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Can the Burn of PyroMarketing ignite Green Marketing?

3p Contributor | Tuesday December 13th, 2005 | 5 Comments

pyromarketing.jpgI came across the term “pyromarketing” in this week’s Economist as I was reading about the growing trend of reconciliation between religious and corporate America which intrigued me and I wondered how it might fit with “green” or sustainable marketing.
Pyromarketing is a term coined by Greg Steilstra, formerly the chief marketer for Zondervan, a religious publishing house owned by Rupert Murdoch’s HarperCollins which oddly enough also owns Regan books which publishes “How to Make Love Like a Porn Star”, but that’s another story in of itself. Instead of using traditional mass marketing media, like television, pyromarketing relies on “consumer evangelists” who spread the word (like fire) among like-minded people. Greg uses the metaphor of the steps it takes to start a fire to describe his process for pyromarketing. It is very similar to viral marketing or “buzz marketing, but so far I’ve only heard it used in the context of marketing religion.


Traditional marketing strategies draw on louder bolder more intrusive tactics while pyromarketing quietly taps into the integrity and loyalty of the customer to drive exponential sales growth, build passionate brand identification, and foster lifelong customer relationships. Pyromarketing has aimed its messages towards Christians who as customers, are incredibly loyal and will go out of their way to patronize Christian enterprises. Interestingly, across the southern states, Evangelicals mark professional advertising with a cross in order to attract Christian customers. One of these companies is Chick-fil-A, a chain owned by Christians that are so devout; they close all their restaurants on Sundays. This practice has not hurt their sales and instead they have become one of the fasted growing chains in the country. Amazingly, the company proclaims that “its first priority has never been to just serve chicken, but it is to serve a higher calling”. Somehow, the company has reached the hearts (and souls) of their customers to convey the brand vision that eating their chicken is a way to profess their faith.
Why can’t green marketers learn from their religious counterparts? Similarly, their target audiences are communities of like minded people who strongly believe in a cause(s). Trends in these communities are spread by word of mouth and often arise organically. In his personal blog, Greg Steilstra discusses concepts of marketing as communication, pragmatic vs. semantic meaning and its effect on communication, and the search for relevance. Sound familiar? When Greg was chief marketer at Zondervan, they had 88 best-sellers, 20 #1 best-sellers and eight books that sold more than a million copies, all without employing traditional marketing strategies. Again, I ask, why hasn’t green marketing attained the level of success as pyromarketing? Are environmental and social causes not as personal, meaningful or compelling as religious ones? Is saving the world not as urgent as saving your soul?


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  1. December 13, 2005 at 12:25 pm PDT | Ivan Storck writes:

    When I worked at Rational Software we had “customer evangelists” as an official title. I think Word of Mouth Marketing is the next big thing -and it’s an important trend because word of mouth can’t be faked. It’s truly authentic, which is what green and sustainable marketing at its best is. My work partner Juliet mentioned “the Word of Mouth Marketing Association and their upcoming conference in Orlando. http://www.womma.org They also have a good blog and also a podcast. Seems as though the term is shifting increasingly from “viral marketing” to “word of mouth marketing.” Also my friend Terry told me something about Christian megachurches and how they have become so popular. It turns out not because of the experience of the thousands of people in church, but because of the regular weekly prayer group meetings of 8-10 people with similar interests. Of course there are many NGO’s doing similar things in the green space, but how can green companies create and nuture these circles of influence? One method is through an online forum, like the one at forum.sustainablemarketing.com. I’m reading “The Secrets of Word-of Mouth marketing” by George Silverman and he promises to deliver more analytical approach to Word of Mouth Marketing.

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  2. December 14, 2005 at 15:35 pm PDT | Perry Goldschein writes:

    Pyromarketing is indeed at work with the savvier green marketers.
    In order for it to work, it has to start with the thought leaders, who are found in many communinities similar to this one. It is tight-knit, online communities involving issues of sustainability, health & wellness, social responsibility & fair trade, personal growth & balanced lifestyles, and independent media through which savvy green marketers are able to cost-effectively “seed” their message with “customer evangelists.”
    But the communication has to be closely matched to the right communities. We’ve seen it work for our clients over and over again.

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  3. December 15, 2005 at 14:27 pm PDT | john rooks writes:

    For the lohas market, as Paul Ray has been saying all along, it is all about being authentic. We can smell the alternative a mile away (we like to think). As an owner of an ad agency focused on the lohas marketplace and lohas products, I always struggle with the natural dichotomy of Adertising and Authenticity. The two have not always played very nicely with one another…we need to re-learn consumer trust with authentic advertising, and hope that non-lohas advertisers follow the trend…

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  4. March 16, 2008 at 21:00 pm PDT | chamika writes:

    I was reviewing a few viral marketing service and came accross something pretty intresting called WideCircles. They seem to work by sending viral messages to various websites like forums, blogs, wiki’s and so on. My friend signed up for the account the other day after running a small but successful campaign ( targeting very specific niche ) and told me about it. It seems like a nice idea to gather highly relevant traffic and help with the SEO process at the same time while paying very small amount of money compared to pay per click. In any case, I am going to give them a try today. In case you are intrested here is the site. http://widecircles.com?imt=3

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  5. April 05, 2008 at 5:45 am PDT | Gayathri writes:

    Did anyone out there give a try to Wide Circles or WideCircles. They are new word of mouth advertising platform, apparently they can push massive amount of messages through social network mediums like forums,blogs,wiki’s and so on. They say that they only bill for posts active for minimum of 5 days and price seems pretty affordable. I am going to give Wide Circles aka WideCircles a try since I am tired of PPC fraud. http://widecircles.com

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