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Religious Marketing, Marketing “Through the Eyes of Faith”

The fact that religion represents these days the subject of so many public debates shows that, among others, the interest for the religious information as a marketing product. The presence of the religious information in mass-media and, through this, in the public space, is the effect of the demand of a public with religious valences. The public interested about the religious information is increasing all over the world, including in Romania, whereas the market of spreading such information is in course of formation. The religious marketing could represent one of the consequences of interference of any religious cult, including of the Orthodox Church, with the public sphere, especially with that maintained by the contemporary society.

Interaction of marketing with the religious phenomenon in the public space
The functioning of the public space in the contemporary society on the grounds of the marketing principles gave birth to the society of consume. We deal with a transit period and with a certain type of society with which the religious cults interact, willing or not. The application of the marketing principles in the communication field, the public interest for the religious phenomenon, as well as the respect of the fundamental right to religious liberty of any individual, guaranteed according to the Constitution of Romania and to the international treaties, risk either to encourage the religious syncretism, or to start a competitive process between different religious cult. From a sociological point of view, this phenomenon may be considered a marketing effect. However, what good thing may the marketing bring in the life of a religious cult? Can we speak about a “religious marketing”?

From our point of view, the “religious marketing” – expression which may be considered a forced semantic association – represents a mechanism or an auxiliary instrument meant to contribute to the transition of the religious values through the economic systems of the society of consume. We mention that when we speak about religious marketing, we do not refer to either the “privatization” of the Church, namely to its transformation from a “divine-human institution” in a “privatized” firm which shall trade religious “products”, or to any reorganization of the mission of Church in the contemporary society in terms of marketing principles. On the contrary, the concept of “religious marketing”, from a Christian perspective – and we think, first of all, to the practice of the charity virtue, of the Christian pity – shall not, for instance, encourage the Church to earn money by any means. The message of Jesus Christ or of the grace of Saint Spirit is not for sale, and the churches, as cult dwellings, are not trade places.

Otherwise, this concept is not thought in any case as an invitation addressed especially to the priests and, generally, to the Christians, to trade their own religious belief or the message of the Gospel. We must admit that the magazines and the books with religious thematic, the calendar and other religious objects, sold in proper places, are indisputable these days marketing objects.
However, for the moment, the Romanian marketing operates the best, unfortunately, only at the counters in front of the churches, in the form of colportage, especially with the occasion of the great Christian feasts, as for instance the Birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ, or of the famous religious pilgrimages.

The application of the marketing principles in the field of communication and the promotion of the religious values through the mass means of information entitles us to speak about the information which refers to the religious events, named by us “religious information”, as about a marketing product. Therefore, it comes to the situation when – besides expositions of icons, publishing of books, religious pilgrimages, press conferences, congresses, symposiums, round tables, etc. – event the affirmations made by a hierarch or a simple priest in a cult dwelling during a sermon, if they are mediatised as they are considered as being of public interest, to become religious information. And this is how, sometimes, even the sermon or the religious service, specific elements to the mission of the church, may represents the theme of the press information becoming, willing or not, marketing object. But, on the other hand, it must be considered the fact that this type of information allows the events or the personalities of the religious cults’ life to enter, through the mass communication means, in the public space.

The morphology of the public space depends, in a large measure, on the circulation of the information. This thing is greatly due to the fact that the information defines the public, in the same manner the public, in his turn, defines the type of information. It is about a mutual self-defining which is due to the circuit crossed by the information: the formulation of the demand by the public – the availability to offer a certain type of message, in our case the religious one – the manner in which a certain institution of press spreads the required information. The spread of the information through the mass communication means, focused on the principles of marketing, led to a more and more different segmentation of the public according to needs and preferences. Such as, in the communication field, the message defines the media – “the media is message”, states Marshall McLuhan – in the marketing field, the public defines the market. The fact that religion represents these days the subject of so many public debates indicates as well, among others, the interest for the religious information as a marketing product. The presence of the marketing information in mass-media and, through it, in the public space, is the effect of the demand of a public with religious valences. The public interested about the religious information is increasing all over the world, including in Romania, whereas the market of spreading such information is in course of formation.

In the contemporary society, there are certain tendencies, generally expressed in the name of secularisation, which propose the limit of the influence of the Church at the level of the private sphere, preventing in this way any interaction of it with the public space. This is practically impossible, as the sociologist Jurgen Habermas states, it involves the neutralization of a public segment which defines itself as being religious, which leads even to the compromising of the idea of public space1. Obviously, the presence or the absence of a religious cult in the public space rests, eventually, with each individual. It would interesting to notice what would happen in case when such cult would resort to an excessive “privatization”, even to an “intimation” of it, in other words to a definitive withdrawal of it from the public space, if – institutionally speaking – such thing would be possible. In what concerns me, I believe that not even those who would want to limit the action of the Church at the level of the private space cannot pretend such a thing, except for the case when, deliberately, would ignore the socialinstitutional compound of the respective religious cult.

