt from your favorite sports team in a city where that team is reviled. The only people who will talk to you will likely be fellow misplaced fans. Likewise, most adherents of the Christ brand will welcome each other into their circles and make efforts to foster fellowship.
7. Cult brands promote personal freedom and draw power from their enemies.
He gave the entire customer base the freedom to choose his brand or the enemy’s. Those who choose to follow the Christ brand draw immense power from fighting the big enemy. They use terms like “defending the faith” and “defeating the enemy.” Of course, all strong brands have enemies. Where would Coke be without Pepsi? Can you imagine McDonald’s without Burger King? Christ had old Satan himself as a sworn enemy from before the creation of man.
There is no brand name that has survived as long or evoked such a following as Jesus Christ. The success of “The Passion of The Christ” has certainly proven that the brand is as strong as ever. I’ve said before that true branding happens when someone thinks of you first and feels best about you when the need for your product or service arises. That’s The Passion of The Christ.
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David – I hope this is a gee-up, otherwise you need to re-prioritise – urgently.
Don’t get all hung-up on the word “cult”.
I’m a follower of Christ. All I’m pointing out is that if we follow His example, we’ll understand how to create strong cult-like brands.
There is nothing new under the sun. Nothing.