Mixed Signals is Erin Straza’s weekly musing about marketing miscellany in advertising, branding, and messaging.
When I was a kid, my family celebrated Easter by going to church and sharing a basket of candy treats. Neither of these events happened regularly as I grew up, so I equated special days with both church-going and candy-eating.
As an adult, church-going is now a regular thing. (Admittedly, candy-eating is more frequent these days too.) And I also find that Easter is now more commonly referred in-house as Resurrection Sunday.
The name change is helpful, because Easter is another one of those observances that is part religious, part secular. It’s hard to separate the two and figure out how to exalt what Christ did for us in His death and resurrection while downplaying or even disregarding the Easter Bunny who delivers gifts and sweets.
I believe this distinction is much more difficult for parents — although no less important for adults — who are establishing traditions and trying to communicate the reality of Jesus to their kids. Kids are often aware of the non-religious aspects through friends, media, and stores, and they want to be part of the Easter Bunny fun.
Well, thanks to marketing genius, Christians no longer have to miss out on the Easter candy frenzy that totals more than $2 billion dollars of spending a year. We can now sanctify our Easter Baskets — Christianize them, really — with a little something called a chocolate cross. That’s right — instead of feeling guilty for buying the pagan chocolate bunny, you can feel righteous for buying the spiritual chocolate cross. And voila! Your secular Easter Bunny Basket is redeemed.
I am, of course, being facetious. I have dear friends who love Jesus and buy chocolate crosses for their kids every year, and they certainly do not believe chocolate crosses are holier than chocolate bunnies. They merely want to remind their kids what the day is truly about.
But my question is this: Do we need to buy chocolate crosses to get that point across?
We don’t. But marketers often send the message that something is missing in our lives and they have just the fix. So when Christians join in the Easter Bunny kitsch, marketers play on our lack with messaging and products that fill the void… and they give us Christianized Easter kitsch.
Marketers tell us we can have a Christian version of the secular Easter by replacing the chocolate bunny with the chocolate cross. But remember, these are the same marketers whose goal is to grow the $2-billion-a-year Easter candy business. Christianized Easter kitsch is not produced so that we might have a more meaningful Resurrection Sunday.
Messages like these will always tell us we need stuff to enhance our lives. On this day especially, though, we can rest in the truth of the cross, by which “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:3–4, ESV).
May you have a truly special (and kitsch-free) Resurrection Sunday!