Are You Marketing Like the Devil?

by Brad Harmon on December 6, 2009 in Sales & Marketing

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When you think of Satan, what picture comes to mind?  Do you picture a little red man running around with his pointed tail and trident, or evil incarnate scarring you to within an inch of your life?

Before he was called Satan, his name was Lucifer meaning “light bringer.”  He was one of God’s most beautiful creations.  He’s also one hell of a salesman (forgive the pun).  After all, he talked Eve into giving up paradise over a piece of fruit.  Just imagine what he could do with a used car!

How did he do it?  His tactics haven’t changed.  He used the same approach on Christ that he used with Eve, and while it didn’t work on Him it certainly still works on us.

The Devil’s Time Tested Marketing Plan

So what is this great marketing plan that Satan has employed so effectively?  Well, we are warned against it in 1 John 2:15-17.

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

Did you catch it?  Go back and read the account of Eve and the serpent, Christ’s temptation in the wilderness, or simply turn on your television.  Do you see it?

Cravings of Sinful Man (aka The Lust of the Flesh)

The first tenet of Satan’s marketing plan is to appeal to our desire to feel, to experience pleasure.  You might be asking what is wrong with this.  The answer is nothing.  These desires are all given to us by a good and loving God.

The Lust of the FleshHe wants us to experience pleasure – He created it!  The problem is that Satan’s product is a counterfeit version that never delivers on his promises.  They are like those paddles that had the rubber ball attached by a rubber band.  It’s fun for a few minutes, but then the string breaks and it becomes a paddle used to spank you.  Ouch!  Bad memories.

Retailers have known about this marketing technique for quite some time.  Think about McDonalds.  How many of their commercials actually sell their product?  Not many, they are selling a feeling.  This is innocent when compared to those who use seduction and sex appeal to market their products.

Zig Ziglar says that selling is about the transference of feeling about a product from you to your prospect.  He’s absolutely right. Zig usually is.

As Christian entrepreneurs, we have a responsibility to make sure we sell and market products and services that are of the highest quality that actually fulfill a real need.

The Lust of the Eyes

The second tenet is to appeal to the lust of the eyes – the desire to have.  There’s a bumper sticker that reads, “He who dies with the most toys wins.”  This thinking is running rampant in our society today, and is a major reason for the economic recession we’re experiencing.

The Lust of the Eyes - Need to Have EverythingMany have bought into the lie that you need to have lots and lots of things to be happy.  The housing market crashed due to homeowners convinced they needed to have larger houses than they could afford to be happy, and unscrupulous lenders who were more than willing to feed this delusion with risky loans.

We are constantly being sold new things to replace the old things that either still work fine or we never use anyway.  We become slaves to MasterCard and Visa to purchase things to impress people that we don’t even like and don’t care anyway.  Keeping up with the Jones has been much more costly than we could have ever imagined.

As Christian entrepreneurs, we have a responsibility to make sure we sell and market products and services that are of the highest quality to people who actually need them.

The Boasting of What He Has or Does (The Pride of Life)

The final tenet in Satan’s marketing plan is to tell people they can be somebody.  We all have the desire to make a difference with our life, to have a purpose.

The Pride of LifeIt seems that marketers today are trying to convince us that using a deodorant will make us a sex symbol, drinking a certain beverage will make us the life of the party, or buying {insert your widget here} will make us the next {insert your fabulous role here}.

The truth is that we are somebody already.  The Bible tells us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and that God had plans for us before the very foundations of the earth.  We do not need to purchase anything.

As Christian entrepreneurs, we have a responsibility to make sure we sell and market products and services that are of the highest quality that help people achieve their dreams, but do not promise that they will accomplish them simply by purchasing it.

How’s Your Marketing Plan Stack Up?

If you look at any effective the marketing plan of most of the major advertisers today, they will rely on one or more of these tenets.  Why?  Because they work.  They are what I like to call the three P’s of marketing – Pleasure, Possessions, and Position.

