April 3, 2010

Greek Orthodox Brand

Most Religions:

Consumer Insight: Death is very final.

Brand Positioning: Follow the rules, death is not so final (give afterlife a chance).


The problem for most churches (and religions in general) is that with most people in developed countries living beyond 70 years old, death is not as much of a concern as it used to be.  Well, at least until you hit old age and/or illness and have an urge to ponder the end.

One of the reasons the Greek Orthodox church is so entrenched in Greek society, both in Greece and amongst the diaspora all over the world, is not through fear of death and hope for salvation, but through a very strict adherence to brand rituals. Brands take note: when your original point of difference isn’t so different, find a way through rituals to keep the magic alive as long as possible.

Greeks aren’t so afraid of death, but each Greek feels a common thread through their entire lives that can be reactivated no matter where in the world they are (as long as there’s a Greek Church nearby). Global Brand Consistency (the hint is in the “Orthodox”) is crucial; in the same way any American feels sated when in Paris by visiting a McDonald’s, any Greek feels comfortable in a Greek Orthodox church. The local churches have very little room to manoeuvre – you have to stick with the plan from head office.


Brand Story

Jesus born in strange circumstances, convinced people to do good things, willing to sacrifice everything to stick to convictions, got nailed to a cross, died the next day, then rose up to heaven proving afterlife exists.

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Brand Identity

Colours – lots of gold leaf and dark wood

Font – Byzantine Greek

Symbols / Brand Marks – 1. Jesus 2. Cross 3. Mary 4. Icons of approved saints

Brand Experience

Brand Taste

A ceremony can make you hungry.

A ceremony can make you hungry.

Brand Smells

Part of the reason Greeks love smoking?

Part of the reason Greeks love smoking?

Brand Sounds – Male Chanters near the priest are the norm, but choirs help out in bigger churches. A significant part of a priest’s training is voice training / singing.

Screen shot 2010-04-02 at 13.27.44

Personalisation: The original personalized nameplates – saints. Everyone is named after a saint or sub-saint. There’s usually an icon of your namesake saint in the house. Extra protection granted from said saint. Celebrate name day with friends (or at least get 5 or 6 phone calls from your friends who remembered).

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Life Rituals

6 months to 18 months: You’re baptised, in a very intense ceremony where the priest dips you almost entirely into a large FA cup / Stanley Cup type basin.

5 years to 18 years: You go to church often enough, and try to find a way to hang out your friends rather than listening to the ceremony. You get used to the sounds and smells of the church.

19 years to 23 years: You go to church at Easter and Christmas, feeling a connection back to your youth and back to your roots

23 years to 40 years: You get married in the church

25 years to 40 years: Your kids get baptised in the church

40 years to 60 years: You go to church at least every Easter and Christmas, feeling a connection back to your youth and back to your roots, and try to ensure your kids develop a similar connection. Not necessarily a connection to God, but to Greekness.

60 years to 70 years: You either get more religious or more despondent about the church, but either way you are transported back with the rituals and feel very comfortable there. Like an American feels at home at a McDonald’s in Paris, a Greek feels soothed at the local church.

70 years plus: If not despondent, spend a lot more time at the church because the whole death thing looms larger.


Annual Rituals

December 24: Go to church on Christmas Eve

Good Friday: Go to church late, walk outside the church with everyone, chatting with your friends if the clergy doesn’t notice

Easter Saturday: Go to church super late, wait until 11:45 pm for the priest to bring out the flame that was brought all the way across the world on a plane from Christ’s tomb in Jerusalem (holy smokes!), turn out the lights, priest lights candles for a few people in the front row of the congregation, they light two friends (candles), and they light two friends, and so on and so on and so on. Within a minute, the whole church is lit up entirely by candlelight. Sing Xristos Anesti (the church song every Greek is required to know by heart) until at least 12:15, or until closing time (sometimes 2:00 am).  On the way out, kiss friends and family on both cheeks. Kiss hot girls on both cheeks. Go home and eat soup made of lamb’s innards (gross, but with a squeeze of lemon and some ground pepper goes down easy). Play the break-the-egg game. Eat Easter bread (yum). When you’re older, keep partying all night. Go to bed pretty darn full. Sleep in.

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