Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Marketing the Spiritual

It's all about Fred! (we'll say more in a minute, see below)

Paul and I are currently shopping around a book we've written with the working title of Waking Up in the Great Recession Mormon Desert. It's been endorsed by some great people already — David Spangler (one of the past directors at Findhorn and founders of what is now called the "New Age" movement), Larry Dossey M.D. (author of many great books exploring the interface between science, medicine and spirituality), Dr. Frederick Luskin (director of the Forgiveness Project at Stanford University and author of Forgive for Good), Anne Ellinger (President of Bolder Giving in Extraordinary Times and co-founder of More Than Money), popular Mormon author Carol Lynn Pearson, Patricia Kaminski (Executive Director of the Flower Essence Society) and Donna Cunningham (Editor for Vibration Magazine). It's getting to be a great list and, after taking time away to rewrite and gather support, we're ready to try bringing it to publication once again.

Here's an excerpt from "Chapter 3, Marketing the Spiritual: It's All About Fred". It's a TRUE STORY -- we really did post the following as a series of ads on Craigslist. Before we realized that that venue wasn't particularly appropriate for us we tried all kinds of ads there to let people know about our practice. Finally Paul said "It doesn't matter what we say! We might as well post something like this!" Then he did and Fred was born:

Marketing the Spiritual: It's All About Fred

Oh goody, Sheryl is designing a new flyer. She’s good at it, used to work full time as a graphic designer. She’s taken marketing classes; therefore, our flyers have a proper eye catching headline, a photo, testimonials, bullet points and a sidebar. Our business name and contact info is all where it should be (yawn) and it properly poses a question and then answers it.

Those ads don’t always seem to work for us. People have seen that kind of thing a jillion times. What does work is Sheryl telling a true story in her true voice. We don’t brag well. Actually, I brag better than Sheryl, sometimes. Ads, I guess, are supposed to convince people that they need you, or at least want you to do something for them. You have to communicate that “thing,” either a service or a product, but the marketing experts want it punched up. You can’t just say:

“Tea Kettles Fixed Here”

No, you should say instead:

“Tea Kettle Remanufacturing. Return your tea kettle to manufacturer’s specifications.”

But first you have to do this:

“How long has it been since your tea kettle performed the way it should? Remember the good old days when your tea was state of the art? Now you can regain your optimum teaness at “Fred’s Tea Kettle Heaven.”

Near the phone number it’s OK to say “tea kettles fixed here.” Because then it’s like a joke, an understatement, you will have already established that Fred is in fact Grand Master of the tea kettle. Fred trained under the great-great grandson of the inventor of the tea kettle, in China. Fred has over 30 years experience. Fred is award winning, he’s “internationally known,” “world renowned” or otherwise globally connected. Fred is wanted in six states. Fred has consulted with the federal government on tea kettle design. Fred, is working on a new technique for tea making without a kettle under contract to the British secret service. Sadly, Fred can no longer drink tea, due to an unfortunate accident with oolong. And yet his legacy lives on. Fred has sired many offspring composed entirely of tea. Fred is invisible to the naked eye.

Like Fred, we need to market ourselves. People need to know that we exist, what we do, that we do it well and that it’s worth the money we charge. Seems like most people like it when we tell our true stories, so we may stick a little closer to that. We have a couple of blogs and some videos on the “resources” page of our website.

Fred does tea-kettles. We do spiritual counseling and healing.

Hits to our website doubled overnight! What???? Really? Paul posted the following ad a few weeks later:

Fred Has Ascended

Sheryl is obsessed designing new products for our store. She’s good at it; used to work full time as a graphic designer and she's always been an artist. I was uploading photos until 3 am. But we have lost track of Fred.

There have been rumors, of course. Fred, or someone who looks like Fred has been seen in Israel, Vienna, Dallas and Fairbanks. We don't know what to believe.

The last thing we heard was that Fred had wandered away from his morning ritual, leaving the disciples bewildered. Lychee sat all day in a lotus posture, believing it to be a test. Rooibos was beside himself. Osthmos was calm at first, but he steeped in his own juice for hours and became bitter.

Fred is unavailable. We're still here.

Hits to our website tripled and suddenly Fred took on a life of his own. The following ad went up a few weeks later:

Fred Found

The disappearance of Fred has been a trying time for us all. Those of us closest to him have been especially affected. With very mixed feelings, we report on a confirmed encounter with Fred. Rest assured, this comes from a reliable source.

Our dear friend, Dr. Lipton, came upon Fred in an espresso house in Seattle. He was behind the counter.

 “At first I didn’t recognize him,” the doctor told us, “He has a pierced nose now, and he was wearing a black belly shirt, which is a little odd for a man in his forties. He seemed elated, almost glowing.”

