Q: Why do some Christians get queasy when you compare marketing and evangelism?
Sinclair: The word “marketing” has a very negative connotation in our society. Thanks to used car salesmen, door-to-door marketers, and late-night infomercials, “marketing” is often affiliated with tricking or lying or cheating your way into making a sale. Obviously, those things have no place in sharing Jesus…leading many to want to distance the two ideas. But, while many marketers have a bad reputation and many marketing techniques are blatantly dishonest, neither changes the fact that, as Christians, we are all “marketing” Jesus every day. Whether we want to or not, our words and our actions give people around us a picture of who Christ is, and it is critically important that we consider what that picture looks like.
Q: How do companies like Apple and Nike do marketing “right”? In contrast, how do Christians evangelize “wrong”?
Sinclair: Relationship marketing has revolutionized entire industries recently. Apple, Google, Starbucks, Nike, and others have learned that passionate customers (or fans) do a better job at sharing their message than a TV ad or billboard ever will. Quite simply, people are more convincing than pitchmen. The experiences of friends and relatives hold far more weight than those of a stranger…especially if that stranger is perceived to be a salesperson.
For decades, Christians have involved themselves in mass-marketing Jesus rather than relationally marketing him. We’ve been content to put bumper stickers on our car, wear Christian t-shirts, and attend large-scale protests under the assumption that these things will effectively evangelize for us. However, if we hope to be effective these days, we must realize that (while keeping our message true to the Bible) our methods need to change. Relationships must be built. People must know that we care about them. Otherwise, we come across as salespeople pitching yet another product that they’re not interested in.
Q: Who is the primary target audience of your book and why?
Sinclair: The first line of Branded says, “It’s weird. I’m a Christian, and even I don’t like us very much.” This book is for anyone who has ever felt that way. It’s for people who aren’t content with the way things are. Who aren’t willing to let Jesus get lost in our ever-changing culture. Who aren’t okay with trying to fit themselves into the one-size-fits-all evangelism mold that Christians have created over the years.
Q: Would you say this book is needed now more than ever before? If so, why?
Sinclair: A recent Pew study found that people are moving into the “unaffiliated” religion category three times faster than people are leaving it. At that rate, we cannot afford to continue doing things the way they’ve always been done. The Christian message is timeless, but it’s clear the methods with which we share that message are not.