A Marketing Blunder

I’m surprised that I haven’t seen anyone point this out before. I think I discovered a major blunder in the recent “I’m a Mormon” marketing campaign.

First, check out this video posted to YouTube on August 17, 2009

Now check out this video posted to YouTube October 1, 2010. Nearly fourteen months AFTER the other campaign started.

I searched this page and this page and these are the two oldest videos I can find for each of these campaigns.

It’s one thing to run a copy-cat campaign. It’s quite another thing to run a copy-cat campaign of a religious organization that has similar image issues as the LDS Church. It only reinforces the comparisons (be they justified or not).

On the bright side, if 10 months later I’m the only person to discover the similarities, neither campaign has probably been all that effective. Either way, whoever devised the LDS version probably has some research questions to answer.

Apocalypto Action Figures


To whom it may concern,
Deseret Books

Dear Sirs,

I suffered great alarm while visiting your bookstore yesterday. It was seeing the action figures you sell based on Mel Gibson’s hyper-violent movie, Apocalypto that caused me such distress. As I remember, Apocalypto was an R rated movie making it quite clear that it was not intended for the audience of young children. So I’m uncertain why you would be selling action figures to children that might peak their interest in such a movie. Having read many reviews of the movie, I am quite resolved that no child should be exposed to such a violent and gory depiction of Mayan life. I am appalled that you would be involved in marketing it to children.

Most disturbing is that you make the Mayan temple the center piece of this toy set. If you have not seen the movie, you may not be aware of what happened at Mayan temples. It was the location of a brutal religious ritual in which slaves had their hearts cut out of their chest and their heads tossed down the steps of the temple to the cheers of a bloody thirsty crowd. Why would you think this is something children should be re-enacting as a form of play?

Perhaps you made a hasty purchasing decision. From the numerous pictures of Jesus on the walls I take it that you are a religious bookstore. I understand the great interest many Christians took in Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ”. Perhaps you are under the misguided impression that Apocalypto is another film with religious significance. If some vendor convinced you of this in order to sell these toys to you I can assure you that you have been taken in by con-men. I’ve been in a number of other religious bookstores, and while I have seen a great deal of them selling “Passion of the Christ” merchandise, I have never seen any of them selling anything associated with Apocalytpo.

In fact, I don’t remember seeing anything related to “Passion of the Christ” in your store. Perhaps you sold out of it so quickly that you thought you could have equal success with Apocalytpo based merchandise. If this is the case, then you are shameless hucksters and I will encourage a boycott of your store to all of my friends. I find it disgusting that you would offer such violent imagery up to children to line your own pockets with cash.

Please pull these toys out of your inventory and clarify this situation to me at your earliest possible convenience.

To my readers who may be unfamiliar with the context of this please check out this posting.

Visitors Welcome

In the presentation of the “Truth Restored” marketing campaign, I noticed that one of the Elders said a big problem the church has is that visitors don’t feel like they can come to a ward service on their own. They feel like something is required or expected of them before they can enter.

As a non-LDS who has visited a ward service, I can think of a couple of reasons for this. First is the temple. If anyone knows anything about LDS temples it’s that visitors are not welcome. To non-LDS, it appears to be a looming, ominous and stoic place and all they really know about it is that they’re not allowed to go there. Somehow (whether it’s logical or not) this translates ithat they are not allowed to visit the local ward either. I think there is something in people’s mind that tells them “I’m not allowed to go everywhere, since I don’t know where my access is going to get cut off, I don’t want to start and find out it’s at the local church.”

The second reason I can think of is that LDS are not prone to invite people to church as a first step. EVERY single Mormon who has invited me to learn more about their church has suggested that I invite the missionaries over to my home. Never has a Mormon invited me to their service. The missionaries I have had over to my home have never been quick to invite me to the ward. In fact only once has a missionary invited me to the ward, and that was not to a sacrament meeting but to a baptism. I had to invite them to my own church and tell them I would go to a sacrament meeting in return before they invited me. (as a side note, the people were friendly enough, but everyone kept asking my wife and I exactly where we lived, that got kind of creepy after about the 3rd or 4th person).

So it makes sense to me that research shows that people don’t know that visitors are welcome at Sacrament meeting. I’ve noticed that many ward houses now have a big “visitors welcome” sign on the front. Instead of “Truth Restored” I think the LDS church should use “Visitors Welcome” as a tag line. That would do big things to improve that perception.

Truth Restored: A Preview

Since I’ve let the cat out of the bag on an anti-Mormon campaign, I guess it’s only fair if I spread the word on this; the LDS church is test piloting a new marketing campaign. You can preview it here You can tell that a lot of time and effort went into it.

I think it’s actually pretty good. I have no idea how effective it will be, but I think it’s an excellent effort. It’s clean, simple and sophisticated. It engages people on core issues that I think most can relate to. It capitalizes on the diversity of thought in our pluralistic society and stirs emotion. I think the campaign slogan “Truth Restored” is a little weak. It fits nicely with LDS theology and probably sounds great to LDS, but it’s not quite as strong as something like “Truth Discovered”, “Truth Found” or “Truth Embraced”.

They are moving away from directing people to a 1-800 number and are now telling people to go to mormon.org. The website has been totally revamped and simply and brilliantly focuses on the questions stirred by the commericials. But given how unfriendly the internet has been to the Mormon testimonies in the last 5-10 years, I question how prudent it is to direct investigators online. I just did a quick Google search on the word “mormon” and two of the top links are to anti-Mormon sites (this is an improvement on the 6 top links that used to be anti-Mormon).

I was a little disappointed with the second phase commercial. It seemed to walk a fine line on bashing non-LDS churches. The convert they interview shared how the answers she was given in her youth group didn’t satisfy her, but she didn’t really explain what the answers were to her questions that she thought were so much better (a brilliant way to direct people to the website, I must admit). These ads are still being developed so it may be a little early to judge the product. A quick perusal of mormon.org seems to show that there is a big emphasis on the pre-existence which is a change since the LDS church traditionally leads with “forever families”.

The campaign is being tested in 6 markets right now. If it’s successful it will be rolled out nationwide. What do you think? Will the rest of the nation see these ads? Does anybody know where they are currently running?