I saw this video on Accuquilt’s Facebook page last week. It was originally released in January of 2016, but the company is featuring it again in a current marketing campaign. Accuquilt manufactures and sells die cutting tools for quilters.
You may recognize the concept from the “So God Made a Farmer” commercial for Ram trucks which ran during Super Bowl XLVII in 2013. That ad was a riff on a speech given by radio announcer Paul Harvey at a Future Farmers of America (FFA) convention in 1978. The premise is to extend the Genesis narrative by imagining an eighth day in which god made a special category of beings.
Harvey was a well-known radio personality who, according to his New York Times obituary,“personalized the radio news with his right-wing opinions.” Harvey “rallied against welfare cheats and defended the death penalty. He worried about the national debt, big government, bureaucrats who lacked common sense, permissive parents, leftist radicals and America succumbing to moral decay. He championed rugged individualism, love of God and country, and the fundamental decency of ordinary people.”
Dodge worked in conjunction with (FFA) for the Super Bowl ad, excerpting Harvey’s script and donating $100,000 for every million views the video got on YouTube.
When Greg Gaggini, president of Accuquilt, saw a version his friend had made called “So God Made a Salesman,” he was moved. “It really touched the soul of who salesman are and people don’t realize the nights they spend away from their families and the sacrifices they make for themselves and their companies,” Gaggini told me. “All of a sudden I said, ‘You know, we should do something like that for the quilters.’”
He worked with his assistant, Pam Heller, and business partner, Steve Nabity, to write the script, then recorded it in his friend’s studio doing the voice-over himself. “They tried to make me sound like Paul Harvey,” he jokes.
The video includes lines in which God says, “I need someone willing to stay up all night to finish binding a project, only to give it away the next day to a newly wed couple, a wounded soldier, or a newborn baby.” And, “Someone who can make a shroud, so soft and tiny, it could be used to wrap a child on its journey back to heaven.”
Accuquilt has a profile of their target customer that they use when making strategic decisions. “We refer to our customer as ‘her,’” Gaggini explains. “We have a persona, we have pictures throughout the office so that we can identify ‘her.’ In fact, we bring those into our meetings.”
‘Her’ is a 55-63 year-old woman with a passion for quilting. “She loves to give things away. She loves to go to a quilt guild meeting. She loves to talk with her friends and be social,” Gaggini explains. “If her husband – not to be sexist – is spending money on a Harley Davidson motorcycle, she’s buying a longarm.”
“We’re always looking around going, ‘Is this what she would want? Is this the kind of thing she would want us to do?’” he says. When it came to the “So God Made a Quilter” video the answer was yes.
I asked Gaggini if God was important to ‘her.’ “I can’t impart that knowledge,” he said. “I’m a Christian, my business partner is a Christian. We believe in god. I sure hope she does. That would be great. But that’s not why we chose to do this.”
According to Gaggini, and marketing director Lynn Gibney, response to the video has been very positive. On the Accquilt Facebook page Donna Hull says about the video, “I am so glad god made me a quilter. I can’t think of anything in life that would be more relaxing. I am blessed for sure.” Facebook fan Diana Fleck says, “Thank you, God, for making me a quilter! What pleasure it brings!”
Quilt designer Jen Frost of the blog Faith and Fabric also enjoyed the video, finding it to be “a humorous and tender look at quilters.”
“To be honest, in the first few seconds I was a bit on guard,” Frost says. “Even in a country where religious freedom is celebrated, Christianity seems to be the one faith where, when potshots are taken, no repercussions follow.” For Frost the videos “main points around honoring life, spreading love, building community, and sharing joy echo teachings found in scripture” and she feels God would be amused by the video.
Yet not every had that reaction, including Sarah Machado who, after viewing the video, told me on Twitter, “I am a devout Christian and found it somewhat sacrilegious. Quilters are great. But quilting in and of itself doesn’t make a saint. Putting quilting up on this high pedestal seems unnecessary. Quilts can be used for great things, but I think God is okay if we make quilts just because we think it’s fun.”
Quilter Melanie McNeil pushed the idea further. “While I know many quilters take inspiration from their faith, I would rather keep religion out of people’s general understanding of what I do. Using God as a marketing tool is gross.”
At first Gaggini denied that the video was being used for marketing purposes, but when I pointed out that it a lead magnet on the Accuquilt site so that viewing access was granted after visitors entered their email addresses he acknowledged that indeed it was.
“So God Made a Quilter” is currently the seventh most popular video on Accuquilt’s YouTube channel with 53,732 views (Note: In July 2017 Accuquilt took the video down temporarily, then reuploaded it. The current lower download numbers are a reflection of that). “Nothing really compares to it,” Gibney told me. “It’s among our most shared content.”
Still other quilters take issue with the gender of the narrator. Designer Sam Hunter says,“To have it read by a man, not a woman, implies a male authority over a primarily female endeavor and I’m sick of us allowing men to describe our worlds and write our histories.”
Avid quilter, attorney Jennifer Bernstein, added, “This very much changes my feelings towards the company. And since I have some products, it makes me feel conflicted. As a Jew, it makes me feel almost like if they had known, they wouldn’t have sold to me.”
Gaggini says that although both he and his business partner are Christians, “we don’t push that on anyone.”
“When we have events in our facility, like if we’re going to have a big Thanksgiving dinner, or we bring food in, we pray before that and that’s just what we do,” he says, “but we’re not as deep as what Hobby Lobby does. People wouldn’t say Accuquilt is known as that, but we are Christians, we believe in God, but it’s not in the mission statement.”
The “So God Made a Quilter” video was a one-off piece meant to be fun, Gaggini says. The company doesn’t have plans to produce other similar spots for the future.