The Marketing Failure of the Christ Story

by C Michael Patton

I remember my marketing classes in college. Well, I remember the teacher more than I remember the classes. He would never look you in the eye. It was always just above the eye . . . like at your forehead. Nevermind that. In marketing I learned about markets and products. I remember talking “need in market” “lack in market” “market placement” and, not to be forgotten, ”market tolerance”. In market tolerance, we take assessment of the culture and discern whether or not the market will bear a certain product. After all, you don’t want to put something out there that will be outright rejected by the people due to some philosophical mindset which cannot entertain or absorb the product itself. For example, I would highly advise against selling T-Shirts in America which say “Osama Bin Ladin is my Homeboy.” Sorry, he is/was no one’s homeboy around here. The business would flop.

We see this as well in the political arena where ideas are placed on the market. Presidential candidates have teams of people who assess the political market, trying to find out what the “hot button” issues are along with which one’s to stay away from. It becomes frustrating when the truth gets overshadowed by “politics”. Ideals are often sacrificed for the vote. If an idea won’t go over well with the public—if it does not have “market appeal”—then it is replaced by something more palatable.

Back up two-thousand years. Many people theorize that Paul (and/or other first-century Christians) invented the whole Christ story. However, those who object rightly see what an incredible marketing failure the story of a crucified and resurrected Messiah would be. Below is a letter from ANE Marketing to the Apostle Paul as he sought to employ them to market Christianity.

“Paul,

Thank you so much for your continued interest in ANE Marketing. We have heard a lot about you and hope to be able to do business.

Concerning your proposal about the man named “Jesus Christ” (great last name by the way!), let me start by saying this: we are very interested. However, in the form of the current proposal, we cannot justify moving forward. We have had our market analysts going over this since we received it last week and they all agree: this would be a waste of our time and, just as importantly, yours.

Let me explain:

Your proposal announces the coming of the Messiah. This part is great. So far so good. In fact, this is why we eagerly agreed to entertain your pitch. We have feelers out all across the Empire who’s only job it is to look for those who are promoting Messiah figures. In your own Jewish community, the expectations (and, frankly, need) for a Messiah could not be greater. Of the ten Messiah campaigns that have happened over the last one-hundred years, our company has been involved in four. Your Prophets and Writings have created a market which not only supports such figures but expects him to come at any time. So the time is ripe for Messiah campaigns.

However, as adaptive as this “Messiah Market” is these days, it simply cannot sustain what you are proposing…

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