Branding Nonduality: Part Two

Since I posted the first part of this article on January 9, 2008, Eckhart Tolle and his particular teaching of nonduality have been raised in public consciousness.

In the earlier article I asked whether Eckhart Tolle was as strong a brand as Deepak Chopra. At this point it is clear that the name Eckhart Tolle is a very strong brand. A few months ago I might have thought that “The Now” was a stronger brand, but I no longer think that. Although the Deepak Chopra brand goes back decades, in current times Eckhart Tolle is as strong or stronger a brand name.

Also in the earlier article I felt that the Ken Wilber name was a stronger brand than the Peter Fenner name. I don’t think that’s as true any longer. Fenner’s Radiant Mind — the book and course — is becoming more well known. And I feel it is easier to find one’s way from Tolle to Fenner, while not so easy to find a bend in the Tolle road that leads straight to Wilber.

The other update is about the 9choirs.com site. It has improved its look and name and thereby strengthened its branding. Now the site is called SoulsCode: Everyone’s a guru. I like the site and branding much better, although I still don’t easily grasp its focus or niche.

There are hundreds of other examples in the nonduality field that could be discussed in terms of branding. I’m only giving my impressions and have no hard evidence to back them. My main purpose is to get you to think about the business of nonduality in terms of branding. The question you might ask is whether you are optimally branding your work in nonduality.

Nonduality needs to be run as a business in order to communicate it worldwide. Take the most low-profile nondual people in the nonduality racket, for example a guy like david carse who doesn’t teach, doesn’t encourage personal contact, doesn’t even copyright his popular book, Perfect Brilliant Stillness: beyond the individual self: he still has to run a business, ship books, advertise, deal with publishers, printers, distributors, banks, etc.

And I have to say, if david has a brand it is david carse himself, the reclusive Vermont carpenter who writes brilliantly about the nondual state and claims no ownership of his writing. What a job of branding!

6 thoughts on “Branding Nonduality: Part Two

  1. Mike young

    Just saw this stuff and as someone who makes their living in branding thought it fascinating. Is branding an interest of yours or are you connected to the field through work?

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  2. Jerry Post author

    Hi Mike,

    Thank you for visiting my blog and commenting.

    I’m not in the field of branding other than to brand myself and my work as “nonduality.” I’m aware that it’s a lot easier and more impactful to keep my work under a single brand.

    Yet it’s not a brand I own. “Nonduality” is only a word that I’ve popularized. I once read that “orange juice” was intentionally created to be a similar kind of brand. That is, at one time few people drank orange juice. An advertising person decided to make orange juice a household term and to put the product on everyone’s table. Although he worked for a juice company, the brand “orange juice” became universal. It’s a people’s brand. I wanted to make nonduality the orange juice for the spirituality crowd and that vision has come to pass.

    Words and terms such as nonduality, orange juice, cyberspace, etc., are brands of and for the people. If someone can create a brand on a peoples level and then snap their personal brand into it, that’s got to be powerful.

    That is to say, branding in its fullest sense requires a change in consciousness of a large populace. That can only be done, I imagine, by the shape shifters already coming from the state of consciousness they want to effect. They must also align with a vision for its sharing. Then there must be the desire to see the vision become manifest.

    Leaders, founders, representatives of a brand have to own it at the level where it is their consciousness. As the consciousness of others comes to lean toward that of the brand representative (e.g., toward the consciousness of Oprah, Steve Jobs, or Ronald McDonald) the brand gains great support.

    I LOVE your website, Mike. It made me want to hang out there. You say that branding is at the heart of everything you do. For me, branding begins as a state of consciousness and a vision for its sharing. One must BE the brand at a profound level of their being.

    Thanks for the chance to talk about this!

    Jerry

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  3. mike young

    Hi Jerry

    I think one of the interesting things bout brands is that it is ‘customers’ who create them.It is a natural thing for people to make associations with anything that is named when they encounter it.Each encounter will reinforce, add to or modify previous associations. In this way, images are formed which have rational, emotional and sensory components.What ‘marketers’ need is to have insight into their customers beliefs and needs so that they can frame their brand in a way which will be attractive to their customers. You could say they need to create a blueprint for what they want their brand to stand for in customers’ minds.They then need to manage as many as possible of the encounters customers have with the brand so that their blueprint is turned into a reality.
    Branding has traditionally been used for commercial products and services but is now applied to a much wider range of things including sports and sports stars,showbiz, diseases, religions,countries, political parties and even ordinary people.
    I think one of the most interesting applications is to issues (e.g. The environment.For many, being green was equated with being a wimp. The brand wasn’t right for mass consumption)Although it is a natural extension, I had never really thought much about applying the brand concept to spirituality until I read your stuff but you are absolutely right in seeing that way. However, if brands are to avoid being sham brands and deliver what they promise they must be honest and coherent. Importantly, the people involved in delivering them must truly live their brands.With that in mind, I think we can safely say there are many sham spiritual brands.