These three P’s are a corruption of our need to feel, to have, and to be.  On a spiritual level, these needs can only be filled by God – which is why I believe He’s hard-coded them into us.  What Satan offers us instead, is his counterfeit version of God’s gifts.

Satan has sold us a corrupted dream to satisfy our longings instead of fulfilling our needs.  His tactics work so effectively that they have been mimicked successfully by many advertisers.  Their claims, and the images they conjure to evoke a feeling, have little to do with what they are actually selling.

While they are quite effective tactics, we are called to “not be conformed to this world” as Christian entrepreneurs.  This doesn’t mean that we cannot employ these tactics market to these three basic needs, but we do have to make sure our promises and our offerings measure up in the light of eternity.

UPDATED 12/07/08:  Sometimes we do not hit the mark as authors in trying to express our points.  It’s become abundantly clear that this post has been one of those examples.  Since there are some very great comments below on the original post, I’ve decided to show the edits I’ve made.  Additions are in this blue font color, and deletions have been struck through rather than removed.

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Alison Moore Smith December 6, 2009 at 5:38 pm

[I included some HTML. Hope your comments accepts that!]

Very interesting, Brad. I'm not sure I agree with your conclusion, but we are on the same page in the direction. You say:

Pleasure, Possessions, and Position…If you look at any effective marketing plan, they will rely on one or more of these tenets.

As you seem to have defined them above (lust, coveting, pride), I'd disagree that you have to appeal to any of those to have an effective campaign. I suppose I think an ever bigger (and better) “P” is “problem solving.”

We sell a network router. It solves a problem for systems' integrators. You can sell shampoo by implying that you'll be sexier or more beautiful or more successful, but you can also sell it to get your hair from dirty to clean.

As Christians, I don't think there IS an appropriate way to advertise using lust, covetousness, or pride. Although we can appeal to the pleasure, possessions, or position in promotion in the sense that these don't HAVE to be connected to the former traits. You can be happy, healthy and feel good without lust. You can own things and use them to serve others. You can be a leader and use that position to do God's work.

Thanks so much for bringing up this subject. Business ethics is so important and, well, so lacking.

May I suggest a really superb book? The Bottom Line On Integrity I think this book will make anyone stop and take a good hard look at how they live and do business. IMO it's a life-changing book.


Brad Harmon December 6, 2009 at 7:10 pm


My point is that they are effective because they speak to true needs with which God has designed us. There is nothing evil about experiencing pleasure, having possessions, or feeling that you are part of something.

What the Bible warns us about is falling in love with, and relying solely upon, the things of the earth (which will pass away) to fill these needs. True pleasure, true possessions, and true importance are not found in material things.

Having said that, earthly possessions are used to fill our earthly needs in these areas too. It's when the earthly is offered to take the place of the eternal that the issues arise. It's why Christ says that man does not live by bread alone.

Perhaps, what we disagree upon is the definition of a marketing plan. For me, listing a product's features (e.g., shampoo gets your hair clean) is not marketing, although it certainly can be a component of marketing. Marketing is connecting with your prospect transferring your feeling for the product to the prospect.

Marketing research has shown us that making a purchase is an emotionally based decision; which means it appeals to one of these three desires. We look for logic to support the decision we already feel is right.

This is why so many get buyer's remorse – if there is no logical reason for the purchase it will eventually overcome the emotion. If we manufacture this feeling, or the product does not have a logical reason to be purchased by that person, we run the risk of becoming con men or women.

Thanks for the book suggestion. I will add it to my reading list.



Alison Moore Smith December 7, 2009 at 12:30 am

You discuss three PROBLEMATIC themes and then say this:

If you look at any effective marketing plan, they will rely on one or more of these tenets. Why? Because they work. They are what I like to call the three P’s of marketing – Pleasure, Possessions, and Position.

When you say “these tenets” it wasn't clear to me what the tenets were and there seemed to be a conflation of the vices with what are simply traits. Perhaps that wasn't your intent. That's just the way I read it.

