Church Copies Beer Advertising

Church Copies Beer Advertising

July 19, 2010 by

The Kiwis are at it again. This time it’s a church in Taurunga who found themselves warned for trademark infringement. Against whom, you might ask? DB Breweries—a local beer company.

There’s obviously some level of humor in a church marketing themselves in such a way that might or might not confuse them with a beer company. What’s even funnier?  That “a number of individuals—including other churches—were increasingly adopting the format to promote their own message…”.

The church in question created a sign that read, “Jesus was just a man…Yeah Right,” with striking visual similarity to a popular ad campaign from Tui beer. The inspiration for the church’s sign is pretty hard to miss, and it goes to prove that church copycats aren’t only here in the United States.

So is this just another story of a church ripping someone off? Not quite. I think we can learn from how Bethlehem Community Church ended up handling this situation:

Mr. [Jim] Wallace [of Bethlehem Community Church] said he was prepared to apologise “on national television” if the church had offended the brewery.

That’s awesome! The church offended someone, and they are prepared to publicly apologize. I can’t wait to see it happ…oh, wait! It gets even better. From a follow-up piece:

Today, DB [Breweries] said it had “extended an olive branch” to the church and Tui marketing manager Jarrod Bear had asked its advertising agency, Saatchi’s, to look into a new billboard format specifically for the church.

The brewery actually had their marketing department come up with marketing copy the church could use. Jim Wallace, the church pastor, called it “an unprecedented, generous move.” He went on to say:

“We are not in the business of fighting copyright law. We are not here to make enemies, we are here to tell people about Jesus and to do it with a sense of humour.”

So now they’ve gone from trademark infringement to friends in the matter of a month. We can’t wait to see the fruits of a local church working with a local brewery to reach out to their community, and it gets us to thinking: If Kiwi churches are finding ways to collaborate with breweries, what kind of businesses is your church partnering with? What opportunities are there that we’re just not opening our eyes to?

Post By:

Joshua Cody

Josh Cody served as our associate editor for several years before moving on to bigger things. Like Texas. These days he lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife, and you can find him online or on Twitter when he's not wrestling code.
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19 Responses to “Church Copies Beer Advertising”

  • Cindy Zeis
    July 19, 2010

    This is great! It’s exactly this kind of “outside the box” thinking that not only gets you noticed but makes your organization unique and creates that sense of curiosity that will surely have people stopping by to see what’s happening.

    Two thumbs up to Bethlehem Community Church for not only creating a stir and getting themselves noticed but for making a new connection within their business community.

    Job well done!


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  • I LOVE it!

    First, they are doing what the best marketers recommend to start with a marketing message that we know works, and tailor it to use in your own marketing.

    If the image and thought worked for the original company, it’ll work for the church.

    I recommend my clients (business owners, and churches that I help think like a business) to develop markeitng by taking what works from the best ads they can find, and using that approach in their own ads. You can’t become a master at ad writing until you know what the master’s are doing and can copy them stroke by stroke.

    And, besides, as I look at this it doesn’t seem to me that they copied anything that would truly be copywrited or trade marked.

    They have certainly caught a lot of attention from this.

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  • Mary
    July 19, 2010

    This isn’t directly straight at the church in question, but more to generate discussion…I wonder if we, as the Church, be producing the kind of content (and design) that the world tries to emulate, instead of the other way around? I mean, if we believe in our message as much as we say we do, and if we believe that our message is the message that people need to hear, should we not be setting the standard that the world tries to attain?

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    • Froggy Phillips
      July 20, 2010

      I agree Mary!

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    • Laure
      July 21, 2010

      I definitely agree that the Church should be producing the type of content that the world wants to emulate. Unfortunately, a lot of what makes content “enviable” isn’t free. Churches and non-profits often do not have the funding to hire the experienced, talented people they need, and creatives can’t always give their time away for free or they won’t be able to feed their families. In my opinion, it is a complicated situation that requires a balance between the two: churches being willing to pay for what they need and designers being willing to give discounts on occasion.

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  • bondChristian
    July 19, 2010

    Great job on both sides. This is brilliance at it’s best, working together instead of being stupid about it and burning bridges.

    -Marshall Jones Jr.

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  • Froggy Phillips
    July 20, 2010

    I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but I really didn’t see Jesus , or Paul… or anyone in the NT… or OT for that matter, “Marketing” anything. The Church exists SOLEY for the believer. We are to attend church (fellowship with one another) for the building up of the saints. Period. These saints then GO OUT into the world and tell the lost about how they were saved from their wretched sinful selves, and how the world can do the same. Good News, it is, to be saved from a fallen world.