Consequently, whether we like it or not, the marketing interferes, up to a certain level, with the religious life. The religious marketing – besides the social, institutional communication of the Church, for instance – could represent one of the consequences of the interferences of any religious cult, including of the Orthodox Church, with the public sphere, especially with the one maintained by the contemporary society. But, it must represent much more than a simple trade of religious products. However, it remains to analyse who would be the ones interested in the administration of such a field, which could be extended so much as to regulated the economic situation of the Church – considering its involvement in different trading activities – and, implicitly, the pecuniary “relation” between the clerk and the parishioners. In this case, it would be interested to observe and analyse the influence which the Church could exercise, due to practice, on the marketing theories in general, phenomenon which may lead, in time, to a thorough study and development of the concept of religious marketing understood as marketing “through the eyes of faith”.(Jurgen Habermas, Public sphere and its structural transformation, press, 2005, p. 134: “A public sphere of which certain distinct groups eu ipso would be excluded – states the sociologist Jurgen Habermas – wouldn’t be only a truncated one, but, generally, it wouldn’t be a
public sphere”).

Religious marketing, effect of globalization
“The devaluation of the religious convictions – states the German sociologist Jurgen Habermas criticizing the “privatization of religion” (Habermas 2005) – leads, in reality, to the overvaluation of the private convictions in general” (Habermas 2005). It is about a “public irrelevance of religion”, observed as well by Vittorio Possenti (Possenti 2001), whose main cause seems to be represented by the conflict between the public claims of the Church and the economic principles on which rely the modern policy. The reason of this conflict, of Christian-orthodox perspective, is emphasized in the speech deliveres on November 4th, 1913, by Vartolomeu Stanescu, at the time bishop with the title of Bacaoanul, with the occasion of his installation in the position of administrator of the Church House: “Eventually, as for the economic interest, this, even when it reunites the people, it separates spiritually the individuals; because, being the impulse of the fight for living, it makes each individual to impose himself, in a special manner, as a world opposed to the other individuals, through his personal rights”. The consequence of this conflict is the following: the Christian writers which have amplified the political thinking during the centuries “in the century of birth of the modern political economy, they didn’t face the major success which they enjoyed at first” (Possenti 2001).
The religious marketing is a solution of compromise between religion and modern political economy. Its application does not have to determine the Church neither to abdicate from its saving mission, nor to affect its doctrine which is situated above time, space and will of the people. However, in spite of all these, the more and more acute need to develop specific means through which it may fulfil efficiently the mission in the public space, determines the Church to consider, willing or not, the possibility to use the marketing as an auxiliary instrument. In this case, the only mutation envisioned by us, produced due to its public claims, may be consumed only to the level of the Public Relations (PR) of the Church.

The religious marketing represents the effect of the pressure of the modern political economy exercised over the public interest of the religious forms of organization. It appeared due to the tendency of the modern economy – known as “open” economy (Enache, Mecu 2003) - to create a sole market at the international level. From this point of view, the globalization leads rather to the creation of a religious “supermarket”, than to the violent conflict of religions or to the creation of a new sole and universal religion.

The concept of market involves the idea of “choice” which, at the global level, involves in a marketing process2 all the religious confessions. This choice is made in terms of faith and religious identity criterion. Therefore, we may speak about the century of the 2 Alfonso NIETO in Chiesa e comunicazione. Metodi, valori, professionalta, edition cared by Diego Contreras, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican, 1998, p. 116: “Dove non c’e un atto di scelta, non c’e marketing”. modern political economy only as about a transition period when the relevance of the message which insufflates religious faith depends as well on the efficient use of the marketing strategies. Those who have already intuited this thing began to make major investments, especially in the communication field so as the religious message to become more and more accessible. The public irrelevance of the Christian message is a sign that the contemporary ecclesiology has failed to consider the serving dimension of the Church, which it hopes to be reactivated by the religious marketing. but, this type of marketing must respect the religious canons, considering the fact that the uncreated energy or the grace does not express in monetary terms, but it is an intangible gift of God which is offered to all the individuals disposed to receive it (Matei X, 8).3 That’s why it was circumscribed to the “non-profit” marketing and not to the mercantilist concepts. Enrolling it within the coordinates of the Christian service of the human being with which deals The Theology of Service – as it results from the analyse performed to this type of theology by the metropolitan Antonie Plamadeala (Plãmãdealã, 1986) – we may consider the religious marketing or the marketing “through the eyes of faith” a small part of the multiple aspects which the social Christianity approaches. Otherwise, as the patriarch Justinian observed as well at his time, “the preoccupation for human being, for his earthly or over earthly destiny, for the needs of his present life and for his missions beyond time, all these are not novelties for the Christian theology, but problems ancient of two millenaries, whose just settlement has delayed too much” (P.F. Patriarh Justinian 1966).
Our attempt to delimit the influence sphere of the religious marketing within the Church raises the issue of the report between the sacred and the profane. When we speak about sacred, from a Christian orthodox point of view, we are considering first of all the uncreated energy of God. In the notion of profane, we include all God has created but which is in the power of man (Facere I, 28). In other words, the profane sphere is delimited by the human liberty. “In our power – states Saint Ioan
Damaschin – stay those which we are free to do and not do, namely all those we voluntary make. Since it doesn’t seem that we are acting voluntary, if the fact wouldn’t be in our power” (see Saint Ioan DAMASCHIN, Dogmatic, Scripta press, Bucharest, 1993, p. 87).

