Toby, Michael, and Kevin, (maybe not) just between you and me, I’ve got something to say.
As most of the Internet knows by now, just over a week ago the official dc Talk Facebook page changed their cover photo to a cryptic graphic that simply said “2017.” The following day, a new post alerted the world that an important announcement would be shared on dctalk.com on May 11.
As the band (and their marketing firm) likely anticipated, Christians raised in the 80s and 90s CCM bubble went berserk. This announcement could only logically mean one thing: arguably the most influential Christian band of all time was getting back together after a 16-year hiatus.
(insert the grinning emojis and dancing animated gifs here)
If you weren’t a part of this culture growing up, I don’t think it’s possible to explain how big dc Talk was. They changed Christian music forever. They gave a moniker to a generation that suddenly wasn’t embarrassed to be known as “Jesus Freaks.” “Christian music” became something we willingly accepted because it sounded like music our friends would like. dc Talk looked and sounded different from almost everything else “Christian,” and they even released albums through Virgin Records.
Those years almost seem like ancient history now as my generation has waded through a 16-year “intermission” that has mostly produced Christian music we didn’t like. Now that “Fuller House” is on Netflix, “Girl Meets World” is on Disney Channel, and just about every movie from our childhood has been remade, this seemed like the perfect time for an epic comeback for the original Jesus Freaks.
As I watched the big video announcement on their website yesterday, my excitement quickly turned to confusion. The big comeback—the one that sent the Internet into a fury over the past week—was on a…. cruise ship? A one-time-only five-day trip that was too expensive and too impractical for most of my friends to realistically consider?
… Wasn’t this dc Talk? The band that set and crossed boundaries that no one else in the Christian world would even consider? The band that—even after they disbanded—continued to lead the CCM industry as frontmen of new bands? This was it?
Here’s why the Jesus Freak Cruise was such a huge disappointment: it wasn’t the cruise itself; that would have been fun. The problem was in the marketing.
Marketing by itself isn’t a bad thing. In its purest and noblest form, marketing is good. Good marketing helps us discover and understand tools that will make our lives better. Bad marketing bombards us with attempts to coerce us into purchases we don’t need and decisions we’ll regret.
What separates the good companies from the bad companies is trust.
Many in my generation have learned to be annoyed by and sometimes even ignore marketing because all of us have been burned in the past. We all know what it’s like to buy a product that promises happiness and it just lets us down. There’s a reason why all the amazing infomercial gadgets are only $9.99. As appealing as the products seem, they often make promises too large for reality to live up to.
The three men in dc Talk and the dozens of people behind their marketing and PR are smart people. Like I said, they’ve continued to lead an entire music empire for more than 20 years. It’s not like they were surprised that fans were disappointed yesterday. They wanted to generate buzz, and they knew how to do it.
Later on in the day, Toby Mac admitted “it wasn’t in the realm of possibility” that this would lead to a full-blown reunion. The plan was never to truly end the intermission, even though that’s what their website proudly claimed. They had to know this campaign would send mixed signals, and frankly I’m not sure what the goal was. The guys clearly aren’t ready to be back together, and they could have made more money going other routes, so sadly I have nothing else to chalk this up to other than bad marketing that (seemingly intentionally) made promises too large to live up to.
Let this be a lesson to all of us: Instead of misleading your audience, let your “yes” be “yes,” your “no” be “no,” your “reunion” be a reunion, and your “intermission” be an intermission. This campaign seemed to have intentions that were shaky at best, and while it’s true that they never explicitly promised a reunion, they definitely let down the fans that have loved them for decades, which in turn results in a lack of trust.
So, Toby, Michael, and Kevin, we’re not mad; we’re just disappointed. Of course we wanted the huge comeback we’ve been dreaming of, but I think you knew better than this. We don’t want to be marketed to; you—of all people—should know that we just “wanna be loved,” and “Luv is a verb that requires some action.”
Sadly, I guess, “some people gotta learn the hard way.”