I 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?