We have noticed that Mircea Eliade, with the purpose to catch the essence of the religious phenomenon, assumes that the sacred is opposed to the profane (in Mircea ELIADE – Treaty of history of religions, Humanitas press, Bucharest, 1992, p. 21). In order to perform the necessary delimitations, M. Eliade defined the sacred as it follows: “An object (or a person – n.n.) becomes sacred in the measure in which incorporates “something else” that the self” (p. 31). From our point of view, the issue of this “something else” does not have to be placed in the terms of the ontological antagonism, existence versus existence (p. 40), but in terms of the theological ambivalence, uncreated or created by God. The expression “uncreated by God” refers to the divine grace as it is defined by the Christian orthodox dogmatic. “This moral – as states pr. Dumitru Staniloae – has reached the clearest expression in the formulation of Saint Grigorie Palama that grace is an uncreated energy, generated by the divine being of the three Ipostas and it is unjustified by it or by these Ipostas” (in pr. prof. Dumitru STANILOAE, Dogmatic orthodox theology, vol. II, the Publishing House of the Biblical Institute and of Mission of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Bucharest, 1997, p. 200).

From a marketing point of view, the main cause of the irrelevance of Christian message for the contemporary society is represented by the excessive focus on the message in the detriment of its public perceiving. In specialised terms, this phenomenon which determines the public irrelevance of this type of religious message is named “marketing myopia”. The issue could be solved through a marketing research which may analyse the correspondence between the social institutional culture of the Church, on the one hand, and the morphology of the public space determined by the dynamic of the public opinion, on the other. In case of the Romanian Orthodox Church, the social institutional culture superposes with the concept of religious culture (reflected, especially, in the religious literature, containing the Holy Scriptures, the books where is noted the Saint Tradition, the books which contain the canons and the religious dogmas, the biographies of the saints, of the martyrs, the theological literature, the religious journals and magazines etc.). This entire literary thesaurus may be considered a part of the social institutional culture of the Church. In this case, the marketing analysis should identify the points of correspondence between the religious church, on the one hand and the public space, on the other. Or the finding out of the correspondence points suppose, from the part of the Church, what is called in marketing terms “market survey”, namely knowing the public to which it addresses.
Marketing “through the eyes of faith”
Regardless we refer to the involvement of the Church in marketing activities4 or to the use of the marketing elements in the church activity, in both cases we deal with the practice of a form of religious marketing. The appropriation by Church of the concept of religious marketing risks two issues: the capacity of adapting the religious language to the language of the modern economy (Borsa, 1993) and the risk that, through the appropriation of the marketing principles, to assist to a desacralisation of the religious space.

The classification of the “Church as subject of the religious marketing” (Milo, 1993) is due to the necessity of the Church to benefit of financial resources (Milo, 1993), to have an economic administration (Fiorentini, 1992) and, above all, to the fact that, within it, respectively between its members, there is a report of exchange or transaction.

Irrespective of the products – tangible products – which make the object of a religious transaction (from sermon and catechise to the religious literature, object of cult and religious services) (Shawchuck et alia, 1993), the only price accepted by Church in exchange of the religious value offered is represented by the consolidation of faith in the person and moral of our Saviour Jesus Christ. (Rossman Marlen L. – Multicultural Marketing, New York, 1994, p. 42: “The religion plays a
significant role in the manner in which the people perceive and use the products and the services”).

The connexion between marketing and religion is clearer to observe in the communication field. The modern marketing is oriented on the principles of communication (Kotler, 2005). The development of the communication techniques have transformed the individuals in “consumers of information” and led to the apparition of an information market, of an environment where are promoted offers and are checked demands in the form of information (Nieto, 2000/2001). In case of the religious marketing, an important role is held by the religious information. This has the role 1) to influence the conduit of the individuals, along with the cultural, social, personal and psychological factors and 2) to contribute to market segmentation on religious criteria. The main gain generated by the application of the religious marketing is represented by the respect of the religious faith of each person in part and of the religious communities in general.

