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Louise Ripley


Introductory Marketing
Case: Unsought Products
This is an example of how Marketing theory can be used in "real-life" situations. The national head of my Unitarian Universalist church organization asked me to pull together something about unsought goods in terms of marketing the Chaplain services of our congregations. Below is what I provided for her.

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UU Lay Chaplains: Sought and Unsought Products

M Louise Ripley, M.B.A., Ph.D., Professor of Marketing, York University

Member, First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto


Marketing theorists divide products into categories: Industrial Products and Consumer Products, and then further divide Consumer Products into Convenience, Shopping, Specialty, and Unsought Products. The first three of these can be considered “Sought Products.”


Convenience Products are goods or services that are easily purchased at a fairly low price, things we expect to find in our households like bread, milk, and soap.


Shopping Products are ones on which we expend more time and effort, thinking about quality and style, price and value, how well it suits us. We gather information and comparison shop. Included here would be refrigerators, cars, and clothing above the level of socks and underwear.


Specialty Products are unique or close to unique. We may spend an extraordinary effort obtaining them because they are found only in one place and we don’t do comparison shopping because we’re seeking a particular brand and are not interested in what other brands have to offer. Examples include luxury cars, expensive cameras, and high fashion clothing.


Unsought Products are those that consumers do not normally go looking for, or about which the average consumer may not even be aware, because it is unpleasant to think about, or needs to be personally demonstrated, or is brand new. Classic examples are life insurance and cemetery plots, vacuum cleaners, and the computer when it first became available to home users.


Some products clearly belong in a category. It is easy to see that bread is a Convenience Product and a luxury spa that provides a unique herbal wrap would be a Specialty Service. But what about churches? Typical North American Protestant church membership would probably fall in the category of Shopping Goods. Someone who belongs to a denomination and is looking for a new church would likely spend a fair amount of time and effort checking out local churches: services, Religious Education program, the people, in other words, comparison shopping.


A Unitarian Universalist Congregation could fall into any of the last three categories, depending on your target market. This is the person you hope to reach with your promotional material. It is unlikely that a UU congregation would be a Convenience Product. Promotion will differ, depending on what kind of product you are promoting.


If you are looking to attract liberal-minded free-thinking people who already attend reasonably liberal churches to encourage them to come instead to a Unitarian Universalist congregation, you could consider your congregation as a Shopping Product. You expect potential members to do some comparison shopping: to come and experience services at your congregation, compare them to their current church, and decide that your church better meets their needs. Your promotional materials need to pique their interest, given their current attendance at their own church, and to turn that interest toward trying out your church. If you cannot place an ad in that church’s newsletter, you might consider advertising in materials those people read.


If you are looking to bring into your congregation Unitarian Universalists who are seeking another UU congregation, you could consider your congregation more like a Specialty Product, where you would expect your target market to know exactly what it is they want. Your main promotional task then will be to inform the target market about your location and hours and a little about your congregation. They will find their way to you.


UU churches, I believe, are most like an Unsought Product. They have something to offer about which many people who could find value know nothing, and may not even know they have a need for. Of all the categories, Unsought Products require the strongest promotional efforts because you start with a lack of awareness. Promotional materials will have to inform on a most basic level – let people know who you are, what you stand for, and, most important, why you would be of interest to your target market, in addition to such basics as location and hours of operation.


It is here that your Lay Chaplains can be especially helpful in promoting both your congregation and Unitarian Universalism. Lay Chaplains perform all kinds of rites of passage, but their services are rarely a carefully “Sought Product.” They are called on at the last minute to officiate at funerals. They are seen as a mere afterthought by a bride who has spent two years seeking out everything from wedding gown to floral arrangements to table favours but only shortly before the wedding may remember that she needs someone to perform the ceremony. People regularly engage the services of someone for such events as child dedications, blessings of homes, rededications of marriages, and pet funerals, and too often the choice of the person to perform these rites is left almost to chance. Once they have found a UU Lay Chaplain, however, people tend to like what they experience and end up coming to UU congregations to find out and experience more.


Your job as one responsible for communications, outreach, and promotion for Lay Chaplains, is to ensure that when members of the public seek someone to see them through these important times, they think first and think quickly of a Unitarian Universalist Lay Chaplain. Part of your job is already being done for you by your Lay Chaplains. In their work at these important rites of passage, they are “advertising” to a large number of people who they are, what kind of services they provide, and to some extent, what they stand for, what kind of organization they represent.


But your Lay Chaplains need help getting that message out. Choices of specific promotional material will differ from congregation to congregation, but you should consider where advertising in local newspapers and magazines might be effective, what kinds of materials such as TV, Website, and radio might reach the kinds of people you think would call on a UU Lay Chaplain, and what you should be saying about your Lay Chaplains that would make their services appealing to the kinds of people you would like to have come to your congregation.

© M Louise Ripley 2007  

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AP/ADMS 2200 3.0 Introductory Marketing
York University, Toronto
© M Louise Ripley, M.B.A., Ph.D.