    When someone goes to church, they are not looking for the world, they are looking for a Holy God who does not think it at all humorous that people are dying without Him and going to Hell. If the world wants humor, let them find it during the week… perhaps even from a Christian comedian. Christians can certainly have fun and joke in church, indeed, they should if they are filled with joy. On the other hand, The Gospel is set apart from the things of the world, why on Earth would we want to water it down and blend it in with the world when we are commanded not to??? What hope are we offering a world without Christ when we look no different when we’re with Him? What are you telling a lost world (or individual) who is in need of a Holy Savior, when your advertising that saving message as a joke? It’s repulsive.

    By the way, the word/term “Sucks”, do you know what that means to most people over the age of 30? It means to suck a man’s penis. I don’t know what it means to you, but this is a clear example of how the church did so well at “blending”. When most older folk hear the term “This sucks!”, our minds go to what the term originally meant. If it means something else to you, then perhaps you should clarify, or just not use the term at all.

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    • Steven
      July 21, 2010


      We do, in fact, have a precedent of marketing in the New Testament, and it was actually set by Christ himself. There was a specific reason that Jesus preached his “Sermon on the Mount” on the side of a mountain: it was a place where the large crowd could better see and hear his message. That is the basis of marketing. Presenting your message in such a way that the intended audience can understand and respond to it.

      Also, as to your charge that advertising the message of Christ’s sacrifice as something humorous is repulsive, I don’t think that that is what the church in question was doing. Their claim that Christ wasn’t just a man is the very basis of the gospel.

      And in Webster’s Dictionary, under the word “suck” you’ll find many definitions, including this one: “slang : to be objectionable or inadequate,” but you won’t find one relating to the sucking of a man’s penis. Slang terms change from generation to generation. And honestly, I think that if you took a poll of people of all ages and asked them what you meant when you said that the marketing that churches use sucks, not a single one of them will think that you literally mean that church marketing sucks penis.

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  • Froggy Phillips
    July 22, 2010

    Steven sighting the Sermon On the Mount as a template for Church marketing is a a far stretch at best. Jesus was preaching to a crowd. Period. Going by your rationale and interpretation, one could argue that one sure fire way to relate to this culture would be to use sex to market the Church. After all, we see sex in almost every marketting idea out there. It sells for sure.

    Indeed, if we do not step back and take a look at the sin we’ve allowed in our churches, repent and pray through this, there’s no doubt this is what will come about. We’ll have partially clad women with breast implants on billboards enticing men to come to church. For this there are many examples in the Bible. We can just become the Temple of Diana. Perhaps this why there were such strict rules within the church on modest dress and conduct?

    Becoming a “Jew to the Jew” and “Greek to the Greek” did not mean that Paul worshipped pagan gods and set up Christian statues to worship. Again, this was the Catholic Churches way of marketing. “Let’s work with the Pagans… we need to reach them in a way they understand. Let’s scrape the names off of the pagan god statues and make them into saint statues!” Brilliant. Now, thousands of years late, we still have Aunt Rosemary praying to St. Christopher instead of God.

    We see that when Paul talked to the Greeks he ingratiated them by telling them that they were great thinkers and appealed to this. However, he did not market the Gospel, he preached it to them and let them think about it.

    Regarding the meaning of the term “Sucks”. I would challenge you to take such a poll as you mentioned. Also take a poll asking Christian parents if they let their children use the term.

    The bottom line is that people are dying without Christ. As one of my friends once said “If Christ is drawing someone unto Himself, you could sing Mary Had a Little Lamb, and they would ask how they could know Jesus.” Jesus did not package Himself or His message. His message, His WORD is what transformed and saved people. Indeed, it is the the only thing that saves people. If people would spend half the time that they do on church marketing, just preaching the Word of God, the world would hear in no more than a couple of days. Let God do His own “marketing” after you give the Grace and Truth.

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    • Steven
      July 22, 2010

      What’s a stretch is the connection that you attempted to make between my saying that we should present the gospel in a way that our audience can understand and respond to it and the idea that the church should use something akin to pornography to entice people. The method of marketing obviously should be consistent with the intended message.

