Friday, December 17, 2010

Christianity's millenium of missed opportunity

The word Christmas originated as a compound meaning "Christ's Mass". It is derived from the Middle English Christemasse and Old English Cristes mæsse, a phrase first recorded in 1038. "Cristes" is from Greek Christos and "mæsse" is from Latin missa (the holy mass). Extract from Wikipedia
Yep. According to Wikipedia, the term 'Christmas' kicked off in about 972 years ago, even though the driver for it was the birth of Christ some 1038 years earlier. When you think about it, those branding dudes of 2000 years ago were pretty slow off the mark. Nonetheless, after taking over 1,000 years to get to launch date, no one could argue they hadn't thoroughly evaluated the perceptions of all relevant stakeholders in the process.
It's clearly the most effective branding program in history (unless you can come up with a better one!). Celebrated globally, even by non-Christians who've yielded to the market domination of Christmas by recognising it as another great excuse to party and indulge in unbridled largesse. The historical information in next bit also derives from Wikipedia:
The brand refreshment program for Christmas appears to have begun in about the late 18th Century when the brand consultants introduced a character to capture the spirit of Christmas, Santa Claus. Oddly enough, the 'character' first appeared in the 4th Century in the form of St Nicholas of Myra, the inspiration for the early European figure, Sinterklass. 
Centuries later, circa 17th Century, the Brits created another bod, Father Christmas. Essentially, the guy had similar characteristics to his European counterparts - generosity of spirit, reflected in gift giving. Being a Brit, he also had a dress sense somewhat different to that of the Europeans.
The logical conclusion for the brand consultants was to merge the UK concept with the traditional European Christian evolution and polish up the brand story a bit. Enter stage left, a based in the North Pole, a sleigh tugged around by reindeers, elves and all the rest. An absolute fantasy, remotely located so no one using 18th Century transport methods could easily check its veracity!
Christmas is a fine example of branding. It relates a story that is both factual and mythical. It strikes a deep emotional chord almost universally. It's a bloody good excuse to take a break and let your hair down. It's a great time to socialise and a hell of a reason to reconnect with people you've neglected to call all year. In other words it pulls all the right strings - belief, leisure, pleasure and indulgence.
The great thing about living in the digital age is that if Christ was born today, we'd have quickly got our act together and not denied about 40 generations of humans from the celebration. To appreciate how quickly we could have got things moving, take a look here.
Best wishes to all from the Bloggosfear for the Festive Season.

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