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I was talking with a friend over dinner about the success of Christian churches gaining a foothold in Korea. There are lessons learned from Korean churches in the way that they have managed to grow. On the face of it Korea would be stony ground for a ‘new religion’. While Korea was part of the Japanese empire for a good while. Korea still managed to maintain a strong culture and sense of identity of which Buddhist and Confucian belief systems are a key part. (This isn’t meant to be a theological or politics-related discussion).
A number of the success factors struck me as being classic factors for marketing success as well:
- Location – Buddhist temples tend to be away from the population up in the hills and the mountains. This is because Korean Buddhism, like Japanese Buddhism puts a strong emphasis and place on nature. Contrast this with churches that are located in people’s neighbourhoods. It’s easier to get to your place of worship. From a marketing point of view look how Apple has improved, first by going in-store at CompUSA and later building its own stores because it is easier for people to get to an Apple retailer
- Ritual -this kind of extends from the first point, because when you can get to your place of worship easier, it is easier to do a regularly repeatable ritual that reinforces how you feel about your religion of choice. People go to Church every Sunday. Again if you can get people to do something on a regular basis they are more likely to incorporate your product or service into their lifestyle: Google being a great example, which is why Yahoo! failed to dislodge the search giant from its position despite having a comparable product five or so years ago
- Evangelists – people who are involved in the Korean churches already seem to do a good job in terms of word-of-mouth marketing encouraging their friends to trial Christianity. If these guys had a net promoter index they would be hitting 8+ consistently; again mirroring Apple’s rise
- Network effects – the rise of Christianity is a virtuous circle with more of the converted going out there bringing in yet more people. From a virtual standing start, now over 29 per cent of Koreans identified themselves as Christian according to 2005 Korean census data quoted by Wikipedia. I’ve been a Mac user long enough to remember when it was unusual to own Apple products. I was one of only two people in my halls of residence of college who had a Mac; yet now you can’t move in Starbucks because of the see of glowing Apple logos on the laptop lids
- Smart engagement process – when you start at one of these churches they put you into a study group to get a download on what Christianity is. You get to meet more people, so your engagement with the church moves beyond the person who originally encouraged you to come along to other members of the church. In marketing companies are always looking for multiple touch-points of engagement. There’s definitely lessons learned from Korean churches in terms of customer experience and customer journey.
Korean christianity was covered in The Economist here. More marketing related posts here.