      I think that you’ve got the wrong idea about what is and what isn’t marketing. Marketing isn’t about becoming just like the culture. Marketing is using methods to convey meaning. Marketing is a tool that the church already uses: the church bulletin, mailers, marquees, etc. I drive past tons of churches that attempt to use humor on their marquee (“Welcome to CH CH. What’s missing? UR.”) I don’t think that any reasonable person would see that and think that said church must be subverting the gospel and belittling the suffering and death of our savior to nothing more than a joke.

      In fact, the above example is the reason why this website exists. A church is always marketing itself, every minute of every day. What remains, then, is whether they are going to choose to be intentional about it, and try to use this tool for the glory of God, or whether they’ll continue using the same ugly clip art, cheesy sayings, and bad fonts to convey the most important truth known to man.

      Marketing isn’t only about communications tools (websites, postcards, church-front banners, etc.). It’s also about concentrating on how the general public views the church. The gospel is offensive, to be sure, but that doesn’t mean that we have to be. And we should be mindful of why more people aren’t interested in church. If it’s because we all dress up in stodgy suits and sing tired hymns and listen to one more message about tithing, we probably need to repent of the ways that we are allowing the world to market us. The gospel of Christ is exciting and life-changing, and we should present it as such.

      And pointing to the allowances of Christian parents does not prove your point on the word ‘sucks.’ Most Christian parents probably wouldn’t allow their children to see ‘Saving Private Ryan,’ but that doesn’t mean that it’s inappropriate. And if there was a child that was perusing this site, I say he’s probably mature enough to understand the difference between the one use of ‘sucks’ and the other.

      Grace and peace.

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  • Froggy Phillips
    July 22, 2010

    So we need to attract people to the Gospel by selling it to them in a pretty package because the fact that Jesus suffered and died to pay the penalty for our eternal damnation is just not a pretty enough picture? Something such as billboard that says “Welcome to CH CH. What’s missing? UR” will get people coming in droves… to a life changing salvation in and through Christ?

    Great music and cool signs will tell the hopeless sinner …what? That Christians can be fun? That God isn’t boring? And that will lead them to salvation? How about a billboard that says “Taste the Living Water and never thirst again.” “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
    My question is, are you trying to market your church, or the Gospel?

    “The gospel is offensive, to be sure, but that doesn’t mean that we have to be.”

    Well, yes, we should be. ” Our lives are a fragrance presented by Christ to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those being saved and by those perishing. To those who are perishing we are a fearful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved we are a life-giving perfume.” 2 Cor.2 Are we not told that the Gospel is a stumbling block to those who are perishing? Are we not promised to be persecuted for the sake of the Gospel? If we are living the Gospel, preaching the Gospel, then we will be sweet to some, and offensive (putrid even) to others.

    It is God who does the “marketing”. We are to be loving, and giving, and forgiving…. much more so than the world. We are to be holy and set apart and our lives should show this…”marketing”. However, when it comes to church? People, believers, come to church to grow in Christ. Period. For instance, I wish my church had better music… and A.C. it doesn’t. I’ll pray for those things. What my church does have are a lot brothers and sisters who love God and His Word. People who reach out to all those in need in and out of the Church. Our pastor expounds so on the Word that we have been in the book of Mark for 7 months and have just now reached Chap. 6… This is why I’m there. I try and live my life in such a way that shows the non-believer, not that I’m hip and cool (even thoguh I may fancy myself those things =) ) but that I have something they NEED. Not something they want… because no one wants God. No. Not. One.

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  • Froggy Phillips
    July 22, 2010

    On using “Sucks”. Watching Saving Private Ryan would damage a child. Having one of my children go up to his unsaved uncle saying “Uncle Jimmy, this pizza really sucks!” would be horrible, and damage my brother (Uncle Jimmy). He expects a lot more of me as his “Christian” sibling… who’s been quite the testimony to him.

    I wonder, do you think that Christians should freely use 4 letter words … perhaps making them common place? Or tell me, what do you think is a good age for when a person can both know the original meaning of the word “sucks”, and use it? Legal drinking age?

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    • Adrian Barri
      July 23, 2010

      The original meaning of the word “sucks” is highly sexual, basically disgusting and not at all appropriate for Christians to be throwing around. To argue that it is now a commonplace word and in everyday usage is to deny that it hasn’t been that long since its creation with the original meaning. Most people still recognize and understand the sexual connotations of the word and it should NOT be used in casual conversation. It should certainly never be used by anyone claiming to be a Christian.

