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RSS icon Comments on Mars Hill's 800 Pound Guerilla Marketing?


Wow, people on a bus talking about going to church. Scandalous! Can't we get the ACLU on the case?

Posted by Gabriel | March 26, 2008 9:51 AM

"nicely-dressed, usually white males "

Does this mean they occasionally board the bus Negro?

Posted by El Seven | March 26, 2008 9:54 AM

@2 with Christ, all things are possible.

Posted by Giffy | March 26, 2008 9:56 AM

Yes, it's a recruiting technique.

The Foundation does similar things in Fremont.

"Religious" programs are exempted from most laws that you can think of about things like this, FWIW.

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 26, 2008 9:57 AM

The real question is if the person who wrote in about this is just doing the same thing.

Posted by Citizen Gregg | March 26, 2008 10:05 AM

Huh. Well, I can't fault the church for being creative about getting out there and marketing themselves.

It might be more effective for people who attend Mars Hill, and want to encourage other people to do the same to...I don't know...actually associate with people who don't attend Mars Hill. You know, make some friends outside the church, hang out with people outside the church, do some things outside the church.

Of course, that might actually lead to being involved in other people's lives and caring about them. Not sure what Jesus would think of that.

Posted by bohica | March 26, 2008 10:10 AM

Gosh, I sure wish I could be a part of this whole Mars Hill thingy. So cool. So hip.

Posted by Mr. Poe | March 26, 2008 10:14 AM

Jesus, protect me from thy followers. What a bunch of fucking douches. Eat me Mark Driscoll, you miscogynist closeted jackass.

Posted by stan | March 26, 2008 10:15 AM

i pray i could bear witness to this

Posted by lar | March 26, 2008 10:16 AM

And this actually happened "A couple of times..."? Meaning two? What else could it be but a stealth form of proselytizing?

Well-dressed people speaking politely to each other (rather than on the cell) at a level appropriate for the bus? Sounds like heaven to me compared to my daily trips on Metro.

Posted by bigyaz | March 26, 2008 10:16 AM

Will, what kind of law would prevent people from promoting their business/band/church/political candidate via conversations on buses?

Posted by Levi | March 26, 2008 10:16 AM

Welcome to Marketing 101.

Unfortunately, it's much harder to apply those principles to atheism, given that the churches are a lot smaller.

Posted by bma | March 26, 2008 10:19 AM

@10: Errr... physically, I mean. Lots of atheists around, but no recruiting efforts. (Although those would be funny to see.)

Posted by bma | March 26, 2008 10:20 AM

(I meant @12. Damn the lack of comment editing!)

Posted by bma | March 26, 2008 10:20 AM

The real question is: are they cute? You know, like the pairs of cute young boys the Mormons send around. I've been seeing a lot more of them in my neighborhood lately. They're always so earnest... until I start to flirt with them.

Posted by Reverse Polarity | March 26, 2008 10:23 AM

I'll go ask the spy drones floating over our city what laws - but, FWIW, religious prosletyzing is exempt, as is military recruitment and political activities by elected officials and their agents, anyway.

Posted by Will in Viral Seattle | March 26, 2008 10:33 AM

Tinfoil hat, Will -- they can hear you.

Posted by Fnarf | March 26, 2008 10:35 AM

@15 My older neighbors engaged the very nice Mormon fellows who stopped by a couple years ago who asked, is there anything we could do for you? Sure, the 82-year-old husband said. You could mow the lawn. And they did! Cheerfully. And well. And then they all sat down, had lemonade, and discussed religion.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman | March 26, 2008 10:50 AM

Yeah, because marketing research shows that having people talk on a bus is the best new strategy.

This woman is fucking retarded.

Don't thousands and thousands of people go to Mars Hill. So she happens to take a bus past one of the biggest churches in Seattle and a "couple of times in recent months" has heard people talking about going to chuch and suspects that it must be some secret market ploy. REALLY?

Anyone who wasn't retarded would say to themselves "Oh those gentlemen were talking about going to Mars Hill, they must be Christians, on with my day"

But this woman thinks it's a conspiracy.

She should stop taking the bus on Sunday's if it offends her so much.

Posted by JT | March 26, 2008 10:52 AM

it could be some strange marketing attempt. but more likely, these two guys were just excited about something happening at their church. that's probably why they were, you know, going there. they like it.

kind of like how you might just happen to hear a couple of mariners fans discussing, you know, baseball, on the way to a game.

the fact that they don't know the bus stop makes me laugh a bit, though.

Posted by infrequent | March 26, 2008 11:05 AM

God good. Church bad.

Posted by andre | March 26, 2008 11:10 AM

Dan, I live in Ballard, have ridden the 15/17/18 home every day after work during rush hour since last fall, and I've never seen anything like this sort of stealth marketing. Remember that post you made earlier about advice columnists getting stuck with phony letters? Well...