The interest towards the religious information stimulated by the circulation of ideas on the information market, drives close the religious marketing of the informative marketing and of the ideological marketing, applied mainly in politics, culture, army, economy etc. In spite of the fact that the information is evaluated as a good or marketing object due to the characteristics of information, it is rather normal to be included in the field of the marketing services, than of the products. In this sense, Christian Granraos asserts: “A service is a series of activities of a more or less intangible nature which, normally, but not necessary, take place in the interaction between the client and the employee; and/or physical resources and products; and/or systems of the service supplier; all these are delivered as solutions for the client’s problems (Gränraos, 1994). According to this principle, the information delivery represents, in fact, the delivery of solutions for the clients’ problems.

Considering the manner in which the marketing of services is applied in case of religious institutions, it is extremely precious the remark made by Florentini Giorgio. He asserts that the application of this marketing in case of religious institutions is made “not only to enter in the logic of trading one’s own religious belief, but to manifest one’s own capacities to express faith through the transposition in activities of service of the religious principles…” (Fiorentini, 1992).
In other words, the content of this remark may be translated in the biblical language by the expression of Saint Ap. Iacob “The faith without facts is dead” (Iacob 2, 26) or, more precise, “my facts shall display my faith” (Iacob 2, 18).
But, we consider that the most significant similitude is between the religious marketing and the value marketing. a characteristic trait of marketing, as of any economic activity, is the notion of value. “The marketing – asserts Philip Kotler – is a social and managerial process through which the individuals and groups of individuals obtain what they need and want by creating, offering and exchanging products with a certain value” (Kotler, 1998). For the economic process to function, it is necessary a system of reference, of a type of relation which sets out, through comparisons, the report between demand and offer. This system of reference is represented by the “exchange value”, concept developed in time, beginning with Aristotle and ending with the classical economists, Smith and Ricardo (Dicþionar de politicã, 2001).
The exchange value, elements which determines the difference between demand and offer, results from the transaction or “the exchange of values between two parties” (Kotler, 1998). The accent placed on value in the marketing operations represents a manner of thinking specific to the value marketing whose main object is, according to Philip Kotler, “the specialization in the creation of clientele, not only in the creation of products, proving the capacity of demand creators and not only of products’ creators” (Kotler, 1998). Through this strategy of marketing, it is followed the establishment of a strong connection with the clients by increasing the loyalty index of the clients, the profit being represented by the value of life of a client. The key element of the value marketing development is represented by the quality which, according to John F. Welch Jr., is “the best insurance policy of the clients’ loyalty”.
The human condition is determined by value, and the possibility to update this value is represented by the virtues. These, according to the information of Alasdair Macintyre, concern a “concrete action” (Macintyre, 1998) through which is followed the reach of those “purposes which are authentic goods for man” (Macintyre, 1998).

Under the conditions when we observe the closeness existent between the religious and the value marketing, as well as the role of the virtues in the recognition and appropriation of the values, we may conclude that the fundament of the religious marketing is represented by the practice of virtues, especially of those which have tangency with the religious life.

From a Christian perspective, the reason of every human action, including of any transaction or exchanges started by the man, is represented by the value of saving. An example in this sense is the tragic literary masterpiece “Faust” of the poet and philosopher Johan Wolfgang Goethe (1749-1832) where the main character, wishing to extend his life and happiness, concludes a pact with the devil, risking loosing his soul, namely his own saving. In case of Faust, the saving of his own soul represents an exchange value which, performing good facts, manages to value it properly only through the intervention of God.

In conclusion, any form of marketing – informative, ideological, of services, value, qualitative etc. – which considers the presence of God, Justice and Absolute Good, may be named a religious marketing. The essence of such marketing which we define as being one made “through the eyes of faith, is represented incontestably by the report to the Supreme Value, namely to God, which demands expressly the amplification of our qualities, especially of the faith virtue, with the purpose to gain the saving.

Consequently, we retain the integrative aspect of the religious marketing, in the sense that all the other forms of marketing, without bearing modifications, may be integrated in this. Therefore, we may speak of a religious marketing every time the man resorts to these virtues which, besides the fact that they help him to fulfil the propose action, they contribute to the closeness by God and the acquirement of the human perfection, namely of the holiness of life. This is possible on condition the contemporary man to orientate himself axiologically towards God so as to integrate all the values in a unitary view which shall be subordinated to the religious value.

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·         Revista românã de Marketing, Editura Rosetti Educational, octombrie-decembrie 2007, anul II, nr. 4, p. 58.

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