The Mormon Brand: A Sound Investment
Thursday, August 5, 2010
Disclaimer: the author is agnostic and the following observations are made strictly from a brand strategist's perspective.
Mormons and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or LDS - not to be confused with LSD(!) - have been on my my radar screen lately. It has nothing to do with HBO's popular drama Big Love or Mitt Romney's failed presidential campaign. Rather, LDS has embarked on a brand image campaign which, upon a closer look, is much more than a polished, high-gloss initiative aimed at a younger generation of potential disciples. In fact, it is both a timely move for a marketplace in search of answers and a bold competitive move among religious institutions.
As with any good brand strategy, LDS highlights the reasons why one should believe in their brand - if not their faith. Or, their particular faith. It does so by showcasing its people, their values and then, almost as an afterthought, the tenants of their faith. While this approach may feel misleading at first, it is effectively repositioning the Mormon brand and the conversation about it. One might argue that the image campaign is a pitch to prove that Mormons are people "like you and me" and that it is a feel-good effort for those who are part of the Mormon faith. But, given this recent Financial Times article and the current economic environment, there is a much more powerful message embedded in this effort: Mormons are people with a strong work ethic and family values; they are successful, stable, community-oriented, well-educated, cosmopolitan...in short, despite what you might hear, Mormons are thriving.
As the above-mentioned Financial Times article points out, Wall Street and law firms, among others, have come to appreciate Mormon graduates for these very reasons. The Mormon brand now functions as a shortcut, just as any truly successful brand does. In the case of the Mormon brand, it stands for a certain kind of citizens with a highly desirable set of skills and values. So, the true brilliance of the image campaign is that it makes an economic, rather than a faith-based, appeal. It gives people tangible, immediate reasons to believe, not the promise of afterlife: For employers the brand functions as a seal of approval, for citizens it provides an answer to the crushing economic worries many face. It is, therefore, no accident that the Mormon brand heavily borrows from Charles Schwab's brand campaign:
So, one might paraphrase Schwab's call to action: "Worried about the future. Do something about it. Talk to us. The Mormon brand, a sound investment."
However, no matter how one interprets the Mormon brand, it isn't surprising to see a religious brand's apt read of the consumers' and marketplace's current state. After all, as author James B. Twitchell points out: "the history of religion is in a sense the history of marketing."