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#3910 - Tuesday, June 1, 2010 - Editor: Jerry Katz
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The article featured is a blog from the Wall Street Journal. Although tongue in cheek, it considers what startup businesses can learn from the qualities and marketing of religion. Interesting to think about where nonduality fits into each point cited. The article is from
The success of global religions offers many real-world marketing and business lessons for entrepreneurs in product development, market entry and market expansion.
Heres a somewhat tongue-in-cheek look at some of them, in no particular order.
(Religion and spirituality have been used interchangeably.)
Lesson 1: Unique, well-defined customer segments
Each religion has a well-defined set of followers. There is hardly any overlap between the followers of, say, Christianity and Islam. Theres no overlap. Each group of followers is uniquely defined. That is clarity that all entrepreneurs would be lucky to have.
Lesson 2: The product must have a unique set of attributes
Each religion has its own set of unique attributes and motifs which define it. Hinduism, for example, has karma and reincarnation. Christianity has original sin and Jesus Christ as the son of God and redeemer of mankind. Islam calls for belief and total submission to a formless God and acceptance of Muhammad as Gods final prophet. Every aspect of a followers life is seemingly guided by sets of elaborate, codified rules from child birth to adulthood to marriage to death.
Similarly, for entrepreneurs, each strategy or product needs to have unique attributes that clearly define what it is. There has to be a unique experience for its target audience.
There are also defining honorifics used by religious followers to address their leaders. The Church of England, for example, has defined the appropriate terminology for addressing its various representatives. The Archbishop of Canterbury is to be officially referred to as the Most Reverend and Right Honourable the Lord Archbishop. The Pope as the head of the Roman Catholic Church is to be addressed as Your Holiness or Most Holy Father. These honorifics clearly are intended to highlight uniqueness and importance and to inspire awe.
Lesson 3: Marketing evangelicals
Proselytizing religions and their evangelicals are relentless in their mission to spread the word. They believe theyre doing Gods work. They walk the streets, knock on doors, preach the message; they are incredibly persistent and persuasive; they are well-trained, handle rejection with calm confidence, work hard to get a trial from the target and create a conducive environment that welcomes converts. Companies like Apple and Harley-Davidson have cult-like followers who act as evangelists for their companies. Entrepreneurs need to be similarly enthused and to hire people who have the same belief.
Lesson 4: Free entry, high switching and exit costs
Entry into any religion is free. There are no material costs to be incurred. However, there are strict rules against blasphemy and apostasy in the Abrahamic religions with the threat of severe punishment including death.
There are umpteen examples of a similar lesson in the world of business and products. Free e-mail, for example. Becoming a member of a free e-mail service is easy but the costs of switching to another system are high in terms of time and effort.
Lesson 5: Laser-sharp, initial go-to-market focus, growth in concentric circles later
The history of most religions shows that they initially (and quite naturally) focused on gaining acceptance and then dominance in a specific geography. Then they rapidly expanded outward using a mix of peaceful preaching, war and violence and, in some cases, by using political, economic and social pressure. Adi Sankaracharyas travels across India in the ninth century and the consequent appeal of Advaita is an example. The history of Christianity and Islam offers great insights into the ways organized religion spread all over the world.
Looking at various preachers, too, shows how they initially focused on a simple message of enlightenment. How to live a stress-free life, deal with personal angst, and so on. Later, as the number of followers grew, the reach of the message spread across different customer groups. Baba Ramdev, primarily a yoga guru, now holds forth on AIDS, the role of multinational corporations and fast food. He has followers all over the world. Christian evangelists like Joyce Meyer and Benny Hinn spread their message of global humanitarian aid to countries like India after gaining a strong base in their home country.
Lesson 6: Communication, branding and positioning
Some religious movements adopt the time-tested formula of celebrity endorsement. Others use the well-known multi-level marketing model, where each follower organizes local gatherings (usually at a home) where the uninitiated are invited. Yet others use mass media (e.g. television) for reaching out to large numbers at a time. Music concerts (e.g. Christian rock) and mega events such as meditation camps and international meets on spirituality and consciousness serve as yet another effective means of communication and bonding.
Americas well-known evangelist Billy Graham, spiritual advisor to 12 U.S. presidents and with an estimated life-time audience of over 2.2 billion people, rose to prominence on the back televisions explosion in the U.S. from the 1950s onward. Perhaps he summed up the business of religion best when he was quoted in Time magazine in 1954 saying: I am selling the greatest product in the world; why shouldnt it be promoted as well as soap?
There is a profound lesson in that statement!
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