Atheists have a marketing problem. In a world where religion has a practically infinite social inertia the idea that there isn't a god and that we are the masters of our own destiny is not just a hard sell, it's inconceivable for many. Richard Dawkins and others have started marketing campaigns to introduce this novel idea to those who would not otherwise think about it. Are these campaigns working? That is anyone's guess at this point.

SETH GODIN is a bestselling author, entrepreneur and agent of change (taken from his blog). He has written books and given talks, like this TED talk, which explain why some ideas spread more efficiently than others. He states that "ideas that spread, win." This is an obvious truth. It is also an obvious truth that the world has invented innumerable religions but the dominant ones that we are left with today are successful because they were the best at spreading. Why these religions are so well adapted for spreading has been much discussed elsewhere. What we need to do, if we have an idea that we want to spread, is identify how to market our idea so that it becomes as viral as the religions we wish it to replace. We must also recognize that if it isn't spreading then perhaps the problem is not the audience but the idea.

Seth argues that today there are so many ideas and products being marketed that people have learned how to ignore them. The things which get noticed are not necessarily the best but they are the ones that are remarkable, that stand out. Seth also argues that marketing to the masses is alright if you have an enormous budget but this is a mistake because that is the market which is best at ignoring your message. The best audience to market to, he argues, is the small group of people that are passionate about the subject because they will spread your idea themselves.

Let's consider what Seth Godin would do. How would he market atheism if he wanted to promote that change? Is atheism even a marketable idea? If not, what is? That is a much discussed subject in the context of identifying what we, as individuals, stand for. I think that it needs to be identified not simply for self identity but, more importantly, for marketing.

Let's also consider advertising strategies. Absolutely anyone can market an idea today, if they are clever. Setting up a website is trivial. Viral "word of mouth" marketing gets you your audience. The trick is to create a site that is remarkable to passionate people. Bill-boards are nice but they are expensive. Are there other options?

Let's brainstorm. How can we market our message in a better way? What is the message we need to promote to accomplish our goal?

Tags: Seth Godin, advertising, marketing, strategy

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Christianity and Islam spread successfully because they offer something compelling to both the powerful and the powerless. Judaism was successful with the weak and poor but it really took Constantine to make Christianity into the powerhouse that it is today.

For the poor these religions represent membership in a club of only the coolest people, those who will live in paradise after they die. They also feel very important to the most important conceivable being, so important that he takes part in every activity every day. For the powerful, these religions represent structured subjugation. Men are able to maintain dominance over women, the Church is able to control your life to a large degree and profits from your tithe, and politicians benefit in innumerable ways. This is only a cursory overview of why these religions spread so readily.

My objective with this discussion was to point out why so many attempts to promote our own position fail. Consider if we were trying to market a non-alcoholic beer. We could buy a million dollar superbowl ad spot and use it to describe how our near-beer doesn't have harmful alcohol, it doesn't make you dizzy, and it never makes you imagine that you are cooler than you really are. We shouldn't be surprised, though, if our commercial is a fantastic failure. We would have failed to understand that our target market actually LIKES being dizzy and imagining that they are cool. Should we even waste our time marketing non-alcoholic beer to a market that doesn't want it? Marketing our product to people concerned about health and the gluten intolerant would be much less risky but, perhaps, would be no more satisfying. After all, non-alcoholic beer is pretty bland. Perhaps we should try a new product.

