The Art of Persuasion in Light of a Christian Worldview
We live in a world full of advertisements that are presented in a variety of different forms. These advertisements are constantly thrown at us in an effort to catch our attention and persuade us to purchase a product or service. Businesses are essentially competing for consumers through their use of advertisement, but are their methods of persuasion ethical in light of a Christian worldview?
Brand Loyalty — Creating a Cult Mentality
Frontline presented the idea that brand loyalty is similar to developing a cult mentality. This cult comparison to brand loyalty sounded bold to me at first, but after I thought about existing brand rivalries in our culture, I realized that this concept is true. Brand loyalty is hard to create, but when a consumer is loyal to a brand, they will defend that brand wholeheartedly.
For example, brand rivalries exist between Coke and Pepsi, Dunkin Donuts and Krispy Kreme, and Chevrolet and Ford Motor Co. People engage in emotional debates over these companies and their products because they have firm faith in them and what they stand for.
“When people are joining a cult or joining a brand, they do so for exactly the same reasons. They need to belong and they need to make meaning. We need to figure out what the world is all about and we need the company of others. It’s simply that,” said Douglas Atkin of Merkley and Partners Advertising.
The objective of emotional branding is to fill the empty places in a consumer’s life. Filling those empty spaces with love for a company or a product, however, can quickly turn into idolatry. Only Christ can fill our voids and give meaning to our lives.
Our identity is found in Christ, not in worldly materials.
TV and Movie Advertising — The Silent Persuader
Learning about advertising in TV shows and movies was truly eye-opening for me. Before watching “The Persuaders,” I assumed that it was coincidental when a popular company was mentioned in a movie or a brand name product was featured in a TV show. I was wrong.
About two weeks ago, I started watching a TV show on Netflix called “13 Reasons Why.” In all 13 episodes of the first season, the main protagonist is seen wearing headphones, specifically, Beats by Dre. This is a prime example of purposefully placing a product in order to reach desired consumers.
Placement of advertisements in our screen time is deliberate and strategic. With advanced technology enabling us to skip through commercials and fast forward through previews, businesses are more commonly incorporating advertisements into TV shows and movies.
Is this form of advertising considered consumer manipulation? Maybe.
Does the stealthy and strategic placement of advertisements in TV shows and movies oppose a Christian worldview? Yes, depending on the product and the level of honesty conveyed about the product.
Advertising Is All About You
Advertisements often are aimed to catch the attention of consumers on a personal level. They are designed to develop an emotional connection with you, and then persuade you to buy a certain product to fill a void.
Marketers want us to think about ourselves. If we do, we are better consumers.
Take L’Oréal Paris for example where the company slogan is “Because You’re Worth It.” Marketers at L’Oréal know that women wear makeup in order to make themselves feel beautiful, desirable and wanted. Their tagline is not about the products, it is about the image that the products can create for you.
Various brands and commercials say, “you come first” and “you matter.” They make you feel powerful and in control of your life. Christ, however, desires to be in control of our lives and come first above all else. He longings to be our void filler.
Christians in the Persuasion Business
Is it wrong for a Christian to work in advertising then? No, Christians are called to work in various fields of work, including advertising. If that is so, what is a Christian’s duty in the field of persuasion?
1. Christians in the persuasion business should uphold their values and look to the Lord for guidance. (James 1:22–27, Proverbs 3: 5–6)
2. Christian should advance the Kingdom and give glory to God through all earthly efforts, including advertising for a company or brand. (John 3:3, Matthew 5:16)
3. Christian’s are called to send honest and righteous messages through all advertising efforts. Messages will be sent out through each ad, whether intended or not. The key is to make sure the messages sent adhere to the Bible’s teachings. (Proverbs 19:1, Isaiah 33:15–17)
No matter what materialistic ideas advertisers or marketers are trying to promote, there is a higher calling to make sure that God is glorified. Advertisers can use biblically-based messages to spread the Gospel while promoting companies and their products. Christians can be excellent persuaders in the field of advertising and hold true to their faith at the same time.
Advertisers and consumers alike must keep in mind that objects of this world cannot bring us satisfaction, only the love and acceptance of Christ can. We must always recognize that true fulfillment comes through Christ.
On my honor, I have watched “The Persuaders” in its entirety.