The Gears Of The Hype Machine, Or Wilty Lettuce On A Shriveled Bun

Sorry to bring him up, we get hung up on his name and miss the point. But I’ll try anyway…

One thing I appreciate about Rob Bell is that he doesn’t do the hype thing. All of his books have come with virtually no self promotion – he’d do a press release and little more. Surely you’ve had to endure a near steady barrage of hype around a book propelled by the author and a legion of followers. But Rob has no blog on which to promote every week and no e-mail going out begging people to check out his latest thing. There’s been no machine cranking the gears of sales trying to get people interested. No campaigns.

Yet we are all aware of his books. And this is because he wrote something that people naturally had to talk about (and as they say any press is good press).

So my Lutheran reader won’t get much out of this post, but for the rest of you I think the church can learn from Rob and/or his PR team. Let our work stand on its own. Bell didn’t hype up his films, books or tours because he didn’t need to – they spread the old fashioned way. I know some churches I’ve been apart of had big hype machines churning behind everything they did, making epic videos and employing an army of chipper people to act as though this were bigger than Michael Jackson in the 80’s.

Is hype really covering up insecurity?

We live in an advertising culture. I get it, you can’t rely 100% on word-of-mouth – you do have to do some sort of advertising. But we are constantly being sold something, and so we one-up the competition through the age old game of hype. And often what we’re selling doesn’t match up to the packaging. If you haven’t learned that lesson yet with fast food hang overs then you’ve got high cholesterol, greasy fingers and the gullibility keeping those restaurants alive.

Maybe we should let what we’re selling (man I hate that language) sell itself. If it’s naturally captivating then we have to do less work anyway.

Have you been to a church that has a hype machine? Did the burger look like the commercial? What do you think of Rob Bell’s marketing?

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5 Responses to The Gears Of The Hype Machine, Or Wilty Lettuce On A Shriveled Bun

  1. David says:

    Have you been to a church that has a hype machine?
    I have been to all sorts of churches. Because for so many it seems to be a business, they do it like a business.

    Did the burger look like the commercial?
    In most cases, church was pretty much expected to be the way the church was portrayed. We have denominations and movements within the church that have, dear I say, stereotypical mannerisms and a standard operating procedure. After 35 years I can size it up pretty quickly.

    What do you think of Rob Bell’s marketing?
    I think it is working perfectly. He is no anti-marketing guru. Nooma and his books are big business worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. The people who like him, overlook that. 😉

    Here is my PERSONAL take on Christian ministry. I have been an on-and-off minister since the early 80’s, and this model has worked for me. It is an understanding that I have had with the Lord for well over a decade. Although I am an excellent and talented marketing guy (it’s true, I made 6-figures doing that). I never invite myself anywhere, or ask for money, tickets, offerings or honorariums. Never. In fact, I am not really even blogging on a regular basis any longer. I don’t need to care about visits, comment counts, or trolls. As I let go of these things, I find that I have more opportunities to be myself, preach the Gospel with my own flavor, and guess what? The doors are opening again ion this season.

    I was asked to do a 3 day conference at my church. I have pretty much said yes to every invitation I have ever had, except for a sketchy one in Mombasa, Kenya. Every time the Lord supplied my needs for finances, tickets, and everything else. I have been to Brazil 3 times, England, Norway and hundreds of churches From New England to NC, FL, OH and next month CA. They did an unexpected offering for me that would rival my current salary if I did this 52 weeks a year. I mean I go to church here and do classes all the time. It set me up to go to CA next month. You can read the whole story on my blog.

    I don’t think marketing, promotion of books, or even mega churches are wrong, it just isn’t for me for this season. And the funniest thing of all, I have written two books. The first one I give away as a PDF, the second is with an editor in Vancouver right now. Last night I got a call from a local Boston TV station to do an interview later this month. The interviewer’s son was in my class. I also got a call to minister in NH and a recommendation for one in FL from a pastor that was in the class. Another one in GA is also in the works and we are going to try to finalize those details on Wednesday.

    Pretty cool, eh?

