Bible translation, Linux and American beer

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What does Bible translation have to do with Linux and American beer? The way that it should be marketed.

This article is talking about how, in the main, the marketing strategy for the Linux computer operating system relies on word of mouth. It argues that for some types of products mass marketing is effective, but for others there are much more cost-effective strategies.

A large part of mainstream media marketing, advertising, and branding is a means to get name recognition at a very superficial level. Its main targets are people who make superficial buying decisions, and for the right products, this works. Why buy name brand Tylenol vs. generic acetaminophen, name brand cereal, or a thousand other identical products that come off the same assembly line but use different packaging at different prices? From the perspective of the thrifty, the main answers are ignorance and brand recognition.

Of course, not all marketing is to compete with effectively identical products. Consider the American beer industry as a major marketing powerhouse with a few similarities to the Windows vs. Linux market. The major American breweries formulated modern beers after Prohibition to appeal to people who didn’t like the taste of beer, and as a side effect the major brewers accepted, these beers taste bad to beer connoisseurs. The post-Prohibition era, even to this day, retains elements of a cartelized liquor distribution industry designed to make it difficult and expensive to compete with the major breweries, such that there have been no new domestic majors in decades. The rebirth of real beer in America was through microbreweries that have small to non-existent marketing budgets. They rely on beer connoisseurs who communicate through beer fan reviews, word of mouth, willingness to experiment, and seeking out the minority of stores that actually carry microbrew and local beers. Beer commercials for microbrews about sports and sexy women would not get many beer drinkers to seek out good beer that isn’t already easy to find. Such commercials are just for “all beer is beer” drinkers who are susceptible to brand association marketing and herd opinion.

This doesn’t mean that high-cost marketing is innately wrong or bad. It means that if you can increase the marginal sales of your high-profit-per-sale product to people who make quick decisions based on brand recognition, then your marketing expenses were a good investment, but otherwise not. Unfortunately for Linux companies, desktop Linux is a very low profit per “sale” product that is not an impulse choice off a shelf of interchangeable consumer goods.

I would add recruitment for Bible translation to the Linux-American beer category. Our market is a relatively small one (committed UK Christians), and our product is very different to almost anything else “on the market”. Even other missions organisations are not normally working directly in Bible translation.

Add to that the fact that people rarely give up a salary to raise financial support and live in a third world country on impulse, and I would say that despite the temptation to invest in quick and easy online mass marketing, our best marketing strategies are through the old-fashioned approach of meeting people, building relationships, and word of mouth.

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