Branded Nation: The Marketing of Megachurch, College Inc., and Museumworld

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9780743243476: Branded Nation: The Marketing of Megachurch, College Inc., and Museumworld

Branding has become so successful and so ubiquitous that even cultural institutions have embraced it. In this witty and trenchant social analysis, James Twitchell shows how churches, universities, and museums have learned to embrace Madison Avenue rather than risk losing market share.
Branded Nation uncovers a society where megachurches resemble shopping malls (and not by accident); where a university lives or dies on the talents of its image makers -- and its ranking in U.S. News & World Report; and where museums have turned to motorcycle exhibits and fashion shows to bolster revenue, even franchising their own institutions into brands. In short, says Twitchell, high culture is beginning to look more and more like the rest of our culture. But in perhaps his most subversive observation, he doesn't condemn this trend; on the contrary, he believes that branding may be invigorating our high culture, bringing it to new audiences and making it a more integral part of our lives.
Savvy, sharply observed, and bitingly funny, Branded Nation is sure to both enlighten and entertain.

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About the Author:

James B. Twitchell is professor of English and advertising at the University of Florida. He is the author of several books on English literature, culture, marketing, and advertising, most recently Living It Up: America's Love Affair with Luxury.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

The Future of Branded Living Space: Megachurch as Minitown

The allure of linking cultural aspiration with living space has always informed community. When you look at most utopian experiments you see they are usually informed by some metaphysical plan, some religious program. After all, this country was founded by Puritans who were trying to link otherworld belief with this-world reality. The City on the Hill was going to be built around Christian apocalyptic vision. So when one of the lower denominations of Protestantism decides to brand living space as with Jim and Tammy Bakker's Heritage USA (at one time the third most visited U.S. tourist attraction, behind Disneyland and Disney World) or Jerry Falwell's Liberty University (to "challenge Harvard in academics and Notre Dame in athletics"), they are squarely in the tradition of our forefathers, although we may be loath to admit it.

The megachurch is at this intersection between sacred and profane. It inspires reverence, awe, and commitment and at the same time it attempts to generate a mimic of village life. It attempts to link Sunday with the rest of the week. Just as the congregation enjoys fellowship in shared faith, the megachurch also provides the interactions of club, family, and business. One of the primary redevelopers of derelict malls around the country has been the megachurch. Old shopping meccas are becoming new religious meccas.

As Patricia Leigh Brown reports in "Megachurches as Minitowns," this is a predictable evolution of reconstituted community. The fullservice, 24/7 sprawling megachurch, which offers many of the conveniences and trappings of secular life wrapped around a spiritual core, is essentially subsuming many of the activities previously outsourced by the only-on-Sunday church. It is possible to eat, shop, go to school, bank, work out, scale a rock-climbing wall, and pray, all 278 without leaving the grounds. It's like the New England village on steroids, the church as gated community.

Often these churches seem to fetishize the very objects of community. So at Southeast Christian in Louisville, Kentucky, churchgoers speak of a 22,000-person family, and visitors are regaled with often loopy statistics such as the automated coffeepot that serves five thousand cups an hour. Southeast's size has spawned the invention of the Greenlee Communion Dispensing Machine, which can fill forty communion cups in two seconds. Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas, by attracting young congregants and keeping them, has grown from a handful of families to 20,000 members in a dozen years. Fellowship offers a 40,000-square-foot youth center with a climbing wall and video arcade and is creating a lake to encourage father-son bass fishing. Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, has a youth center so elaborate that some have called it "Preston World": fifteen ball fields, a 1950s-style diner, and a fitness center, as well as classrooms and a seven-thousand-seat sanctuary. It is adding a $19 million school, a coffee shop, a food court, a student ministry center, a youth building, an outdoor prayer walk, a chapel, and an indoor commons, modeled on the idea of Main Street. As Ms. Brown concludes, "These churches are becoming civic in a way unimaginable since the 13th century and its cathedral towns. No longer simply places to worship, they have become part resort, part mall, part extended family and part town square."

As I saw at Willow Creek, these seemingly unthreatening churches are becoming a parallel universe, a self-conscious branded community, social magnets drawing in all manner of outside services (the Brentwood Baptist Church in Houston has even incorporated a Mc- Donald's complete with a drive-in window and small golden arches) with all manner of cradle-to-grave services (including in some cases an on-site crematorium). Essentially, the megachurch has the necessary market clout to buy back what we have spent the last hundred years selling off. A study by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research at the Hartford Seminary finds the average annual income for a megachurch is $4.6 million a year, which means it can support all kinds of nonpastoral interactions. In fact, it means the megachurch may be becoming dependent on competitive amenities just as Higher Ed, Inc., has.

Yet in stark contrast to the issues roiling the big traditional churches, these place-based churches offer relief from stresses on American family life, including suburban sprawl, with its vast commutes, and real and perceived dangers. These bastions offer simple things such as multiple entry points, nonintimidating iconography, ATMs, big-time gyms, computer classes, dating services, after-school programs, places that sell real spiritwear, internal clubs to help smokers learn how to quit and bowlers learn how not to do it alone -- things usually associated with the marketplace community. If people are shopping for faith, the megachurch fills up the shelves. And since you can't generate brand loyalty on the basis of faith, you essentially do it on the basis of add-ons, on the basis of value added to affiliation, on the basis of providing convenient community.

