Monday, October 12, 2015

Dugger Redemption - Rebranding

Screen cap of Roger Sterling from the AMC television show 'Mad Men'
Screen cap of Roger Sterling from the AMC television show 'Mad Men'
I know, I know, you're probably cringing right now because I'm writing about TLC's Duggar family yet again. In some sense they are to me what Moby Dick is to Captain Ahab. They were part of my leaving my old fundagelical Quiverful church. Actually, they were the very beginning of the healing process of my leaving.

When I was on the fringes of leaving, when it was starting to dawn on me that much of what was taught at my old church verged on bullshit I started watching The Learning Channel's specials on the Duggar family, half gagging, half giggling over how they always put a positive spin on so much of the fear-based theology that ruled their every moment. It was healing and validating to be able to look in on the crazy  hot mess that this type of faith is and see it for what it was.

Even before I started doing the day to day things at No Longer Quivering I kept my eyes on the doings in the Duggar family, seeing that they were changing, evolving and becoming ever more worldly appearance-wise as time passed in over to gloss over the freakish bits. Lulling the general public that has no experience with that type of religion to believe that they were just a good old fashioned Christian all-American family. Then the fallout happened, with the exposure of Josh Duggar as first a child molester and later as a serial cheater many things hidden or glossed over by the Duggars, that those of us who'd lived that life knew were there behind the facade were exposed. Now most people know that their lifestyle isn't healthy for anyone. They've lost all but the most hardcore supporters.

Like a man who's arms and legs were held onto his body only by his metallic knightly armor who loses his armor and cannot get up again yet futility tries, so does the Duggar family keep trying different ways to paper over what happened and get up again. We've seen them hiring a presidential candidate's PR firm, try to say and do various things to make is seem that nothing has changed, make many different attempts to get publicity and money off their supporters and to regain their television show.  We've witnessed countless press articles about what a wonderful mother Michelle is or how they are banding together in prayer to get through this difficult time without one shred that they give a rat's patoot over the pain of the victims.

I'm reminded of something that once happened in my life and of a episode of AMC's television show "Mad Men" In "Mad Men" head of customer relations Roger Sterling has one of his former girlfriends approach him to have the ad agency of Sterling-Cooper help her dog food company Caldecott Farms overcome negative publicity. Turns out a news expose published information that Caldecott Farm's was using horsemeat at the main ingredient in their doggy chow. After all analysis, marketing testing and surveys Roger had to tell his former friend that the only way to ever overcome the publicity was to change the name of the company, to rebrand, rename and redo. She rejects that advice. We never hear what the final outcome is, but in real life it's likely the sales would have continued to slide.

Last year I ran into this very same thing with my lawyer. He owns a number of businesses and one day when I was in his office on a completely unrelated business matter when he asked me to help him out. It was simple, he was opening a new hotel and wanted to know if I might be interested in setting up the website for that business and taking over online marketing for a couple other of his businesses, one of which was a broadband company. He was struggling to figure out how to make the broadband company successful instead of the money-losing enterprise it was at that moment. I had to point out to him that his company had the worst customer service of all time. I knew many folks who'd once been customers of that service that cancelled, paying more to a cable giant and ranting about the crappy service all over online. I told him the only way for him to rebuild his company was to rename and completely rebrand. He was offended by my opinion and is still running his broadband company under the original name. It still has very few customers.

I see that the Duggar family is doing exactly the same thing. Yes, I know they aren't likely to change their names and that's not what I'm talking about. What they are doing is doubling down on their poisonous theology and harmful ideas in the face of exposure. They are the naked emperor that everyone sees is naked except for a few blind people. There is no greater indication of this than Michelle Duggar reposting one of her older blog postings insisting that a wife is completely responsible for the sexual n eeds of her husband. Really, it feels like a slap at her own daughter in law, Anna, who's husband Josh was cheating with porn stars and people through the cheater site Ashley Madison.

It's this type of tone-deafness that's dooming their 'brand'. Unless they are able to move forward, admit they have made mistakes and take real legitimate actions to address those mistakes, like licensed counseling for the entire family, reflection on what went wrong, taking responsiblity and public repentance there will be no longevity for their future media earnings. To me it seems like a reality show focused on the Duggar's struggling to change all the horrible things about their lives would be a million times more compelling than anything that's been filmed already. I can see it now, 'Breaking Duggar'

A reality show about a fake missionary and his fake midwife wife with a guy with no job or point and his kind of mean-spirited uber Christian wife? Nope. Not going to help.

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