It was tough to read a headline or listen to news commentary last week without hearing news of the pending rapture. As many are aware, Harold Camping, a preacher from FamilyRadio.com, based on an interpretation of the Christian Bible, picked May 21st, 2011 as the date the rapture would occur. His warning / awareness campaign was spread to the rest of us through billboards, car wraps, and online videos. Regardless of the prediction’s accuracy or religious nature, the campaign was hugely successful.
With it being May 27th at the time of this post, the validity of the message is questionable at best, and has led to a mocking of the theory in the form of post-rapture looting parties as a viral trend on Facebook and atheist bloggers attacking Family Radio, describing them as fear-mongering doomsayers. Harold Camping, who made the initial prediction, had spent tens of thousands of dollars and weeks of promotion, and is now left with nothing but a ruined reputation.
At Webb Mason, we are not theological scholars by trade….but we are marketing experts, and from that perspective, the problem with this campaign was fairly obvious. All of Family Radio’s techniques are tried-and-true methods of spreading brand awareness. However, the issue was with the brand they were bringing awareness to. Apocalypse predictions are typically reserved for cardboard signs and street corners. Throwing this level of money and effort at this kind of message did not add validity to the claim, as Camping assumed it would. It simply made the whole thing farcical and ridiculous. This was the equivalent of marketing a neighborhood lemonade stand next to the Coke banner in Times Square. Add in the largely cynical blogging community, and Camping’s warning was barely had a chance to sway anyone that wasn’t already convinced.
This does raise the question though: What would be the components of a best practice to properly and successfully market and advertise the end of the world?
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