Dr. Lipton, of course, struck up a conversation, explaining about the uproar that Fred’s disappearance has caused.

 “Yeah, uh-huh.” answered Fred, “I’m sure it ruffled a few tea leaves.”

 “Did you ascend?” asked Doctor Lipton, “Because that was the rumor.”

 “I’m in Seattle aren’t I? That’s pretty far north. . . ”

And we’re told that Fred laughed then. A nervous giggle at first, but it went on while he was steaming milk, glancing around the room at customers. He seemed distracted.

 “No, really Fred, did you. . . ”

 “Hey listen, I just woke up, Ok? That’s all it is. That’s all there is to say.”

 “You woke up?”

 “Yes. And there’s nothing like a double cappuccino prepared fresh by a skilled barista to wake you up and get you going for the day! I bought into a franchise, isn’t it great? Look at all this polished copper, beautiful.”

There is more, but we can’t bear to report it. Fred has gone to the dark side. Or at least French roast, if not Vienna.

We're praying for him.

Suddenly Fred didn’t feel so fictional anymore. We can’t let Fred go to the dark side! We’re not about letting people give up on what matters most to their hearts! At least that’s how l felt about it at first. Paul wasn’t happy about it but I couldn’t contain myself. I decided to post my own ad:

Save Fred!!!

The news that Fred, the Grand Master of the tea kettle, had bought into an espresso franchise in Seattle was just too much for Sheryl to handle:

“Fred can't have gone to the dark side! That's horrible!” she cried. “We can't let it happen. We have to save Fred!”

She wanted to start a campaign to bring Fred back. “Maybe if we all shouted 'I believe in Fred! I really do!' and clapped our hands really loud. . . ”

No, wait, that's what you do for fairies. Besides, that's an old-fashioned way of handling things. What do we do in the 21st century?

Buy T-shirts! Maybe if we all wore a T-shirt that said “Save Fred!!!!” and Fred saw them he'd know how much we care about him and. . .

Sheryl has been so distraught since Fred's disappearance you'll have to forgive her. But she's got a point.

Fred is the Grand Master of the tea kettle. Fred trained under the great-great grandson of the inventor of the tea kettle, in China. Fred has over 30 years experience. Fred is award winning, he’s “internationally known,” “world renowned” or otherwise globally connected.  Fred deserves a following.

Save Fred by clicking here.

And if you need help with your own spiritual transformation . . .
Hits on the website remained high for awhile but then leveled off again. We needed to have at least one more installation of the Fred saga. Unfortunately, interrupting Paul’s creative process threw him off his stride; but finally the muse came back for one last Craigslist ad:

A Letter from Fred:

Dear People,

First of all, I’m sorry that I have not written sooner. While I’m at it, I think I should apologize also for my sudden disappearance. These are the consequences of living one’s life as a fictional character. I’ve always found it to be a frustrating part of my existence that I’m never truly in control of my actions nor the outcomes leading from same. However, I didn’t get to be Grand Master of the teakettle by being unfocused or irresponsible, so this kind of thing really grates on me.

Sheryl, dear, you really need to calm down. The “Save Fred” campaign was somewhat of an embarrassment to me as I did not need saving and I still don’t. The T-shirts were cute though. I hope you enjoyed making them and I’m sorry that nobody bought any. And yet people are buying the “Energy Healers Do It With Love” design. Life is strange.

To my disciples and my children, I’m sure you never lost faith in me. You would understand my sudden departure best as you are all fictional characters, too. We share a deep kinship that is hard to explain to the non-fictionals amongst us.

So, where did I go? Am I really in Seattle running an espresso franchise? Did I really get pierced and take to wearing a black belly shirt? When I said “I just woke up” was I quoting the Buddha after his enlightenment, or was I making a cynical statement about capitalism in the midst of the enlightened era we live in? Did Doctor Lipton just make the whole thing up for his own purposes? I like to think that whatever Doctor Lipton reported on, he had the best of intentions. Our association goes way back. I think it’s best to leave it at that.

There was some speculation that I had ascended. That actually happened three and a half years ago. Nobody noticed at the time. Ascension is kind of like going to Fresno on a business trip and coming across a really fantastic Thai restaurant when you’re just out wandering. You leave happy, full and satisfied, but you’re still in Fresno.

If any of you are still worried about me, or feeling lost or even a little betrayed: just think of me whenever you have a hot beverage, and I will do my best to appear. I’m so sorry I went away. Sometimes I think you’re more real to me than I am to you. Enjoy your free will, you won’t miss it until it’s gone, believe me.

Be still and know that I am Fred.

1 comment:

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