The number 15 Express (the bus packed with after-work riders) doesn't stop at 15th & Leary. The regular 15, which incidentally runs during church services, does. Still, from that bus stop, you'd be hard pressed see anyone "proceed to Mars Hill Church" since the church is largely obscured and the bus only lingers there about 20 seconds.

Despite this, I'll keep my ears open anyway to see if I can't catch some audio of it on my cell phone.

Posted by Ronan | March 26, 2008 11:26 AM

Not only do I believe it's a subtle marketing technique, I would not be surprised if this tactic was tried by other businesses or interests in a variety of other avenues.

My friend Turner once wrote a story about a hot chick who would roam the aisles and pretend to browse while flirting with lonely guys, in the process convincing them that the books (that she was commissioned to sell) were favorite books of her's, goading the gullible guys into buying them.

Posted by Gomez | March 26, 2008 11:27 AM

In order to "recruit" someone, it's necessary to, you know, actually talk to them directly. Ballard Mom should wear headphones if she's so annoyed. Or find better things to complain about, like the hobo drunks that usually populate the 15/18.

Posted by joykiller | March 26, 2008 11:47 AM

I wonder if this "guerilla marketing" stuff pays off. I mean the flirting book seller... did those efforts actually fund her wages? Or was there a balance sheet imbalance there? This "bus conversation" method, does that actually get people to check out the "Church"? Enough interested people per effort? (I suppose religious dupes are working for free, so no funds wasted there.) I've read of tons of guerrilla mktg tactics ... do they actually work? And how could you even measure?

Gah, the reduction of everything into false representations of something else. Flirting as sales pitch, casual conversation as church marketing.

What the fuck is real anymore?
(Oh, right, sorry, yes I have read my Baudrillard. *beep*-zip- .)

Posted by treacle | March 26, 2008 11:58 AM

Recruiting, no way, but it's flash marketing for sure.

Posted by Gomez | March 26, 2008 11:58 AM

25. Don't fear the bookseller thing: it was a short story written a few years ago. Telling one, though.

Posted by Gomez | March 26, 2008 12:01 PM

Weird. I just returned from a Starbucks in West Seattle where I took notice of a small group of people who had gathered at the central table in the cafe. They had a baby that people were kind of cooing around but it seemed like such an odd combination of people: a housewife and a twitchy, skinny teenager and a few frumpy women and a humpy bearded dude in a black polo shirt. I couldn't figure out the connection between them until I noticed one of them had a bible, and then overheard them talking about how the Old Testament was "so cool." I immediately thought, "Mars Hill." There's one in West Seattle.

I can't really say they were putting on a performance, but I definitely noticed them.

Then this woman came in with like 6-7 preschoolers and proceeded to set them all down to eat their sack lunches they'd brought with them, as if the store was some sort of daycare way station. I'm never going back to that Starbucks again.

Posted by Explorer | March 26, 2008 12:09 PM

At least they're not taking the Muslim approach of bombing the bus.

Posted by john cocktosin | March 26, 2008 12:16 PM

Worried about people putting on a performance on the bus?

That is pretty paranoid.

Even if there is a registered student organization at UW called "Bus to Mars Hill", I'm sure it's not a recruiting ploy.

If you invite your friends to church, it's nice to actually take them there, but if you go by bus, you take the bus. And if it's their first time, you'll probably talk with them about it.

I take the 44 Sunday mornings at 8:10 at 45th and the Ave. Of course, I'm not saying that in the wild fantasy that one of you will hear that, and go, "Gee, so THAT'S how to get to Mars Hill." Not that me or other people who ride the bus with strangers don't have the wild fantasy that other people will come because they overhear and they're curious (having rode the same bus for more than a year, some of my friends have befriended the driver and have invited him to church), but I think everyone would acknowledge it's a pretty wild fantasy.

I'm quite sure bus conversations are not a recruitment technique. I think "recruitment" is not something a church does, but what a cult does. People talk about Mars Hill messages or the Old Testament or about what stop it is because they've invited a friend because it's interesting. Or, as hip youngsters would say, "so cool." I don't know if you all are so certain it isn't worth talking about that you think it's recruitment, or if you are so worried by the apparent success of the church that you are paranoid about why it's happening. They certainly didn't have 8000+ people there last Sunday because of overheard conversations on the bus.

Posted by Mr. Joshua | March 26, 2008 12:22 PM

I'm not thrilled with Mars Hill but I think two guys on a bus can talk about whatever they want.
If it is some bizarre advertisement, who cares?

Go back to reading your book which is probably a lot more interesting anyway.

Posted by mj | March 26, 2008 12:29 PM

That's what personal music devices are for. They make public transportation far more bearable. I don't want to hear the Mars Hill kool-aid drinkers enthusing, the irritating woman on her cell phone describing her colonoscopy, the crazy drunk in the back of the bus swearing, the punkass kids hollering - so I put in my earplugs and you know what? They all magically go away.

I don't like the Mars Hill cultists, but they're entitled to talk about their cult, even publicly and loudly. I don't have to listen, though.

