Friday, March 02, 2007

Marketing within the Evangelical Tradition

I'll dip into the topic of religion as great marketing with a reference to an incredible view of marketing within the evangelical tradition in this Business Week article, Earthly Empires: How evangelical churches are borrowing from the business playbook. Believers and non-believers have to stand in awe of the success of the so-called "megachurches" at achieving their mission. The article asserts,

"Their runaway success is modeled unabashedly on business. They borrow tools ranging from niche marketing to MBA hiring to lift their share of U.S. churchgoers."
Even if Business Week has a particular slant, direct comments from Church leaders carry a similar tale. Thinking about market segmentation, Martin King, a spokesman for the Southern Baptists' North American Mission Board remarks,
"We have cowboy churches for people working on ranches, country music churches, even several motorcycle churches aimed at bikers."
And Pastor Joel Osteen, whose Lakewood Church is buying a former NBA arena to create a 16,000-person high-tech church, says,
"Other churches have not kept up, and they lose people by not changing with the times."
And what about the "product?" In a world of stress, pressure, and timelines layered with companies trying to deliver services to ease customers' busy lives, how can it not be inspiring to read about a customer, er, congregant saying,
"When I walk out of a [Lakewood Church] service, I feel completely relieved of any stress I walked in with."


Anonymous said...

I feel that the popular religions (Christianity, Islam, Hinduism etc.) have the followers that they have because of some real cool marketing tactics/strategy employed by the early followers at the inception of the religion, and some sustainable advantages these tactics created in those early stages.

Coupling fasting with suggestion therapy is a common religious practice - may be make them weak and rope them in is the tactic. I think these guys are great social psychologists, and they know what people fall for. Also, the fact that some of these religions started in times of hardships & hunger - can point to the cool go-to-market strategies of these followers.

Most religions - I feel - use customer success stories very effectively. You rope in customers either by making them feel good about themselves, threatening them with dire consequences (you have ton of stories for each of these tactics in each religion), or just by making them dumb (don't go to school is another cool tactic used by religions). It is amazing human mind falls for these simple tricks.

These religious marketers know the concept of customer life-time value very well - they make sure you rope in the parents to get to their young kids. And 99% of the kids follow their parents' religion...that makes it a very good proposition for a marketer..

And I think the 4Ps are mastered by the religious philosophers much earlier even when the communication mix is very limited (no internet, no TV, no radio). And the distribution channel ideas are awesome as well (religious gatherings, sacred shrines, strategic construction of places of worship, religious incentives for constructing these channels etc.).

Either you have to believe religion happened because that is the most optimal thing for human societies at that point in time - or it is there because of some cool tactics adopted by clever religious philosophers who used the conditions to their best. Or possible, it is a combination of both.

Dox O'Ryan said...

Your point-by-point link between these traditions and marketing techniques is concrete and fantastic. Thanks for the perspectives!

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