  2. Chris says:

    “One thing I appreciate about Rob Bell is that he doesn’t do the hype thing. All of his books have come with virtually no self promotion – he’d do a press release and little more.”

    Dude, are you serious? Bell is the marketers marketer. He would make any Madison avenue ad man envious.

    Interviews on CNN, Time and numerous other magazines, radio and television interviews here and abroad to explain (not promote, oh heavens no) his book and his views, Nooma videos that tantalize and whet your appetite by getting you to ask–“Gee, what does he mean maybe there’s no hell? I need to get his book.”
    The book broke I don’t know how many pre-sales records on Amazon. How could anyone say that the book sold just by word of mouth when no one had even read it yet. This guy is intuitively savvy and talented about what will draw interest regarding sales of his books.

    1) Stir up controversy with a controversial subject.
    2) Get your face out there as much as humanly possible.
    3) Explain to a generally uneducated public in high sounding rhetoric why your view is supportable.
    4) Watch sales rise.

    I’m not saying he doesn’t believe what he writes, but to hold him up as an author that is uninterested in promotion or whose books sell only by accident—Charlie, come on ;-(

    • those interviews came because people were already talking about the book. Go to any blogger’s site who’s got a book coming out and they’ll promo the heck out of it for 2 months. Bell did none of that. I’d say he took a different marketing route, but he definitely didn’t try to create hype.

      • Chris says:

        I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree here Charlie. I may grant that some (maybe even most) of his interviews came after the release of the book, but the Nooma vid was definitely out before the release of the book. That’s as slick a bit of marketing as you’ll find. I saw it before the book came out and its purpose was to provoke and fuel interest. Also the fact that pre-release orders of the book was through the roof ought to tell you something. Controversy sells. I don’t fault him at all for wanting to promote his book, especially if he believes what he’s writing. That’s fine, but promote it he surely did.

        BTW, There is another bloggers site that I like to frequent and I only found out that he had a book out *after* it had already been released by reading a relatively small post & blurb about it on his site. So your comment about “any blogger who’s got a book coming out promotes the heck out of it for 2 months” isn’t exactly on the mark and doesn’t apply to *any* blogger. For the sake of not being argumentative, I’ll let this go now and say we just see things differently. Isn’t that what blogging’s about 😉

  3. Carolyn says:

    The hamburger never looks as good as the commercial. The packaging has always been very pretty, though. At this point I am almost completely unwilling to go to any church that sends me 5×7 (or almost that size), glossy, two-sided promo for their latest series. The greeters are always friendly. The groups hanging out in the courtyard before/after always look like they are having a good time, but they don’t try to include new people and I get tired of feeling alone in the midst of 4000 people. I get tired of them trying to find us “just the right small group” because the life-stage that Hubby and I are in is so complex. No, I don’t want to do ANOTHER Beth Moore study. She is great, but everybody is so busy that they have no time for you before or after. “Oops. Gotta run.” I would just like a small church that feels like a family that won’t condemn us to hell because he’s divorced twice and I’m an alcoholic who used to sleep around. I don’t really want to have to adhere to a statement of faith. Jesus is enough for me. I realize that I am asking a lot but it is too late to start pretending that I like what they are offering. I don’t know much about Rob Bell other than he wrote a book about hell or maybe the lack of hell. I don’t really care if he markets. I don’t care what Rob Bell thinks. He doesn’t know me, my name, my husband’s name, or our family circumstances. He hasn’t invited me to his home for worship. He doesn’t grab our hands and pray with us on a regular basis. World Bible scholars have not convened to add Rob Bell’s books to canon, so I am not going to seek him out and ask if I can sit as his feet while he pontificates. Lest you think I have it out for Rob Bell specifically, I will add that I also don’t want to sit at the feet of the last two “Executive Pastors” that I listened to at churches that were members of the Willow Creek Association and modeled after Hybel’s church. Judging from what I’ve just written, it looks as if I might be having another bad day. I just want to issue a qualifying statement that my bad day has nothing to do with Bernard and I don’t think he is filled with the devil. 😉

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