Daily Archives: March 22, 2011

Scientology marketing: Give ’em what they want

All the recent talk about OT abilities raises an obvious question about Scientology: How do perfectly reasonable, intelligent people come to believe in stuff like this?

There’s an assumption that Scientologists are stupid or gullible, but I don’t think that’s true at all. L. Ron Hubbard may not have known fuck-all about nuclear physics, but he sure knew a thing or two about marketing, the purpose of which he said is “to create want and to sell something” (HCO PL 1 Jan 1977RA, MARKETING HAT). Let’s talk about how Hubbard designed Scientology to be marketed to new prospects.

I once heard L. Ron Hubbard’s marketing “tech” summed up in a single sentence: “Ask people what they want, then tell them that you have it.” Hubbard-style marketing basically involves taking a lot of surveys – surveys to find out what people want, surveys to find out what they will believe, surveys to find out what their emotions are about a given subject, surveys, surveys, surveys. “Surveys are the key to stats,” LRH wrote.

“…when we broadly offer everything we can do, it is too much. To find out what people want or will accept or will believe, one does SURVEYS.” — LRH, HCO PL 2 Sept 1979 [emphasis in original]

Everything in an ad is supposed to be surveyed, right down to the images – they must be shown, by survey, to remind people of the concept the ad is trying to portray.

Marketing to “new public” (or “raw meat” as Hubbard sometimes referred to them) involves finding out exactly what their problem is — finding their ruin. It’s similar to what happens in the follow-up interview after taking Scientology’s infamous personality test. Hubbard talks about it in HCO PL 23 October 1965, DISSEMINATION DRILL:

“…find out what their own personal ruin is. This is basically – What is ruining them? What is messing them up? It must be a condition that is real to the individual as an unwanted condition, or one that can be made real to him… Once the person is aware of the ruin, you bring about an understanding that Scientology can handle the condition… This is done by simply stating Scientology can, or by using data to show how it can.” — LRH [emphasis added]

For ads aimed at raw meat, Scientology uses survey data to find out what people feel is lacking in their lives. Let’s say surveys show that 65% of non-Scientologists are worried about the economy. Okay, there’s our survey “button.” What do people want? Survey says: Economic security. What do people associate with economic security? Survey says: A house on the beach. Resulting Scientology ad: A family on the porch of their beach house with the copy “It’s easy to secure your economic future – we can show you how. Call xxx-xxx-xxxx.”

Once you call or come in, you get funneled through the same process as other prospects, most likely the introductory film or an attempt to hard-sell you Dianetics or the Communications Course. And that’s where things start to get seriously un-kosher: No matter what your problem is, Scientology sells you the same solution.

So what if you’re not susceptible? You’ll most likely self-filter out of the system – I wrote about that process in “But the technology works!”. Once you’re funneled in to the system, it’s like driving onto the track at an automatic car wash — you get pulled along through successive steps, until you reach OT VIII… and then, like your car, you’re totally hosed.


Let’s shift gears for a moment, back to my third-favorite Scientology topic, Marty Rathbun. Remember, Marty is trying to “create want and sell something” – he sells auditing to Scientologists disenchanted with Church management. To him, ex-Churchies are “raw meat.” See if you can spot the way he communicates “survey buttons” to his potential customers.

I’m sure you saw Keeping It Real, Marty’s latest (and so far last) salvo in the Great Debate about OT Abilities.

After saying that he would only show his abilities to those who believe in them, Marty now says that while he and his wife (a new to Scientologist) enjoy telepathic communication, it doesn’t actually matter if you get OT abilities from Scientology – you should do Scientology for the sheer joy of doing it.

“What do claims, representations, and promises have to do with it? Not a blessed thing. Just like any other life endeavor, if you reach for it you might achieve it. … If you enjoy pursuing it, and you achieve a little higher ground while doing so perhaps you’ll continue pursuing it.” — Marty Rathbun

That one is bound to strike a familiar chord with Scientologists – although it’s sort of ironic that Marty, who claims the organized Church does not deliver the gains promised by LRH because it is not delivering proper Scientology, is now saying that his auditing might not deliver those gains, either.

Well, except for him and his wife and their ability to communicate without phones. Wink wink, nudge nudge.

If you believe that, I’ve got a Bridge to sell you.