Three lessons from the gum industry |

Three lessons from the gum industry

Have you walked down the isle at the supermarket or convenience store lately and felt overwhelmed by the choices? It seems there are a multitude of choices for almost every product on the market. One such industry admits to over complicating life for its customers by offering an overabundance of choices.

“We've made shopping for gum very complicated. On average we have 50 different varieties of gum in a convenience store, and that's just Wrigley.”

Casey Keller, president of the North America division of Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co., a subsidiary of Mars Inc

In an effort to be all things to all people and compete for the time of people in the community, it is too easy for not only the gum industry but also for churches to make things too complicated for those they are trying to reach and minister.

There are three lessons that churches can learn from the gum industry.

Three lessons from the gum industry

1. Bigger is not always better / One size does not fit all

As with many other products, packs of gum have become bigger. The gum manufacturers have discovered that this may be good for some of their customers, but the teens like smaller packs that fit better with their mobile lifestyle. After making packs that only have 5-6 pieces of gum, sales among teens rose dramatically.

Churches love crowds. The bigger the crowd, the more successful an event is seen to be. While we should strive to reach as many people as possible as quickly as possible, what things are your church doing that have gotten so big that it ends up driving the unchurched away?

2. Go where the people are

This one may seem too obvious. Let's face it, it is difficult to find a checkout line in any store where there are not an abundance of choices for gum. Wrigley evaluated the options and decided to conduct a pilot program of selling gum in Subway restaurants.  “It exceeded our expectations,” said Mr. Keller. As a result they are in the early stages of conducting tests with other retailers, and those also appear promising.

Churches need to do a similar evaluation. Look for these undiscovered places where the people spend time, and take the Message to them as opposed to simply sending out marketing campaigns to get the people to go out of their way to come to the church's buildings.

This can be accomplished in numerous ways. Here are just a few ideas.

  • Stream messages on the Internet. In addition to the church's website, place those streams or links to the streams on other sites as well as social media.
  • Start weekly noontime Bible studies in business areas.
  • Conduct Vacation Bible Schools in high population areas such as apartment complexes.
  • Find other organizations in the community who are helping to meet the needs of people and partner with them for greater impact.
3. Too many choices can lead to inaction

I have been involved in helping develop “discipleship” programs where dozens upon dozens of classes were offered in an attempt to make sure there was something to attract everyone. As a result we produced a catalogue of classes that rivaled those of the local community collage in terms of number of classed offered.

Gum makers are paring down their flavor choices and trying to make gum more relevant to consumers.

Wow. Do we as the church offer too many choices? Are we offering so many ‘flavors' that people end up not choosing any of them? Could it be that in trying to be all things to all people we tend to stray away from the goal of making disciples?

It would be good for us to step back and look at all we do and ensure we are not offering a paralyzing amount of choices. Here are a few warning signs that we have overwhelmed people:

  • It is difficult to find teachers for the classes you wish to offer (this could be a sign of the need for a comprehensive teacher development process).
  • High percentage of classes have to be cancelled dut to lack of interest.

Community discussion

Finding the right balance can be challenging. How does your church take the Message to the people? How does your church “right size” programming? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


[source article: Wrigley, Other Gum Makers Seek to Stimulate Gum Sales –] [Photo: / kylemallory]

About the Author

Steve's passion is to help ministers and churches do ministry in our new digital, social, mobile world at the speed of life through building a strong ministry infrastructure (minfrasTructure). With a background in church administration, Christian education, missions, and technology, he offers advice, tips, and tools through writing, blogging, speaking, online courses, consulting, and personal coaching.