“Sexy” Missions and Marketing, Part 2


<Continuation of thoughts on what makes some missions more “sexy” than others… not a recommendation to do things this way. Just noting this reality. Machiavelli, in The Prince, gave concepts of the way politics IS, but NOT necessarily the way it SHOULD BE. I will give some conclusions as to what I think Missions should be in the final part of this series.>

English: Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions

English: Robert Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

3. Visceral. We tend to make decisions based on what “hits us in the gut or heart” more than what we come up with through reasoned analysis. We connect with loneliness, hope, pain, and love. They hit us on a level that leads to action. Images of a small child walking the streets of a disaster zone crying in search of her parents (who will never be found) is more poignant (hits us harder) than a picture showing a collection of dead bodies from the disaster. As Joseph Stalin said (in Russion presumably)… “one death is a tragedy,” (a painful visceral experience) “one million is a statistic” (a tragic but abstract concept).

I remember as a child watching TV and they would have commercials from “Christian Children’s Fund” Sally Struthers would be walking through a desperately poor community with children sick, starving, and dying. It seemed like a powerful (sensual) pull for the viewer. But seeing so much suffering led people to move people away from a visceral reaction. They place is too poor. There are too many there. It has been like this too long, and probably will never change. There is too little I can do. In more recent years, the strategy changed. They would still go to a poor location, but would show one child. That one child looked nice, appeared to be relatively well fed (but not fat). Had a nice smile…. wearing very adequate, if simple, clothes, and holding a school book. The narrator would point out that Juan, or Isabel, or whoever (name given to ensure personalization) has a good home, good food, good water, good healthcare, and an education because someone sponsored him (or her). You could do the same thing. This hits home far more viscerally. I am so glad that that child has hope… and through me another child could have hope.

Another commercial was shown in the Philippines I felt was extremely effective on a visceral level. The commercial was set apparently in a squatters’ area of Manila. Very out of place in this community was a large middle-aged white man (I can’t say why, but to me he looked Dutch). As he is walking about he comes across an elementary age Filipino boy. He takes the child by the hand and starts walking through the narrow passageways that make up this community. Most watching this would have a painful pit in their stomaches. Child prostitution and human trafficking are a huge problem here. Pedophiles from Western countries flock to Southeast Asia because of poor enforcement of laws protecting the citizenry. <As a white middle-age (and moderately overweight) Westerner living in the Philippines, I find it especially offensive that I look like the stereotypical sex tourist here.> Finally, they come to a non-descript door in a dank alley. A feeling of hopelessness sweeps over of the viewer that the last moment for rescue is about to pass. The door opens and one finds a brightly lit classroom full of children. One discovers that it is a school for street children. The fear, hopelessness, and relief that one goes through makes the commercial that much more effective.

4. Meets emotional needs. I said in the last post that I have never read a book on Marketing, but I have seen bits of “Empathic Marketing” by Mark Ingwer. It points out how much of customer response is based hidden emotional needs. He listed 6: Control, Self-expression, Growth, Recognition, Belonging, and Care. There can be others, of course. The Personality Research Form (series E), developed from Murray’s Needs, has 20 (if one does not count Infrequency and desirability). But consider Inger’s list. Sponsors for mission work often want recognition. People like to get a brass plate on buildings and things.

People often want a sense of control and belonging. I recall an elderly relative who was a widow with no children. She found joy in getting political party letters and religious group bulletins. They would give her the (sadly very false) sense that she was part of the think tank… a team player. She felt like she was part of something very much larger than herself. It met her need for control and a sense of belonging. Sadly, reality was that it was  manipulation by political and religious marketers.

Striking the chords of one’s emotional needs (even needs one is only vaguely aware of) makes missions attractive, alluring, desirable… sexy.

<More will be in Part 3>

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