As for marketing, I sincerely think there are more appeals that just to those three ideas. I do believe that listing features and solving problems (with those features) is marketing. Marketing is just advertising or promoting something — at least by definition and what I studied in business school — it doesn't NECESSARILY require some psychological connection — other than showing that they WANT what you OFFER.

Of course, it's all semantics in the end, since “pleasure” can really be said to cover every single thing. If you want it and you get it, that's pleasure. If you want position and you get it, it's pleasure. If you want possessions and you get them, it's pleasure. Heck, if you want PAIN and you get it, it's still pleasure. But I think generally that's much to broad to be useful, so we generally use pleasure to refer to a more narrow set of experiences, like physical pleasure, etc.

Anywho, thanks for the good insights today. 🙂


Brad Harmon December 7, 2009 at 1:11 am

Hmm… I probably could have written this much, much better.

My intent was to show how we long for three basic needs to be fulfilled when we boil it all down, and how Satan has sold us a corrupted dream to satisfy our longings instead of fulfilling our needs.

His tactics work so effectively that they have been mimicked successfully by many advertisers, but as Christian entrepreneurs we should make sure we are providing goods and services to meet the needs and not just market to the longings despite it being an effective marketing strategy.

It doesn't sound like I was too successful in expressing that clearly in my post. I appreciate your comments because I think they will help others when reading this post. In retrospect, the conclusion was very poorly written. Thanks for sticking with me. 🙂


Leon de Rijke December 7, 2009 at 8:25 am

Interesting read, also in the comments! How would you reformulate the conclusion? It isn't exactly clear to me at this moment. 🙂

I think it's important to not forget to speak the language of the world, even though we are not to be conformed to this world.


MikeHolmes December 7, 2009 at 11:12 am

What is this “great blog posts day”?! I just left Problogger where Darren wrote a killer post and I went to check my Yahoo Reader and I saw “Are You Literally Marketing Like the Devil?” So with a title like that I had to check it out! And I read a post filled with sound theology, insight…and good ole' fashion humor.

Brad, this is a great post!

The devil is a good marketer. But, like you said, he doesn't deliver on his promises. They're hollow. Empty. Which is why I'm a follower of Biblical Marketing.


Keep in mind: Marketing in its essence is communication. No more, no less. That's why I believe Jesus was a Master Marketer. With no budget, no blog, no ads, no social media He literally turned the world upside down!! He went around healing the sick and raising the dead and had thousands following after Him! He preached a Message that still continues to this day.

All the Devil can really do is counterfeit what God does. It's our job as believers to “redeem the times” and bring things back to their original purpose…including business…and of course including marketing.

Be blessed


MikeHolmes December 7, 2009 at 11:14 am

But to be honest I do question this sentence:

'If you look at any effective marketing plan, they will rely on one or more of these tenets. Why? Because they work. They are what I like to call the three P’s of marketing – Pleasure, Possessions, and Position.”

But I do see what you were trying to say:)


Brandon Cox December 7, 2009 at 12:14 pm

Man what excellent (and personally convicting) points! Sometimes marketing tactics give me the creeps and I'm not sure why – can't always put a finger on it. Your article has helped me clarify what it is I don't like – it's that we appeal to the worst parts of humanity in the name of getting them to buy, click, read, etc. Going to have to strengthen my own marketing filter even more.


Brad Harmon December 7, 2009 at 12:15 pm

No, I think you were definitely onto something. I've made a huge revision to the ending of this post. Thanks for your help.

P.S. I found Mr. Krueger's Christmas on YouTube. I was all set for it not to end well, but it was a good special. I do miss Jimmy Stewart though.


Brad Harmon December 7, 2009 at 12:16 pm

Yeah, the conclusion was not my best work. I've posted a new revision which I hope is much clearer.


Brad Harmon December 7, 2009 at 12:25 pm

Mike, first of all – thank you for subscribing. I really appreciate that. There's a post inside of me that has been wanting to come out for over a month now.

