Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Marketing Normality

I wrote this in response to someone who had mentioned that the guys depicted on the Northstar Website all seemed to be very attractive and wondered about this. For the record I did not say that it was Ty on the cover of his book.


Let's be honest with ourselves how many guys do you honestly see clicking on it if the guys didn't look that way?

My background is public relations and marketing and what is going on here is no different then what other websites and magazines do everyday. Even the church does it in its media campaigns and magazines photos.

Its not so much of a glorification of perfection, youth, ideal body size, hair or style. Its more about an accepted standard of comfortable perceived normality. These models are on one hand very attractive and do draw our attention. On the next level there is nothing remarkably distracting about them that will take away from the message that is being projected. The are comfortable set dressings.

Everyone wants to be and feel normal. Like it or not those images personify normality within the culture we live in. Its easier to hear messages and accept them from people who appear normal and thus make us feel normal.

Many of us read Ty's book because we already knew him. However for those who don't and are in that section of Deseret Book, who randomly pick up the book or are looking for a non threatening book on a very intimidating topic, the photo is effective. This is a good looking guy, on the surface someone who looks like he shouldn't have issues. So the potential reader wonders "What? How can someone like this who looks so normal live a life in quiet desperation?" This is a very effective method to get the message out.

How many photo illustrations in the Ensign portray what Sacrament meeting is really like? The one I went to today had sleepy people, tired and stressed out parents. A lot of overweight people stuffed into shirts to small for them. Lots of pew monkeys, cheerios and screaming kids. I was thumbing through the Ensign and there was a picture of a large young family sitting in church. I don't know what they put in the Cheerios in that ward but its not like and ward I've sat in.

People don't want to be reminded of reality. Those who are into marketing and design know this. Perfection and the perceived normality are tools advertisers use everyday to get their message out. People see it and imagine they relate to the happy, smiley good looking people.

In this case the Northstar, Ty's book and the Ensign have positive messages. Using the most effective tools to spread that message isn't a bad thing. Now yes I admit that I don't fit the image of the guys on the site and yeah it would be cool to see a few "realistic" looking images. But its the message that is more important.

Is this being part of the world or using their methods? Yes to a degree, but as Elder Bednar has said some of our best tools to reach the world are found there, but you have to turn them 180 degrees.

Now yes I do think we need to be more accepting. And yes I think it is wrong to assume that just because someone is thin and therefore attractive, wears Auerostle or A&F or has that faux-moho-hauck is somehow more worthy, normal, less needy or deserving of friendship or Christlike love. Yes, maybe they are easier to accept and love because such association may make us feel "normal" but that kind of normal is what does breed clicks and ites.

I believe this is truly what living in the world but not being of the world means.

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