Holmes Report Blog

The Holmes Report blog focuses on news and issues of interest to public relations professionals. Our main site can be found at www.holmesreport.com.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

A Missed Opportunity?: An interesting article from Knowledge@Wharton, the online (and subscription-only) magazine of Wharton Business Schools, focuses on a new development in product placement—the targeting of churches.

Did you know that church pastors were offered a chance to win a free trip to London and $1,000 in cash if they mentioned the Disney movie The Chronicles of Narnia in their sermons? Or that Chrysler is sponsoring a gospel music tour featuring Patti LaBelle in order to promote a new luxury SUV to affluent African-Americans?

Rather than bemoaning the spread of commercialism to what some people see as a non-commercial venue, the article focuses on the opportunities. The real potential of churches, according to Wharton experts—and I think they’re right—is in word-of-mouth marketing.

“They offer a particularly tantalizing opportunity for those intent on network or ‘word-of-mouth’ marketing, a strategy that capitalizes on social relationships to spread product information and influence purchasing, according to Wharton marketing professor Patti Williams: ‘Megachurch members are drawn together by a strong common bond. Networks that exist naturally facilitate word-of-mouth marketing, because people tend to share information with those they are close to,’ she says.”

And “pastors make ‘great connectors,’ adds Wharton marketing professor Christophe Van den Bulte, ‘because they reach a large audience once a week, and their words carry extra weight.””

PR firms all across the land have practices targeting African-Americans and Latinos and gays and lesbians. Does anyone have a practice targeting evangelicals? If not, why not?