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May 28, 2008
Is word of mouth dead among faith-based audiences?
Yes, says the Hollywood Reporter. The film industry has given up on grassroots campaigns for people of faith because of a string of recent, high-profile failures.
Over at the Society for Word of Mouth, I posed this question: Is Hollywood smart in cutting back on trying to create evangelists, if you will, for films because it’s a poor investment, or is this an example of producers thinking their products are great when the market says otherwise?
A sampling of some responses:
Interestingly, one of the great film series ever (in my opinion) was 'Lord of the Rings,' a film based on a book by a very devout believer produced and directed by a person who never once mentioned their faith as far as I know in any of their reasons for doing the film.
As a former Christian pastor, and now a leader in a marketing firm that does some work with faith based groups... it's unfortunate that this segment is viewed as its own demographic. However, many Christians have brought this on themselves to a large extent. At the same time, just because the more fundamentalist-separatists are the most vocal of the Christian audience doesn't mean that everyone who calls themselves Christian would want to be considered as part of that demographic.
Bottom line, faith-based audiences are just like any other group of people... quality motivates people to share, not being marketed to like a herd of sheep.
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To paraphrase the comment I'd posted on the Hollywood Reporter's article: doesn't it seem like a dubious marketing proposition to sell people on the idea that a work of art WON'T challenge their sensibilities? People flock to church temple because it's (mostly) free to have their beliefs reinforced. Do people really feel like spending $9 + snacks to have the same experience?
word of mouth using social media channels should still do well.
From what I recall reading, JRR Tolkien was not a "very devout believer". The author of the comment may be erroneously referring to C.S. lewis.
As far as the article's main point: I think many people are careful now, because many christians who went to see "the Passion of the Christ" weren't ready for the emotional roller coaster. So people are less likely to recommend a movie based on buzz and will want to see it first.
Interesting question and the wedding photography industry is an industry full of people of faith and word-of-mouth seems to be working well over here.
I think that there is a growing disconnect between hollywood and faith based communities so we are less likely to pass along their work (or even give it a chance)
We are just like sheep (as Jesus said) so if my friends recommend something I'm still gonna listen....and if I like it then I'll pass it along too.
I wonder if there is a negative effect associated with marketing to a faith based group. The very right winged faith based people are very few in the entire scope of things however their voice is not proportional to their size. If you look at the stigma associated with anything remotely faith based it is very damaging to many industries. If i think a movie is Faith based because i see it being marketed that way i will steer clear of it.
Re: "From what I recall reading, JRR Tolkien was not a "very devout believer". The author of the comment may be erroneously referring to C.S. lewis."
Tolkien is credited as the man who was responsible for Lewis's conversion to Christianity. Tolkien was a devout Roman Catholic. He just doesn't hit you over the head with the Christian themes with a 2x4 like Lewis does.
First of all, a majority of the "Faith Based Community" are also in other demographic categories and can't be judged solely on that categorization.
However, being a part of a "Faith Based Community" I do know a number of people who make their entertainment choices based on values reinforced by that choice and trust me, they DO talk--alot! The problem Hollywood is facing, as Ben intuits, is that people making those values or Faith-Based decisions want the product to feel authentic and of high quality. Sterotypes of who the "Faith Based Community" is often leads Hollywood and other marketers down the wrong path. They need to research their base and not make assumptions on stereotypes or extremes.
I agree with others that it's a matter of poor product not worth the buzz as opposed to WOM not working within that community. I would argue, WOM works even better in pockets of that community BECAUSE of their strong belief systems and connectedness to others.