As you read the article “Branding Your Meetings”, I want you to keep the name Martin Lindstrom in mind.
Lindstrom is the author of Buyology: Truth and Lies About What We Buy (Broadway Business, 2008), which chronicles the results of a landmark study he conducted on buying behavior. Time magazine recently named Lindstrom one of the 100 most influential people of 2009.
Time's article on Lindstrom says: “It was in 2003 that Lindstrom started reading about brain-imaging tools and realized that they could be applied to. He raised research money, brought scientists on board and helped recruit subjects. He's one of the first brand experts to understand the biology of consumer desire.”
Using an FMRI, or “functional” magnetic resonance imaging machine, Lindstrom conducted a three-year, $7 million study on marketing and its effects on the brains of 2,000 volunteers.
Here's where it gets interesting for religion and: Lindstrom's book says the scans of people who were brand loyal matched exactly the scans of people who were devoted Christians.
That's amazing, but upon reflection it should not surprise us. Branding is a relatively new phenomenon that began in the United States shortly after World War II. At that time, industrial capacity exceeded consumer demand, so branding and marketing were created to stimulate consumers' desire for products. Branding pioneers borrowed from religion in their use of symbols and icons (called brands and logos by the marketers), music, and repetition. The very best marketers created religious-like fervor in their faithful clientele.
Lindstrom believes that strong brands and religions share three traits: rituals, mystery, and an enemy. Consider Apple, the company with perhaps the strongest brand loyalty today. The Apple community is rife with rituals (the annual product announcements delivered live to millions of viewers), mystery (how does Apple create such cool stuff?), and an enemy (“Hello, I'm a Mac.” “And I'm a PC.”) And of course, ritual, mystery, and opposition have been part of religion from the beginning.
How does this relate to your meetings? To develop loyalty, Lindstrom would say that your meetings must: develop rituals, create mystery, and define and fight an enemy. (Enemies could be social issues such as poverty, homelessness, and hunger.)
Examine your meetings and determine if they could benefit from Lindstrom's research and point of view.