Welcome to the launch of Brands of Faith, a blog devoted to discussing all things related to marketing and religion.
I think you will find as you join me on this journey that there will be too many things to talk about, rather than too few. Just this weekend there was Mitt Romney on 60 Minutes, a cover story on the New York Times about faith-based groups receiving government funds, and “Seeing and Believing: The Power of Faith,” a 2-hour special on ABC’s 20/20. For today, we’re going to talk about this last one.
It should be no surprise that ABC scheduled this program in May, which is sweeps month — one the 4 times during the year when the networks are particularly concerned about ratings. During those four important sweeps months, the television networks air programming that they expect will generate the largest number of viewers — the American Idol finale, the Survivor finale, and, of course, anything to do with faith or religion.
As statistics have shown (quoted in the show and elsewhere), 90% of Americans believe in a higher power (note that the show was about “faith” and not “religion”). That’s a very large prospective audience for a show. Not only that, the network covered their bases by including a segment on atheists, so there was something for everyone. In addition to the atheism piece, the program covered cloistered nuns, a shyster faith healer, The Secret, and scientists who are trying to determine if we are hardwired to believe in God, among a number of other topics.
Now all of this is fine and frankly not a lot of people are at home watching television on Friday night, but really what was the point? What did they want people to think about faith coming out of this program? They did so many segments on so many different areas that no topic got any in depth coverage. The segment on The Secret was positively inane; and the segment on “faith healer,” Peter Popoff, was right out of the 1980s televangelist scandals.
And yet, this show proves the point: where religion and marketing meet we get snack packs of sound bites, not juicy ideas to ponder.