Scott Hodge

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Miracle or Marketing?

Sep 12, 2005
9 Comments

In their "God is a helluva marketer" post, Jackie Huba from Church of the Customer is asking a pretty good (and fair) question about Rick Warren’s claim about his book (and movement), Purpose Driven Life.  Warren says:

The effectiveness of 40 Days of Purpose spread from one pastor to another through word-of-mouth endorsement, not through anyone’s marketing plan….Instead it was the result of God’s supernatural and sovereign plan, which no one anticipated.

While Huba agrees that there was definitely a "word of mouth" effort, she questions whether or not this can really be called a "supernatural plan."  She cites a 2003 Forbes article that explained the marketing plan behind PD Life:

  • Leverage Warren’s pastor portal Pastors.com. It reaches 100,000 pastors worldwide each week with e-mail forums, archives of 22 years of Warren sermons and digital prayer requests.
  • Invite churches to participate in a "40 Days of Purpose" event to correspond with the book’s 40 chapters.  [1,562 churches participated.]
  • Create a simulcast with all churches in Warren’s portal.
  • Sign up radio stations to run a "40 days campaign" during the same period. [267 radio stations did.]
  • Release a CD of "Songs for a Purpose Driven Life" featuring well-known Christian artists.
  • Ensure the book and CD are available in mass-market retailers such as Wal-Mart, Costco, Barnes & Noble and Borders.

What do you think?  Was the success of this book a "supernatural plan" or or as Jackie puts it, "intelligent marketing?"  Or……………………….perhaps both?


9 Responses to “Miracle or Marketing?”

  1. sarge says:

    It was a God thing.

  2. Tally says:

    I’m going with both. I can’t ignore the amount of marketing that went into the initial push. Our church was one of the pilot churches in the initial run and we didn’t exactly come onto the idea because of any special revelation. My Pastor at the time got some info and he wanted to be a test church site. Yes it was Good and it was God. But it was also great marketing.

  3. J-Wild says:

    Got here through Blaqenedwyte Blog.
    I don’t think it’s because of creative marketing but a mixture of PERVASIVE marketing and the blessing of the Spirit. But I feel uncomfortable saying that because the same case could be made for “The Prayer of Jabez” or “Wild at Heart” and I seriously hope that wasn’t a Spirit led success (obviously I have some problems with the books).
    I think the title has it all. “The Purpose Driven Life,” everyone is searching for that, and Rick (through the Spirit) pretty much delivers. That’s compelling for a book to live up to it’s title. I also think the humbleness that surrounds the man who wrote it and the church he leads it has something to do with it as well.

  4. Anne Taylor says:

    The important thing is that it’s a book that’s having a huge impact on people. I have the first line drilled into my brain – “It’s Not About You.” This book got me thinking a whole new way about my purpose on earth – it is written in a manner that is so direct, understandable, and practical. I have read many books on the Christian life and I can’t think of one that has affected me the way this book has. I picked it up off a shelf in a bookstore at the Atlanta Airport. I had heard nothing of the book and didn’t know it was a 40 day study. So, marketing had no impact on my decision to read it. There’s something special about this book.
    Marketing can’t carry something that has no substance. Naysayers need to just get over it.
    Annie

  5. Bill Kinnon says:

    Scott,
    I think the saddest aspect of this story is that Rick Warren wants to insist that marketing didn’t play a role in PDL’s success and to that end put pressure on Zondervan/Harper Collins to have any PDL references removed from Greg Stielstra’s PyroMarketing – Greg having been Zondervan’s marketing director for PDL. The Publishers Weekly story that Church of the Customer quoted includes this from Warren:
    “My only concern was that no one, neither Zondervan nor myself, claim credit for the astounding success of The Purpose Driven Life book. The worldwide spread of the purpose driven message had nothing to do with marketing or merchandizing. Instead it was the result of God’s supernatural and sovereign plan, which no one anticipated.”
    As I said in my blog post on this (don’t you hate it when people quote themselves):
    It’s really rather odd to attribute the success of PDL exclusively to a supernatural and sovereign act of the Creator of the Universe – especially considering the facts. Stielstra was the Marketing Director for PDL while at Zondervan*. They (the Newscorp owned, Harper Collins publishing unit aimed at the Christian Book industry) obviously felt it needed one. The book used a number of different marketing techniques that apparently Mr. Stielstra outlines in his book PyroMarketing. It was phemonenally successful. Ipso facto – God made it happen? I love it when He does that.
    Bill

  6. Stielstra’s PyroMarketing to be published

    Some time ago I posted Tim Challies look at PyroMarketing and The Purpose Driven Life, in it Greg Stielstra, Senior Marketer at Zondervan was featured. Challie’s first post was in May 2005. He has published Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life series and …

  7. David says:

    It looks like a good marketing plan to me.

  8. Anne Taylor says:

    Sounds like a little jealousy and sour grapes to me.

  9. Ben says:

    I wonder if there is a definition issue as to what Rick Warren means by the word “marketing”. Just a thought.

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