I'm starting to come to the conclusion that some of these "Church of Atheism" organizations might be on to something after all. I think that for many people it will take something which can compete with what religion offers in order to replace it.
"You know only about 40% of Americans even believe in evolution"

Cripes! Seriously? I think I just got a little depressed.
Obviously this is still in the works, but if atheism can be marketed as an intellectual oasis, or a backbone of critical thinking in society, that would serve it well. Hosting and promoting a public forum of ideas, the proverbial public square of debate, as a public service is what I'm shooting for. I'll likely be working on developing that proof of concept here in St. Louis for the next several years. I don't think it would be a problem to have competitors in other cities.
In my experience, most folks show up to church because it's the only kind of community that they are a part of. Religious people don't hate atheists because they think that we are irrational, they hate us because we are seen as the "out group" to their churches "in group". I think building a strong community of non-believers and holding regular social functions would yield better results than an information campaign. People believe in god for emotional reasons, not intellectual ones.
Not sure who you are replying to, but did we mention the Ethical Society is probably going to host this?
Thats why I think it would help to aim at gen y college types. They already feel part of community at college and feel close as young adults rebelling against inhumanity? They feel that they want to right the wrong and carry that new thinking with them outside of college. At least thats how I feel sometimes.
Go to each crazed church and throw flyers; mention xtian tabeban etc..
"do you want America to fall to lazy taleban-like corporate fundie racist bastards; remember Hitler!?" stuff like that. Over the top since the opposing side is...
what did you expect?
Atheists have secular schools, universities, scientific institutions, secular television programming, secular movies, secular video games...I mean, there is probably more non-theistic literature both non fiction and fiction than there is religious writings. I can think of only a few movies I've seen recently that really espoused a theistic world view. They mainly are either vague/spinazoan, humanist, or directly athiest.

We have a TON of marketing engines out there, wherever open debate, free thinking, and intellectuals exist, we're represented quite well.

The best we can do is help people be less fearless about their atheism, so be an example where you can...post blogs, post youtube videos etc. If all 15000 of us on this site did that, we'd help a lot of people lose their fear of religious pressure too.

To "win" we dont really need people to reject God altogether anyway, we just need to relegate him to the status of "irrelevant" and that is happening with unprecidented speed, which is likely why the religious nutbars have become so extremist lately.
The best we can do is help people be less fearless about their atheism, so be an example where you can.

Visibility (for those of us who are able) is one of our strongest presentation models.

At least 1 in 10 people in the USA are non-religious (secular/agnostic/atheist), odds are everyone knows at least 1 atheist, even if they don't know who it is.

It is harder to hate and prejudice those who are known on a personal level. You don't stop being the person you are, just because someone finds out you might not be the person they thought you were.
"Visibility (for those of us who are able) is one of our strongest presentation models."

True enough. I suspect the reason that some people cling to their religion is due to the crowd mentality. They believe and argue that it must be the truth is most other people believe it.

"It is harder to hate and prejudice those who are known on a personal level."

That I'm not so sure about. Spouses, family, friends, and coworkers would be more accepting if it were true but rarely are they accepting. However, it's much easier to abuse someone if you feel they are alone or in a minority. Visibility and numbers would help.
I think people on this thread "cant see the forest for the trees". 99% of the buildings in all major cities are dedicated to NON theist organizations, ideas, purposes etc. Churches, mosques etc may be big and conspicuous, but they still represent a small portion of the real estate relative to secular institutions, and even then they are becoming increasingly empty as the world becomes more developed, more educated, and more aware.

Atheism does not need to be marketed any more than two eyes needed to be marketed in evolution. Atheism is the inevitable outcome of civilization, so all we need to promote is freedom of speech, democracy, debate, and education (and related things), and atheism will simply be the defacto.

Think I'm wrong? There was a time when the theist organizations took up MOST of the real estate in civilization, most of the building resources, most people's energy. Now churches are lucky if they can get all their members to attend more than a few times a year. We are winning by a landslide. Some of us might even see the dissolution of theism in our lifetimes.
Silly me. I don't know why I even spend time worrying about this stuff if religion is dying all on its own.

Nietzsche declared that 'God is dead' more than 120 years ago though and his demise hasn't just been slow to arrive but it seems to be non-existent at times. Personally, I think you're both wrong. The human predilection for delusion and the people that take advantage of it are here to stay. Complacency only makes the situation worse.

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