Rumination 56: Holy Synergy!

On the weekend, I attended a first communion at a Catholic church in Wollongong. To be upfront about my views, I am an atheist but attended out of respect for others’ beliefs in my extended family.

I noticed two things whilst at the church that showed that for all of its supposed emphasis on humanity and relationships, religion is still, at its core, a business.

The first thing that I observed was this sign at the entrance of the church.

Yes, that’s right, you’re looking at a tap-payment facility in a church. In case it is hard to see, the text on the sign reads as follows:

‘Help support St Francis Xavier Cathedral. ‘Tap and Go’ is an easy and safe way to donate. Each tap of your credit card will deposit $10 straight into the St Francis Xavier Cathedral account. Your donation will help us continue our work. Thank you for your support.’

If you ever needed evidence of the massive success of tap payments in Australia, then here it is. Whilst the United States struggles to achieve widespread adoption of things like Apple Pay with retailers, banks and so on, Australian Catholics are tapping their cards happily as they dip their fingers into holy water. (I’m not being facetious here… the holy water really was adjacent to it at the entrance.)

Now I accept that churches require money to operate. What frustrated me about this was that it also stood next to a donation slot for church restoration and a slot for the church’s regular newsletter plus during the service I witnessed an additional two rounds of of the collection plate. Add all of this together to the fact that any voluntary contribution through this payment machine must be $10 and it all seems like a bit much. The icing on the cake was the point during the service in which the priest declared that we should look beyond money in our lives and find meaning in relationships and God. Somewhat mixed messaging, if you ask me…

This brings me to the second thing, which was a sign that stood in the aisle between the pews.

Here I was thinking that LinkedIn was the most effective way to build your professional network in the 21st century… I was wrong! By joining Catholic Business Connections, business and spirituality combined conveniently: ‘Are you looking for an opportunity to enhance your faith life and build your professional network?’. I would never have thought to put all of those words together to form that sentence.

Beyond the evident focus on business, work and money, this sign also presented a bit of an issue with representation of the local Catholic community. The priest and all of his assistants and altar boys during the service clearly had Asian backgrounds. The attending parishioners were also very diverse in cultural background and dress. Every single person in this advertisement above for Catholic Business Connections appears to be a white Australian with presumably Celtic (or perhaps Anglo-Saxon) heritage. Clearly, the Catholic Diocese in Wollongong, which runs these business events, not only has an issue with the representation of diversity but also in understanding the very make-up of its own clergy and community. (Don’t even get me started on the thing that looks like a mullet coming out of the guy in the bottom-right image.)

In a time when people around the world are becoming ever more aware and critical of business practice, the representation of minorities and the conduct of major religions, what I saw at this church seems to be a bizarre anachronism.

Rumination 55: Would You Like Hyphens with That?

Back in March, I wrote a Rumination called Compound Modifiers, in which I complained about people’s general lack of appreciation (or rather, complete ignorance) of hyphens. Without hyphens, businesses end up producing all kinds of ridiculous labelling and signage that are technically incorrect. Whilst often understandable anyway, the resulting text can often be misconstrued or humorous.

Well, I stumbled upon a great example of technical misspelling by McDonald’s some time ago (or Macca’s for Australian readers), which you can see below.

What’s wrong with this? Instead of saying ‘Delicious barista-made coffee’, it says ‘Delicious barista made coffee’. To explain, by missing a hyphen to say that a delicious coffee was made by a barista, it claims (almost like a newspaper headline) that a delicious barista made the coffee in question. It would also explain why the copywriter included a full stop at the end of what is now a ridiculous sentence, as with a compound modifier it would have simply been a noun group without a verb—no full stop required in this case.

(As an aside, I’ve seen baristas who work at McCafé and I have no desire whatsoever to test if they are delicious.)

‘So, Martin, if this was some time ago’, you may be wondering, ‘Why are you only sharing this now?’. Quite simply, the billboard was up ages ago and I missed taking a picture of it before it was replaced. In that time, Macca’s installed new versions of the billboard with the correct spelling. Phew! The company realised the error! Just when I thought that my chance was gone, this original advertisement returned. Yes, you read that correctly: as far as I can tell, Macca’s realised the error, redesigned the ad, put up new versions as a second run and then undid the whole thing on the same site to show the original mistake. That’s the only reason that I was able to take this picture of the reincarnation of the famous, delicious barista.

Here’s something on which you can ruminate: with all the money and power that a company like Macca’s has to attract the very best advertisers and marketers, surely it could spend a bit more on its recruitment process to hire copywriters who can spell, right?

Since this photo was taken, Macca’s has replaced the image yet again to promote its annual Monopoly game, in which you spend more for ‘food’ items with useless prize labels attached to them in the hope of winning further free ‘food’ and other consumerist rubbish. It seems that Macca’s has a monopoly on this billboard indeed.

Rumination 54: Quail Bags

Just over a month ago on, I posted a photo of an amusing shop sign, which you can see along with my caption below.

Mmmm… Kentucky Fried Handbags are fingerlickin’ good…

I loved the idea that a shop would not only come close to using the full name ‘KFC’, but also go for a design in red and white. Of course, they didn’t sell chicken there as far as I could see but it was fun to consider.

Fast-forward a month and I spotted this sign in a different local shopping centre, which aroused my suspicion about the true nature of their business.

Sure, they dropped the red and white for this sign, however there’s an important spelling mistake here that could change everything. They didn’t write ‘quality different’ (whatever that means); they wrote ‘quailty different’. I checked the Oxford English Dictionary and no such word as ‘quailty’ exists there.

I see two possible answers to this mystery. The first is that the shop owners have absolutely no idea how to spell and the people who made their signs don’t know how to spell either. (That’s the boring answer.)

The second possibility is that ‘quailty’ is in fact a bizarre fusion of ‘quality’ and ‘quail’, suggesting the use of tiny birds in the production of the handbags for sale. Whereas the hint of poultry came from the use of red and white on the first sign, the second sign also includes another strange visual element to suggest this. The graphic next to the text may look purely like some odd version of the initials ‘KF’ but I believe that these are in fact supposed to be feathers.

Let’s be serious now: I’m being totally ridiculous about this. Of course, there’s no way that these bags are actually made from quails, nor are these shops preaching a love for KFC. My point here is that if you don’t bother to spellcheck your signage or carefully consider the presentation of your branding, consumers’ imaginations can run wild. If you’re thinking of launching a brand, product or service, take the time to make sure that your messaging is clear. Otherwise someone who spends way too much time thinking about this stuff will write about you online.