Marketers meet your new segment, Atheists

What if I told you there was an iconic man who travels the world drawing fanatical crowds, his book has been read by millions, and his followers praise his brave crusade. No, this man is not the Messiah, or even Oprah. His name is Richard Dawkins and ironically, he is the world’s most beloved atheist. His rise to prominence is only the beginning of a major movement taking hold in America and around the world. That’s right, Atheism just came screaming out of the closet and its pockets are bulging.

 

Already, atheists have organized major ad campaigns on buses in London and this week, in New York. People like Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris are frequent talk show guests and poised to surpass Khloe Kardashian in popularity.
Most striking is this phenomenon’s brazenness and organization. Silly me, I just thought atheism meant sleeping in on Sundays and eating all the bacon you want. Suddenly, there are meetings? Ads? Places to congregate? I can see where this is going…

 

Partially, this is a backlash from the Bush years and the dominance of¬†the religious right. Eventually, even believers could only take so many images of Adam and Eve riding dinosaurs. For this new breed of non-believers, the only snake they’ll take apples from, is Best Buy peddling the iPhone 3G.

More importantly, the real story lies in a sustained demographic shift. According to a Trinity College study, 19% of men and 12% of women consider themselves ‘not religious’. In a few years, atheists are likely to surpass Catholics as the single largest sect.

Budding opportunities

As non-believers organize, congregate, and begin to show patterns of behavior, they will become easier to market to. Even now it might be interesting to start studying their psychographics. What motivates them? Do they live or shop differently than believers? Do they earn more? Do they like their bacon crispy?

Without the benefit of facts or forethought (the natural enemies of bloggers), I’d speculate on a few initial opportunities:

  • Messaging: appealing more to reason, not emotion and using scientific facts
  • Selling science: Sell Lego, chemistry sets, and model cars, to kids of non-believers. A Dawkins Squarepants doll might be a step too far.
  • Media: the books are selling, why not TV shows, movies, web sites, or music? We had Christian Rock, why not, um, Rock?
  • Secular schooling
As the world gets more competitive and America digs itself out of the Great Recession, I’m finding it somewhat comforting that there is a cadre of parents who will likely encourage their kids to pursue science, cure diseases, and make batteries that can keep your Dawkins Squarepants running for months. The downside? Atheist holidays. Who will drop down the chimney bearing gifts? Probably some morose, brooding figure bearing yet another chemistry set. Thanks, Secular Clause! The cookies are on the fireplace.

 

6 thoughts on “Marketers meet your new segment, Atheists”

  1. I'm all for separating religion from belief in God.  IMHO they are two very different streams.  Unfortunately those who insist there is no God miss out on all the good Divine inspiration that lands on scientists and inventors right before many breakthroughs.  I don't have facts to support this, but enough inventors, scientists and the like have referenced that their inspiration came from someplace beyond them Рoutside of their brains.  Nous!

  2. My only point in this post is that Atheists are out of the closet and ready to roar as an economic force more than they ever have been. ¬†They've largely been silenced by the louder shouts of religious factions. ¬†Raging secularism is far preferable to dueling deities. It's good for science, progress, and yes, business. ¬† On the point of inspiration, I believe its intrinsic. Just like truly moral people instinctively know what is right and wrong, while others need the fear of damnation to do the right thing. ¬†Inspiration works the same way. ¬†It's a state of human, not divine, consciousness. ¬†Divinity happens to be a simple, digestible way to rationalize it. ¬†Long after religion, creativity will continue to flourish…as long as we don't holy war-ourselves out of existence.¬†

  3. I’m all for separating religion from belief in God. ¬†IMHO they are two very different streams. ¬†Unfortunately those who insist there is no God miss out on all the good Divine inspiration that lands on scientists and inventors right before many breakthroughs. ¬†I don’t have facts to support this, but enough inventors, scientists and the like have referenced that their inspiration came from someplace beyond them – outside of their brains. ¬†Nous!

    1. My main point in this post is that Atheists are out of the closet and ready to roar as an economic force more than they ever have been. ¬†They’ve largely been silenced by the louder shouts of religious factions. ¬†Raging secularism is far preferable to dueling deities. It’s good for science, progress, and yes, business. ¬† On the point of inspiration, I believe its intrinsic. Just like truly moral people instinctively know what is right and wrong, while others need the fear of damnation to do the right thing. ¬†Inspiration works the same way. ¬†It’s a state of human, not divine, consciousness. ¬†Divinity happens to be a simple, digestible way to rationalize it. ¬†Long after religion, creativity will continue to flourish…as long as we don’t holy war-ourselves out of existence.

  4. Steve, all very good points. Also AJC’s comment that no facts to support some scientist’s claim of inspiration from outside themselves doesn’t seem to me to indicate it’s from God. And, it’s my understanding that scientists are also all about facts being supported or disproved by evidence, so a fact that isn’t testable, supported or refuted, one can’t say it’s from God. It seems to me that inspiration coming outside of conscious thought means inspiration comes from another part of the individual’s brain and only appears to be from outside. Brain science studies seem to support this.

    1. Hi Terry, thanks for the feedback! My original intent in writing this post (as for most things on ideafaktory) is to isolate an opportunity or a trend. So in this post, I wanted to point out a trend I’m seeing that a former silent minority is no longer silent or minor. It represents a substantial shift from the quiet shame in which non-theists have lived in the past. It’s also a marketing opportunity for companies willing to explore and capitalize on what I see as a movement of sorts. I think the death of Hitchens may dampen its near-term progress, but the trend is undeniable.

      To address your point about the origin for inspiration…it’s a debate that’s almost doomed from the start whenever one or more parties believes in something un-provable. I’m just skeptical by nature. My basic philosophy on inspiration is that of Arthur C. Clarke. “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” I think there are inexplicable things all around us (including the origin of inspiration), but does that make them attributable to a supernatural force or to our current lack of science to explain it? I go for the latter. But I acknowledge that I can never win a debate with most people who believe the former!

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