Thursday, March 2, 2023

‘Not just a tagline. Truth.’

‘Antiquior Montibus Est Veritas’ is the Grand Lodge of Vermont’s motto, and appears on its seal. It translates to ‘Truth Is Older Than the Mountains,’ perfect for the Green Mountain State.

Being at labor in a lodge named Publicity, I take notice of the various advertising gambits undertaken here and there in this fraternity. The most active is the United Grand Lodge of England, which employs young media professionals to shape messaging, keep social media buzzing, and deliver rebuttal to adverse claims against Freemasonry. Their needs are more difficult than ours in America, where achieving basic public awareness is the primary challenge.

The splashiest effort these past five years has been the “Scottish Rite” NMJ’s “Not Just a Man. a Mason.” campaign by Cercone Brown Company. I’ve never been in advertising, so I can’t render a professional critique of it, but I don’t think the tagline says anything, and I was put off by the initial ad which shows a slightly demented looking guy sporting four days of growth on his face and attired in an undershirt. I’m told that’s what the NMJ leadership thinks is cool or contemporary, which it very well might be, but if this guy arrived at my lodge, where I’m tiler, looking like that, I’d advise him to return another night when he is feeling better. I found their follow-up ads vague and timid. But enough about them.

The Grand Lodge of Vermont is the latest to attempt promotional media, having launched its “Truth Is Older Than the Mountains” campaign last month. I like it. It leans toward the erudite and profound, and it is tied to local heritage. That was the approach I pushed for when promulgating a media/public relations handbook for “New Jersey Freemasonry” twenty-something years ago. (They weren’t interested, but somehow New York’s PR chairman obtained a copy, and put his name on it.) Again, I’m not an expert, but that is the direction I still would chart now if spending money and staking reputation on the effort.

The Green Mountain State is sparsely populated, at about 645,000 people, approximately 60 percent of whom are between 18 and 65 years of age, and half of those are male. So they’re aiming for a market of 129,000 men. And their ads are running on Facebook, which I take to indicate they are not pursuing 18-year-olds, and instead prefer the 40+ set.

Last week they launched a podcast. Episode 1 features Chris Murphy discussing the history of Freemasonry in Vermont. “Freemasonry and Vermont have a lot in common,” says Murphy, referring to the character of citizens and of Masons as people who cherish their individual liberty yet remain bonded by all they share in common. Unlike the majority of Masons’ podcasts I’ve sampled, this shows professionalism and is pleasant to hear.

It seems to me the Grand Lodge is appealing to a specific demographic, rather than seeing which feint might trick the most men into a mass initiation.

The Grand Lodge of Vermont is comprised of maybe approximately 4,000 Masons now. I really think the second quarter of the twenty-first century will see the sunsetting of the smaller grand lodges. There always will be Freemasonry, but I bet Vermont will see lodges regroup into smaller federations or perhaps receive warrants from New York or Massachusetts. Or maybe Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont will consolidate. But until then I wish them great success with this effort. It’s an uphill—or up mountain—labor, but I appreciate they have drawn designs upon the trestleboard for how they present themselves to a receptive segment of the population.

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