Culture At Large

Abercrombie, 'Jersey Shore' and protecting the Christian brand

Caryn Rivadeneira

With a new book releasing in less than two weeks, I’ve got branding on my brain. Specifically, I can’t stop thinking about ways to “further” my brand (i.e. make lots of people buy my book!).

So imagine my jealousy when I read about Abercrombie & Fitch’s ingenious ploy to further their own brand by garnering some free publicity through a semi-ridiculous stunt with an entirely ridiculous show.

This week, the company issued a press release titled “Abercrombie & Fitch Proposes a Win-Win Situation,” in which they offered to pay Michael “The Situation” Sorrentino of "Jersey Shore" fame to stop wearing their clothes. A spokesperson for Abercrombie & Fitch said in the release: “We are deeply concerned that Mr. Sorrentino’s association with our brand could cause significant damage to our image.”

While I - along with most - doubt very much that Abercrombie & Fitch is serious about this offer, I have no doubt that Abercrombie & Fitch is quite serious about their brand and are always on the lookout for situations - if you will - that could damage it.

Smart businesses do this. And frankly, I wish Christians would take note. I wish we were more aware of our brand and the things out there that are damaging it.

When it comes to defining brand, I have two favorite understandings, one from my fourth-grade son and the other from a brand-expert friend: “what you are known for” and “what people expect from you.”

Although Christianity is broken up into a zillion subsets and sub-groups who may disagree on all sorts of issues, it seems pretty clear than any person who lives under the grace and love of Jesus and who seeks to live as Jesus lived can agree on a brand.

Especially since Jesus himself gave us one in the Greatest Commandment: Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. If those are the top two things we can do, I’d guess that’s what Jesus would like us to be known for and what he’d like other people to be able to expect from us.

I don't think we’re doing too well on that. Although, I might be wrong. According to Christianity Today, a recent study from the Pew Forum says that most Americans do not, in fact, have a negative view of Christians - even Evangelical ones.

While this may be the case, I’m still not convinced that when Americans - or the larger world - think of Christians they think of love. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer and because things I write appear on blogs where “Christians” say all sorts of hateful things that make me hyper-aware of this. Of how horrible we can sound. How unloving we can be. Even to one another. I can only imagine how our words often sound to those who don’t even know us.

When I was a kid, one of my favorite songs was the wonderfully eerie “They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love.” That’s a brand statement we need to embrace.

This doesn’t mean our brand is such that we simply accept all that “the world” does and just go along to get along. Instead, I think we look out for those among us who do not live out the love Jesus asks of us. I think we need to hold the Christian brand to a higher standard of what people can expect from us. They should know us by our love.

As much as I’d love to be able to start paying certain people to stop “wearing” the Christian label because they don’t represent it well, obviously that’s a no can do. For many reasons. We can try, of course, to encourage our Christian brothers and sisters to always act and speak in love. But really, when it comes down to furthering the Christian brand, it’s up to us. It’s best to turn that eye inward and catch ourselves when we trip up - when we speak or write or anything in a manner that fails to honor the Brand we’re called to live up to.

(Photo of Michael “The Situation” Sorrentino courtesy of MTV.)

Topics: Culture At Large, Arts & Leisure, Entertainment, Theology & The Church, Faith, Evangelism, News & Politics, North America