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  • Cyntada
    July 24, 2010

    I’m not sure it if makes me sadder to hear that a church thought ripping off the image of others would be a great marketing idea… or that other Christians thought it was a great idea too. Why *do* we feel the need to copy things of the world and make them look the same, but Christianized? Will someone who turns their head in interest of the wordly stuff really want to know Him because we snuck a Jesus reference in there? “Ha ha, made you look! It’s my Christan bumper sticker, but YOU thought it was for Harley Davidson! Gotcha!”

    Do we really think the viewer will want to know Him because my T-shirt says Jesus Christ instead of Coca-Cola? As if someone would think: “Hey, Coca Co… no, Jesus Christ! Jesus Christ! I thought it was Coke, but it really says JESUS! Now THAT’S what I wanted to hear about, not soda pop! Yay!” Please. Most folks probably just decide that the T-shirt is not only offering something they’ve already rejected a thousand times before, it also got their mouth watering over the thought of soda pop, then delivered something unwanted. That’s disappointing, not enlightening.

    When did Jesus ever bait-and-switch us like that? None of us were tricked into following Him, so why would we then imagine that tricking others is a great introduction to His character? And if we’re not to love the world or anything in it, why are we using that very thing to attract others to what we believe in?

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    • Paul Hickernell
      July 26, 2010

      I agree Cyntada (awesome name) that we are, most often, better off going for the original idea rather than the copycat. Sometimes at ZION we will package a teaching series using a pop culture treatment. Four years ago we did a series called Desperate Housholds and we wrapped it up like the TV show. For our creative teams it was a fun way to do our annual family series. There were no other motives.

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  • David Bunce
    July 29, 2010

    @Froggy – I think the idea of church being only for believers (and indeed the idea being only the individual redemption of sins) can only work if you remove Jesus both from his teaching about Kingdom (the Kingdom of God is here and it is a rich party where all the down-and-outs are invited) and from his Jewish background, where he is fulfilling the prophecies of people like Isaiah and Ezekiel who see the coming of the Suffering Servant as making the people of God a place where all are welcome and have the idea of a ‘city on a hill’ and talk of watchmen lifting their voices to speak of what Yahweh has done.

    The message of Jesus is so much more than a delivery of facts about individual salvation (though, thank God, in Jesus we are saved) – it’s an experience we invite people into in order that they might experience life to the full – life that I guess is ultimately marked by joining in the mission of Jesus in all the colours that entails.

    @Cyntada – fundamentally, you’re right, I guess. I personally squirm when I encounter copy cat stuff whether in music or art. Partly cos it’s just not necessary, but largely because it’s not even a good quality copy and just shows lack of originality. It’s kind of like what Tolkein is talking about in some of his Middle Earth back legend, the orcs being not truly a race because their creator didn’t possess the spark of Divine Fire. I think part of the implications of the Gospel is that Jesus is alive, therefore beauty and creativity are holy and sacred things, and we shouldn’t be afraid to discover our own voices and genres in these things.

    A final thought – creativity doesn’t have to equal ‘professional’ or ‘equal’ to what the mainstream does. There is a beauty in the amateur art, the different voice or the vulnerable expression of art that can be overlooked when we try and homogenise stuff too much. The difficult bit is to try and balance this communal beauty with the idea of marketing, where to a certain extent, there are levels and standards we ought to conform to in order to be taken seriously.

    As always – it’s God in the tensions.

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  • Dave
    August 3, 2010

    On a completely different note . . . (strictly on the topic of marketing) . . .

    Is DB Breweries crazy? How do they not know a single thing about secondary impressions? How did someone at Saatchi not let them in on the advertising secret that this is a good thing because “it still counts for us”.

    The idea of filing a cease & desist (or whatever their “warning for copyright infringement consisted of”) is so old school. It dates back to BEFORE Absolut vodka ads and anything that sounds like “Got Milk?” using the Phenix typeface against black. Those campaigns will live on forever (Milk and Absolut vodka will benefit from secondary impressions for years to come).

    Apple would have a whole department commissioned with just tracking down “mac vs. PC” knockoff videos and most of us would be in trouble. Yeah, you know who you are.

    Sure, all the church stuff needs to be hashed out. Creative integrity & all that. But if companies are that against having their ads knocked-off, then I have to wonder why the agency isn’t stepping in to talk some sense into them. Or if this is just an uninformed knee-jerk reaction.

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