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Let me say this up front: I think Florida preacher Terry Jones is a lunatic and I don’t condone his actions. However, I also think Terry Jones is a rock star brand marketer in his own twisted, perverse way. We don’t have to like him to learn from him.
Terry Jones has less than 50 faithful at his independent church in Florida. A few weeks ago, Terry declared that his church would burn copies of the Qur’an on September 11.
Immediately, the story broke on various social media services and went around the world nearly overnight. Within days the leaders of the world spoke out against his plan to burn Islam’s holy book. He was discussed by the pope, the president, every politcal leader, all the TV news networks, and all of the talk radio shows. His plan was the topic of conversation all around the world. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed and the Qur’an burning was cancelled.
What can we learn from nutty Florida preacher Terry Jones?
1. When you have nothing to lose, you can go the distance. With only 50 followers at his Gainesville, FL church, Terry Jones had nothing to lose. By making an extremely bold statement, he was able to spread his name, picture, church, and vision around the world. He may be insane, but prior to this stunt he was insane and unknown. Now he’s insane and famous. Big improvement.
2. When the world zigs, those who zag will get attention. Nobody spoke out in favour of Terry Jones and his wacky Qur’an burning stunt. From Alaska to Afghanistan, everyone was on the same page. Terry Jones got attention because his opinion differed from everyone else’s.
3. Nobody notices the normal. Would anyone have cared if Terry Jones had declared September 11 a “day of peace” and invited Muslims and others to his church for a day of celebration of religious tolerance? Not a single news story would have been written about this, because it is what should happen. Nobody notices that. Everybody pays attention to the abnormal and unusual.
4. To make people like you, you have to accept that some people will hate you. Terry Jones’ church will probably be pretty full because of this stunt. Certainly his bank account will grow. He probably became a folk hero amongst other biggoted religious zealotss. The price he paid for that was that the rest of the world – the normal people – all think he’s an idiot. That’s okay, because Terry Jones never wanted to reach the rest of us… he only wants to reach other religious zealot nut cases.
5. You don’t have to be smart or big or have a massive budget to get the world’s attention. It doesn’t take a degree from Oxford to do something bold, brash, and outlandish. You don’t need a million dollars to get coverage on every TV network. You don’t have to boast thousands of followers to get talked about by everyone.
I don’t suggest for a moment you organize a Qur’an burning to promote your brand. If you do, you’re as bat-sh*t crazy as Terry Jones himself! What you can learn from Terry Jones is that if you are willing to take the risks, even the smallest local brand can capture the world’s attention.