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  4. Mike young

    Jerry
    I mistakenly sent the above before I finished it because I wanted to ask you a question.If a brand is a name that stands for something in a ‘customer’s’ mind what do you want non duality to stand for? In other words, what do you want people to think and feel about it?
    By the way many thanks for your remarks about the website and for sharing your story about orange juice. I have often referred to champagne in a similar way. We could make a bucks fizz.
    Finally,the scope of your web site is amazing and a wonderful tribute to your efforts to build the non duality brand.

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  5. Jerry Post author

    I would also say the customers are shaped by the marketers of the brand. Yet for any good brand there is a uniform feeling-perception that doesn’t change much and that withstands (for the most part) inevitable shocks.

    “What ‘marketers’ need is to have insight into their customers beliefs and needs so that they can frame their brand in a way which will be attractive to their customers. You could say they need to create a blueprint for what they want their brand to stand for in customers’ minds.They then need to manage as many as possible of the encounters customers have with the brand so that their blueprint is turned into a reality.”

    That’s “vision”, isn’t it? I never thought of breaking my vision down to those kinds of actions. I just knew I had to do two things: use the word nonduality, and make it accessible to the spirituality mainstream.

    “If a brand is a name that stands for something in a ‘customer’s’ mind what do you want non duality to stand for? In other words, what do you want people to think and feel about it?”

    I don’t want it to solely stand for what it used to stand for, which was academic treatments of mostly Hindu and Buddhist traditions; certain scriptures; and specific spiritual sages, gurus, and teachers who use the term nonduality and its variations.
    I want nonduality to stand for one’s true nature, period. However, I want people to be able to enjoy and have access to all the expressions of nonduality, including the academic treatments, the scriptures, and the teachings of gurus, sages, and teachers. This “want” has come to pass. Nonduality is well-branded at this point and others are supporting the brand and building it.

    “Branding has traditionally been used for commercial products and services but is now applied to a much wider range of things including sports and sports stars,showbiz, diseases, religions,countries, political parties and even ordinary people.”

    Yes. Branding diseases is a little shocking.
    However, the point is that everything can be branded.

    Yes, there are shaky spiritual brands. However a strong brand pushes out the weak ones, I’m sure.

    I also want to reiterate that in branding nonduality, I was conscious of using the word nonduality as the vehicle to disseminate the teaching of nonduality. The word was everything.

    Had I tried to brand the teaching of nonduality without the vehicle of a single word, a new word, I would have been only another talker about spiritual things. Everything I do uses the word nonduality. Here are my nonduality endeavors:

    Nonduality.com, .org, .net
    Nonduality blog
    Nonduality Salon forum (since 1998)
    The Nonduality Highlights daily letter (since 1998)
    Nonduality Street podcast
    Nonduality retreat
    Nonduality Satsang
    Cinema Nondualite’ – a film genre I created
    Essential Writings on Nonduality – a book I edited
    twitter.com/nonduality

    There have been others that have come and gone, but I always use the word nonduality. I also make up words and phrases: nondualize, nonduality nerd, nondualia, nonduality for the people, and many others over the years. Many people, when they hear the word nonduality, might think of my work, but that is not necessary nor do I even desire it. I can walk away from all my endeavors in the world of nonduality and know that the brand can do well without me.

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  6. mike young

    Hi Jerry

    Many thanks for your response and comments, just a few more points below

    I think the reason I emphasise the customer role in creating the brand is that customers have so many encounters with brands which are outside the control of marketers, particularly nowadays on social media.They are also much more marketing savvy than they used to be.

    All that marketers can do is try and influence the encounters where they have a degree of control but I think the days of ‘the hidden persuaders’ are receding

    As you say, sham brands do tend to get found out as the media are everywhere.Tiger Woods is a spectacular example.There was no hiding place and he may find it difficult to recover (particularly if his golf doesn’t improve!)

    You say the idea of disease branding sounds shocking but of course, we brand diseases through our encounters, even when no one is trying to influence us.Consider how differently people think and feel about cancer compared with the common cold. Also re-branding of diseases can have a very beneficial effect e.g.what used to be called impotence is now called ED.Whereas no man wanted to admit to being impotent,ED is a lot more respectable.I believe Al Gore admitted he was a sufferer on prime time TV

    You yourself say everything can be branded and I agree, except I would go a step farther and say everything is branded through the encounters we have even if no marketers are trying to influence us.

    In the case of non-duality, every time people encounter it in books,magazines, on line and through teachers their associations with the term will be reinforced or changed.As a result some would think and feel it was for them and others would not, depending on their own needs and beliefs and the nature of the encounters they had experienced.

    With respect to successful brands, trust is a key element.In spirituality, for every Ramana there are probably several Osho’s,so spiritual seekers search for information they can rely on to help make up their minds on which path to follow and which teachers to consult.

    In conclusion,I think your considerable efforts on behalf of non-duality have not only increased brand awareness, recognition and understanding but also brought a lot to the feelings around it.Here is a path that people can trust to deliver for them if they do the right things,a path on which information on genuine teachers is easily accessible.Non-duality therefore is increasingly becoming a successful brand an achievement for which you can take a lot of credit, desired or not.Long may it continue

    Best wishes

    mike

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