Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Book Review: Branded

I have to be honest.  I have no idea what compelled me to fill out the interest form for the opportunity to read and review Branded: Sharing Jesus with a Consumer Culture by Tim Sinclair.

From reading the description, this is the kind of book I'm trying to avoid reviewing.  Any of the Christian How-To books.  I want to read other people's reviews and see what is worth reading.  Then I want to go find those books and read them on my own, without the pressure of a review.

For some reason, though, I signed up for this Blog Tour.

About Branded:
The church spends $1.5 million for every one new follower of Jesus. Apple sells 26 iPads every minute. What is it that makes Apple so exciting and Jesus so boring? What is it that compels someone to bring their iPod everywhere and their Bible nowhere? In a word: marketing. Jesus is a life-changing product with lousy salespeople-people who are intimidated and embarrassed by the word "evangelism" and who show more enthusiasm for their gadgets than their God.

What would life look like if we stopped mass-marketing Jesus and started marketing our faith like Nike and Apple market their products--sharing relationally, from person to person? Using examples from these and other successful companies, author Tim Sinclair challenges Christians to throw out their casual attitudes toward faith and sign on for a marketing campaign for the Savior.

Written with the wit and wisdom of an experienced marketer, Branded peels away the feelings of fear and encourages readers how to share their faith in ways that are honest, authentic, and, most importantly, effective.

While I really hated my marketing class back in college (mostly the Yuppie types of people in that class), I did find a lot of the marketing concepts interesting, and even with my accounting positions over the years, I seemed to lean towards actually using those facts and figures to determine how to reach people with a product or service.

So really, this book is right up my alley.  I loved Tim's flair for describing various marketing techniques.  His description of shopping at Best Buy and Circuit City 10-15 years ago was spot on.  I laughed so hard I cried.  And then I read that part aloud to my husband, gasping to get the words out at points.  Hysterically funny.  And spot on.  Okay, so it is funny because it is spot on.  If you weren't shopping these stores back then, you probably won't be laughing quite so hard, but Tim does still make his point clear.

So.  I laughed.  I cried.  It moved me Bob... but did I come away learning anything about how to market my Savior?

Initially, I was disappointed.  At the beginning of the book, I was reading Tim's insightful thoughts on marketing using very up-to-date examples in the business world.  And Tim would compare that to how we "market Jesus" and Christians are definitely found falling short...  and I kept thinking, "This is great, he's right on.  But what do I do?"

In fact, I nearly finished the book (it is a very quick and enjoyable read) before I started to "get it" in any way, shape or form.  The last chapter, read the night before my review was due, was what got my mind spinning.  I had to write and ask for an extension on my review, something I really strive to not do.  Because last week, I just couldn't write anything coherent.  Believe me, I tried.

This book has been on my mind ever since I finished it.  I looked at the little WWJD bracelets at Mardel on Saturday in a totally different light.  I'm reading things on Facebook with a different perspective.  I'm talking to my kids about faith and life, and in the back of my mind, there is a different conversation going on.  I'm looking at posts written by atheists who attended a Christian homeschool conference, and I'm cringing.  I'm looking at a recent experience with a group "witnessing" to my baby brother at Mount Rushmore... and while I agreed with almost everything they said, and while I pray my brother truly heard them... I am pondering the approach now.

I get so excited about showing my parents how FaceTime works and hoping they will upgrade their iPod Touch so that the kids (and I) can make use of the technology and talk to them via our gadgets.  I rave about my Nook.  I don't bombard everyone I know with information about how much I prefer my Mac to the PCs I used for decades, but if someone expresses any hint of interest, I certainly will.  I'll tell anyone and everyone how important it is to read aloud to their children. 

Why don't I have the same enthusiasm for sharing about the absolute greatest service I've ever experienced?  A savior who loves ME enough to pay the price for all the screwing up I've done. 

This isn't a book to quickly read and then move on to the next title to check off a list.  This is a book to read and enjoy.  And then, probably, to read again and think.  Or at least to think.  I am quite certain this book is changing me.  But it is still way too early for me to truly say how.

Read this book.  Here's the link again to go buy it at Amazon.  Less than $10.  Well worth it.

Disclaimer:  I received this book through LitFuse.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.  


Lori Watson said...

My review isn't scheduled for a couple more weeks but I finished the book already. I absolutely loved it and was even thinking about choosing it to be our church summer book club choice until I got to his practical application chapter. As a pastor's wife in an independent church where everything we do is supported only by offerings (no church hierarchy providing funds), his suggestions DID smack of heresy and aren't logical. If we sell our church building (which was built in 1850 and is paid for) and rent a movie theater, how will we pay the bills if people are paying for their neighbor to go to camp rather than giving their offering? Is it good marketing for churches to be unable to pay their basic bills because people no longer wish to follow Biblical principles of giving their offering and working together as a church? How about great, out of the box suggestions for local churches to work together as a church family in sharing the love of Christ?