I'm a little concerned on how to do it well though. It's looking at how Christ set up the early church and set up evangelism paralleled to network marketing.

Christ was a great marketer. Just look at the Sermon on the Mount and you will see He appealed to all three of these basic needs. Now He has an advantage – a product that will perfectly fill all three needs and much more.

I think there are many lessons we can learn from Christ that we can apply to our business.


Brad Harmon December 7, 2009 at 12:26 pm

Yes, looking back on it that was a very poor choice of words. I've made a revision which I hope corrects my error. Let me know what you think.


Brad Harmon December 7, 2009 at 12:36 pm

If our passion to feel, to have, to be are not filled with God then they do become the very worst part of us don't they? I think it is why the Bible warns us about settling for the counterfeit time and time again. Even as Christian entrepreneurs, what we sell will also one day pass away. We must remember that as we decide how we market what we sell.


whatawebsite December 7, 2009 at 12:55 pm

Hi Brad,

I read all about the 4 P's of the marketing mix (price , product, place, promotion) during university days from quite stuffy books. Your 3 P's are at least equally important – and definitely make more interesting/entertaining/thoughtful reading.



Brad Harmon December 7, 2009 at 1:08 pm

Well, definitely interesting – especially if you choose your words or phrases poorly. 😉 I have a tendency to want to hit publish after I've written a post.

I was given some great advice a while back to walk away for three hours then do your editing. It probably would have saved some confusion here, but what great comments, eh? I keep telling you I have the best blog community.


Alison Moore Smith December 7, 2009 at 2:44 pm

Yea, but think of all the great discussion we would have missed if you'd waited three hours! 🙂


Alison Moore Smith December 7, 2009 at 2:50 pm

I'll be interested to see how this article comes out.

I have real reservations about the parallel given that I see an *almost* universal, fatal flaw in network marketing (the inevitable failure point of the system) that simply does not exist in the gospel. And you'll have to make that distinction, IMO.

There is no need in the gospel for the new converts to feed the upline to ensure their survival. Sure, the gospel can spread exponentially just like a piece of gossip, but each person has an INDIVIDUAL salvation that is worked out with God, and it is not dependent on newbies joining up and funding their divine autoship. 🙂


Brad Harmon December 7, 2009 at 7:24 pm

I will definitely be observing the 3 hour rule on this one … probably even 3 days. You've pointed out the issue I keep bumping up against. I will be writing this one with you on my shoulder. 😉


Laurie Neumann January 28, 2010 at 3:40 pm


May I add something that I really don't like when it's used in marketing? FEAR. I see many ads that try to stir up fear that if you don't do this, or don't buy this product, xyz will happen.

The Bible says "God has not givne us a spirt of fear…" so why should it be used in our marketing? To me, it has no place.

I think you can create emotion without creating negative emotion.


Brad Harmon February 1, 2010 at 5:50 am

Interesting point. Some could claim, and rightly so, that the gospel itself is marketed to one's fear of hellfire and damnation. It's definitely one of our most primal emotions, and one that is likely to spur a person into action. Personally, I have mixed emotions to marketing to one's fear.

We should not live in a spirit of fear, but there are situations for which we should be watchful and prepared for a very real danger. I do agree with you that there is a trend in marketing (and politics) to over-hype the danger posed to the consumer, and in some cases you have to worry if they simply didn't make up something to be afraid of just to sell their product.


Kris January 7, 2014 at 8:22 pm

I am just getting into the sales and marketing , brand representation field within the building industry and I looked on the internet for some guidance on how to be a Christian saleswoman. Thank you for this article our work day is close to the heart of The Lord and I want to please The Lord in my work and not just my boss. I think this article brings up some great points but it is missing the “how to” portion. or the “so now what” portion. Would appreciate you doing another revision to get some ideas flowing in that direction!! Great job.


Kris January 7, 2014 at 8:24 pm

Also just wanted to add that the pic of the woman really wasnt necessary with the boobs hanging out and all – we are all totally aware of lust advertising and what it looks like… 🙂


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