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Mormons Try Rebranding: "We're Just Like You!"

The Mormons are embracing their inner Mad Men with an extensive TV ad campaign that rebrands the Church of the Latter Day Saints as "normal" (video below). Lots of churches use advertising, of course, and there's nothing wrong with that, but the uncomfortable subtext here for people of faith is that good brand management often succeeds where the good book on its own fails.

The Mormon repositioning is an admission that a central part of its faith -- the two years of required missionary work that often consists of knocking on strangers' doors to share the good news -- has ruined the church's corporate image, per the Star Tribune:

In a recent study by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, respondents were asked to give a single-word description of Mormonism. Three of the top four responses were negative: "Bigamy" (No. 1), "cult" (No. 3) and "different" (No. 4). "Family" was No. 2.
Marketing experts have determined that many people find this door-to-door tactic off-putting at best, irritating at worst. So, say hello to the "new" Mormon: bubbly, friendly, someone who loves to do the same things you do and, best of all, is willing to approach you on your terms.
Normalcy is a key part of the campaign's theme, according to Ron Wilson, the LDS's brand manager:
"We want to help people understand that we are not who they think we are," said Ron Wilson, the church official overseeing the campaign. "We're no different than you. In fact, we might be your next-door neighbor."
To get an idea of how much of a revamp this is, compare the official LDS web site and the new Mormon.org. The former is filled with fusty religious exhortations; the latter -- bad-dum-bump! -- has trendy, modern art direction and looks like an insurance company's home page.

The ad that's catching most eyes features Joy Monahan, the 2008 women's longboard surfing champ. Like all the ads -- click through into YouTube and the "suggestions" list will show you a dozen or more -- the ads show just plain folks describing their normal lives, and concluding with the phrase, "... and I'm a Mormon."

If you're interested in the actual tenets of Mormon history and belief -- the magic underwear, the intolerance, the frauds of its founder, and the church's retrospective baptism of the dead -- you're probably better off watching PBS's fascinating four-hour history of the church, which covers all sides of those issues.


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