Something struck me as we were reviewing History Revealed last month. The early Christians were known by their love. They stayed and cared for the dying during the plague. They loved the world around them when others fled. They grew together in serving together. Rather than weakening the church as a whole by trying to rebrand Christianity one at a time, how about rebranding a church at a time. Wouldn't that be more powerful?  We have many outreach ideas we'd love to pursue as a church family- homeless ministry, young adult community outreach, food ministry to families having a difficult time in this economy but right now we're struggling to pay the bills. We're struggling to pay the salaries of the two pastors. What kind of testimony does this give to those around us?

 Yes, our western civilization church has screwed some stuff up. It happens, cause we're human. But rather than throw the baby out with the bathwater, let's work within our churches to reach out as a family of believers. I was with him all the way until that point, and I'm obviously pretty passionate about that point. ;-)

I'll have my chance to share my opinion in a week, I'll shut up now (although I may steal some of my comments for that post)? And other than that, I loved the book too. As did all the other reviews I've read so far. Sigh. I'm really going away now. Drown my sorrows in coffee. 

Debra said...

Lori -- you make some excellent points there, and I'm really glad you brought them up on my post... I wasn't thinking in those terms at all...

I do think that his out of the box thinking would be a fabulous thing to do *as a church body* and definitely, there would be some big problems if everyone took all of those last chapter ideas and ran with them.

I guess most of the churches I've been a part of really needed some serious shaking up though, so my mind was on them. I guess as part of a mostly healthy church, I wouldn't choose any of the options he presented that would harm *my* church... but I can see where other people might.

Hmmm... more to think about...

Tim Sinclair said...

First of all, I wanted to say thank you for your review of BRANDED. Thank you SO much. I'm thrilled that many of the concepts resonated with you.

It's fun to see the comments of others who have read the book too, especially regarding the church issue. I hope that those suggestions in the back don't come across as an encouragement to distance oneself from the local church. As I stated, they were there to shake up those who are in a rut and who want their church to do all of the hard work for them.

Will every suggestion apply to every person - no way. But I hope there might be one or two that will be helpful. There are MANY great churches who are doing WONDERFUL things. My intent was simply to encourage those who are "coasting" to re-think how they go about their routine.

Thanks again for the review and comments. I'd love to hear how you guys are using the book in the future.

Have a wonderful day!

In Christ,

Lori Watson said...

Tim- I was actually planning to write my review as an open letter to the author, but since you're here and perhaps will return to view the comments, I have another idea. What if I emailed you (let me know where to find contact info) with my specific concerns regarding specific suggestions in Chapter 13 and asked for your response to those concerns? Then I could post my questions and concerns along with your response on my upcoming review (June 22nd).

I loved the book and agree with much of what you had to say but as the wife of a pastor who pours himself into the lives of an often non-committal community, some of the suggestions would do so much damage that I can't recommend the book due to one chapter. I was actually heartbroken about this, as there is so much to be learned, but with a church full of many new believers I just can't depend on discernment of the individual and some of the suggestions would be outright harmful to our church body and the community around us.

Anyway, I'd love to have the discussion with you and allow you the opportunity to respond, if you're interested. Thanks so much!

Kimberly said...

What a cool sounding book! I'll have to see if I can snag a copy. Our church here in Cape Breton bought our church building for $1 and rebuilt it from the ground up. Our pastor is always looking for grants & donations and we are not a cent in debt, even though we are a very small congregation. Before our building was up to code, we met at the building of a closed restaurant. Another church in our area is starting up by having services at a local hotel (the space I believe is donated).

Tim Sinclair said...


Absolutely. I'd be happy to. Just email your questions to wbgltim (at) gmail (dot) com. I appreciate your willingness to do that.

Looking forward to it...

Debra said...

Now I really can't wait to read your review, Lori! Glad to see all of this. :)

Unknown said...

Great review. I haven't started reading the book yet. I have another book to finish before it. I'm glad it's a small book. Even though it's small it looks like a great book.

Lori Watson said...

That's great, Tim. I'll work on that and email you in a couple of days. Thank YOU for your willingness to do so.

Debra said...

Carol -- don't wait too long. I finished it, thinking I'd have no problem writing up the review. It took me a few days to get my thoughts at all together...

Lori & Tim, it has been an honor hosting this exchange :) Can't wait to read more...

Laura O in AK said...

Debra ~ I'm loving your review and now have to fight the urge to tweak mine that's prescheduled to publish tomorrow. I far preferred marketing to accounting while getting my MBA. Funny how I spent over a year basically in a CFO type position for a non-profit...but they needed someone good at working with people as well as numbers after having a string of number oriented individuals that shirked on communication. Loved a lot of the comparisons in the book, too. You just did a better job sharing some of them than my review has as it's written.

Lori ~ I think you just did most of the hard part of review writing in your comments! I'm looking forward to reading yours, too.