To hard-pew critics, such belief-as-lifestyle is closer to lifestyle-asbelief. But such marketing is the inevitable development of interchangeable surplus goods. Yes, everything is prepackaged, including extended family. In a historical sense, the church as safe harbor is revived and reformatted to conform to the shoppers' climate-controlled mentality -- room-temperature religion. Yes, the megachurch is the religious version of the gated community, and yes, it is religious Disneyland, but it is also the ineluctable result of combining powerful narrative with human yearning and plenty of free parking.

The Future of Branded Living Space: Alma Mater Township

While we usually associate the colonization of living space with religious institutions, the instillation of cultural capital into museums and universities means that they may be the next to extend their brands into generating community. It is already happening with universities; perhaps museums will follow. Nonprofits will be able to bank on the brand equity by extending their stories to living space just as commercial and religious entities have done.

In Higher Ed, Inc., the brand extension happened innocently enough. A generation ago, a number of universities decided to develop so-called research parks. Stanford Research Park, opened by Stanford University in 1951 as an incubator of university research, catapulted to success on the decision by William Hewlett and David Packard to locate their growing computer company there. In a sense, Silicon Valley, an extension of the Stanford park, followed. A decade later, a consortium of universities in the Piedmont area of North Carolina joined with local government officials to found the Research Triangle Park. With more than fifty companies employing almost 35,000 people, the Park now has only a tenuous academic connection to Duke, UNC, and NC State but a profound perceptual link.

Such success in extending the academic brand did not go unnoticed. The real burst came in 1980, when passage of the Bayh-Dole Act gave schools the right to patent federally financed inventions. The initial beneficiaries were the large research universities. The park concept was made still more attractive because the legislatures realized that State U. didn't have to be a continual financial drain; it could be a source of income. There are now about 130 of these cleverly named parks that are supported by, and in turn contribute to, host universities. Or, at least, that's the hope.

If the results of university-supported research have been mixed, the next development is probably going to succeed. Since selling affiliations of various sorts is now the biggest money maker for universities (and not tuition), why not extend the brand to include older students? In fact, why not forget the students for a moment and create a living environment for alums? University-Linked Retirement Communities (ULRCs) are the watchword for future brand growth. While the golf course may be attractive and living next to a hospital may seem comforting, why not also live next to your alma mater? In fact, why not live on campus?

In the last decade these affiliated communities have been growing like collegial ivy. In most cases, the community itself isn't owned by the college or university. The ULRCs are outsourced just as are the teaching and food service. The symbiosis succeeds because universities have such a problem with fixed costs. Although they operate year-round, the academic term lasts only nine months. Summer school has never been a money maker, and no school has ever been able to succeed with a full-year calendar, although some schools attempt to mandate attending a certain number of summer sessions. In the past, universities often rented campus space in the summer to private conventions or private summer schools and struck various lease arrangements that allowed schools to off-load their dormitory services to private developers. The ULRC solves many problems of maximizing the use of facilities. Often the community does have some kind of access to the school that allows residents to take courses free or at deeply discounted prices. The expansion starts simply enough. First, offer spaces to alumni/ae and retired professors; then provide housing for parents of the students/faculty/staff; then extend to relatives of alumni; then take anyone with the money. Is there a better brandstory than lifelong learning? Needless to say, when you look at the brochures, the second paragraph details the proximity to university medical care.

The largest operator of ULRCs is Kendal Corporation in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, which already has communities at Dartmouth, Cornell, and Oberlin. Classic Residence by Hyatt, the senior living affiliate of Hyatt Corporation, has signed a long-term ground lease with Stanford University to build and operate a 494-unit retirement community near the university medical center. Retirement communities have been built or ...

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Book Description Simon & Schuster. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Paperback. 336 pages. Dimensions: 8.2in. x 5.4in. x 0.9in.Branding has become so successful and so ubiquitous that even cultural institutions have embraced it. In this witty and trenchant social analysis, James Twitchell shows how churches, universities, and museums have learned to embrace Madison Avenue rather than risk losing market share. Branded Nation uncovers a society where megachurches resemble shopping malls (and not by accident); where a university lives or dies on the talents of its image makers -- and its ranking in U. S. News and World Report; and where museums have turned to motorcycle exhibits and fashion shows to bolster revenue, even franchising their own institutions into brands. In short, says Twitchell, high culture is beginning to look more and more like the rest of our culture. But in perhaps his most subversive observation, he doesnt condemn this trend; on the contrary, he believes that branding may be invigorating our high culture, bringing it to new audiences and making it a more integral part of our lives. Savvy, sharply observed, and bitingly funny, Branded Nation is sure to both enlighten and entertain. This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Paperback. Bookseller Inventory # 9780743243476

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