This Week's Herman Trend Alert

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  The Herman Trend Alert

October 30, 2002

Commercializing God

Commercialism permeates our society. We're so besieged by advertising signs around us that we practically become immune. Have you noticed soft-drink- sponsored scoreboards in school and university stadiums? Stadiums, arenas, and cultural facilities are sponsored by corporations. Examples are the Continental Air Lines Arena in New Jersey, Coors Stadium in Colorado, and Pacific Bell Park in San Francisco. Soft drink distributors compete for placement of vending machines in schools to implant their brands in the minds of young consumers while they're most impressionable. How long will it be before we see advertising inside school buses?

What's next? Could the next frontier be religion? Churches need funds to operate; broadcasting their services-by radio, television, or internet-costs money. Clergy and teachers must be paid well in a competitive job market, and building maintenance can be costly. Might we see comprehensive sponsorships like Gatorade for God? How about the Pepsi Church Picnic? Confessionals sponsored by FedEx: when it absolutely . . . . Sunday school classes sponsored by the local dry cleaners?

Does this sound outrageous? Let your imagination run with this for a few minutes. Pulpit decorations by Publishers Clearinghouse. Today's sermon is brought to you by Al's Body Shop-"no matter how bad you're wrecked, we'll make you whole again." The evangelical outreach program could be sponsored by a home builder or interior decorator: "a place to come home to."

Large donors may be interested in high visibility: BMW Baptist Church, Coca- Cola Church of God, UPS Unitarian Church, Simonize Synagogue, Mercedes Benz Mosque.

We admit this does seem somewhat ridiculous. Or does it? Think how many local, regional, and national companies would love an opportunity to influence large numbers of churchgoers. Easter Services brought to you by Wal-Mart?

We acknowledge that this forecast may be a real stretch. But then again, these concepts are not without precedent. Years ago, a brilliant marketer named Eugene Faison distributed the Black Shoppers Guides through African- American churches in the NY Metro Area. Coupons included the likes of household brands mentioned above. Perhaps some church leaders just discovered a way to pay off the mortgage?

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