Posted by Geni | March 26, 2008 1:38 PM

And this is why I don't ride the bus any longer. . .

Posted by My Other Car's the Tarids | March 26, 2008 3:00 PM

@30 and everyone else: (apologies, this is going to be long)

i, like a lot of people in seattle, grew up in an evangelical church. i also happen to have a business marketing degree from a respected bible college. it was in southern california, home of a branch of christian church called 'calvary chapel', which is the church i was raised in. it is a lot like mars hill, from what i can tell. one central belief they have is that christians are 'called' to convert others to christianity, and if you are a christian, it is not just a suggestion, but a duty of yours to 'spread the gospel'. as churches grow, involving people of all careers, it is inevitable that they will employ people with shrewd business skills to help accomplish their goals.

some don't see a problem with this. some call them a cult. for what its worth, i think it looks a hell of a lot like a cult, regardless of how it got there. if you are honest with someone about your intentions ("hello, sir, can i talk to you about my religious beliefs and attempt to change your mind about them?") and the person doesn't want to hear it ("fuck off, you lemming drone"), and you have to employ sneaky tactics to get them to drop their guard, then you are arguably being a bit deceptive, and dipping your toe into the cult pool.

the thing is, its not really black and white. there is a graduated scale of deception that, on the less scary side is called 'persuasion' and on the most scary side is called 'brain washing'. i went door to door in high school in teams of 3 with a christian group called 'student venture', trying to convert people. i studied 'apologetics' in school, which, essentially is spoon-fed justification for christians to use on heathens. i also joined a group called 'athletes in action' in early college and we entered thailand (legally) and china (illegally) as a traveling competitive volleyball team. we would 'witness' to the teams after we would kick their asses on the court. we snuck into china, where it is illegal to attempt to convert people to christianity, by getting visas as a sports team and leaving out our real intentions.

churches are businesses, whether by intention or simply as a method to achieve a 'higher' goal. if a business' goal is to grow, and you can't do it honestly, you will step into some form of deception or you will fail to achieve your goal. whether the story on the bus is fake or not, i can speak from experience and tell you all that (specifically 'evangelical') churches use questionably deceptive techniques. i would not be surprised if the bus situation was actually a ploy to get people interested.

Posted by justino | March 26, 2008 3:54 PM

Right, or it was just some dudes talking on a bus.

The tendency of Stranger staff and Slog commenters to overanalyze everyday minutiae never ceases to amaze me.

Posted by joykiller | March 26, 2008 5:11 PM

Justino @34: Your background sounds similar to mine. In my teenage and young adult years we called it Witnessing, which was more direct in-your-face proselytizing to friends and neighbors as well as the stereotypical streetcorner soap box oratory to strangers in public places. That wouldn't work today, of course, and I doubt if it ever did even back then or earlier. I tell people who approach me with tracts and such in Westlake Center and elsewhere to go fuck themselves, as do probably most people. But the spontaneous-conversation-on-the-bus routine for the spiritual edification of those within earshot is actually one of the oldest tricks in the book. In the early 20th century there were actual businesses dedicated to rumormongering. Their MO was to plant people on busses, trains etc who would pretend to be discussing something they just heard about a political candidate, their business competitor or whoever. Reminds me of the "some people say..." standards of journalism used by Faux News.

That said, we still have free speech in this country despite eight years of attempts by Our Supreme Idiot in the White House to eradicate it. If two or three guys on a bus want to chatter about Mars Hill that is their right, no matter what their motives.

Posted by RainMan | March 26, 2008 9:00 PM

I'm a Ballard bus rider, and I will confess to not being a Mars Hill fan. However, I've noticed that many "nicely-dressed" guys who seem to know each other will often sit across the aisle from each other rather than in seats next to each other and continue their conversation. I guess it's not "manly" (or some such thing) to sit next to each other. It seems to me that these guys are just following that bus riding "etiquette".

Posted by Khaidee | March 26, 2008 9:05 PM

(1.) It could be chattering. It could be religious marketing. Whatever it is, it's stupid and rude. Shut the fuck up on the bus. (Or at least keep it down; we all shouldn't have to buy music equipment to blot out noise -- people can and should respect others, especially if they claim to have any sort of 'loving' value system.)Metro is too packed and noisy as it is. There's no excuse for pulling strangers into your obnoxious little drama, even if you think you can save their souls.

(2.) Consider The Source -- it could be totally coincidence, but on the slight chance it's not, these people are stomping all over the community doing this. It is hard to ride the buses, they're more packed and irritating than ever. And if these conversations are dramatized, you have to remember the values they are reflecting -- that you need to think like they do; treat women the same way they are treating them; if you're a woman you need to shut up and submit to your husband, so be sure to think about getting a husband; get a job and buy lots of property (because, you know, that's the gospel); etc. The main assertion of this church is how 'unchurched' the rest of Seattle is -- how much value do you think they give your point of you if you're not one of them?

Posted by Chris Estey | March 27, 2008 9:08 AM

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