3. DESIGN and MARKETING – Easily my most subjective post in this series, I believe a final challenge that Zondervan and Biblica face in extending the NIV’s dominance in the English-speaking world is to return to the front of the pack in packaging and presenting the product. In my humble opinion, Crossway (ESV), Tyndale (NLT), and B&H (CSB) are all ahead of Zondervan in these two crucial areas. Let me expand on these two thoughts:
(1) Design – What I mean by this, and there may be a more appropriate term, is that the Bible comes in a form…a package, if you will. God’s words are printed in paper which is bound in book form. All the design decisions matter: the font chosen for the letters that make the words, the size of the Bible, the leather (or leather-like) cover, the colors, etc. People are paid to think about how to package the Bible for their respective company, and right now, in the Spring of 2010, Crossway seems to be leading the way. While the people at Zondervan seem to be spending their time trying to figure out which niche market to design a Bible for next (“Stock Car Racing” edition and “Wild about Horses” edition) the people at Crossway have focused on making attractive editions in a variety of formats. It is not that the NIV is not available in a variety of formats. The NIV is probably available in more formats than any other modern translation. The problem is that the NIV has spread itself to thin with too many formats and has totally lost a distinctive look or unity of fashion.
The sad truth is that when I go into a Christian bookstore and survey the Bibles, which I do frequently, I just don’t get excited about handing the offerings for the NIV. That was not always the case. I remember when the NIV led the pack, but now it’s hard to find an NIV in the store that seems like it is made with high quality. So in both fashion and quality of materials, the NIV seems to be behind.
The ESV has a “look” available in a variety of formats. In other words, I think the ESV has created a distinct style and has committed itself to that style, which makes it very attractive. I think the new NIV would do well to follow this model. Or to make a comparison, when it comes to design, I think ESV is Apple and the NIV is a PC.
(2) Marketing – Crossway is also in the lead when it comes to internet presence. The online ESV Study Bible is pure genius: clean, simple, and effective. The iPhone app is the same: clean, simple, and effective…and best of all, FREE. Tyndale and B&H appear to be doing a pretty good job as well. Maybe it’s because they are the up and comers. Maybe it’s because these companies are fighting to establish a strong presence in the marketplace for their relatively new translations, and are therefore devoting more attention, effort, and resources toward getting the word out. Or to put in lingo used in the sports world a lot, maybe these companies are just flat-out hungrier. The NLT, ESV, and CSB are all officially on Facebook and Twitter. The NIV is officially absent on both of these powerful social networking tools.
Tomorrow I will lay out my ideas for what would maximize the success of the new NIV.