Disclaimer: I meant no disrespect to any beliefs or religions when I wrote this, especially to the Buddhists. In fact, despite having been raised Catholic, I went to Thailand to seek Buddhism and completed a 7 day intensive vipasana meditation at Wat Mahadthat temple in Bangkok. The stuff I’m about to share is based on my personal experience, my personal beliefs, and my personal opinion. I have utmost respect for all faiths and philosophies around the world.
Hello from the Thailand, the land of smiles. (Well, that’s the marketing slogan anyway.)
But before I return back to the good ol’ US of A, I decided to make one last trip in Thailand to a city called Ayutthaya.
Ayutthaya historical park is where I actually visited. According to Wikipedia, it was the “site of mass murder, rape and enslavement of Siamese people and destruction of the Ayutthaya city”.
But of course, now it’s the site for mass tourism, rape of foreigner’s wallets, and enslavement of Tuk-tuk drivers and massage ladies endlessly asking if I want a freakin’ taxi and massage when they can clearly see that I am not interested… and who the hell wants a massage in 100+ degree weather in the middle of the street with no freakin’ A/C.
Oh wait, I digress.
I was trying to witty with the word play but it took a wrong turn.
Yes, the even people in developing countries have figured out there’s more money in tourism then there ever will be in wars.
One place I visited was a Buddhist temple called Wat Yaichaimongkhol
And if you ever visit Thailand, you’ll notice that Ayutthaya temples look quite different than the temples elsewhere.
Ever watch old kung fu movies where a confused white guy is wronged somehow (his wife gets killed, child abducted, etc.) and he goes to a Shaolin monk to learn killer kung fu, only to learn more about himself and gets wise?
Well, i feel like marketers should do the same. Except instead of learning the art of tiger crotch (or was it croutching tiger.. i forget), we can learn from these temple people on what they learned about “monetizing the traffic” over hundreds if not thousands of years.
It’s free to visit the temples, whether you’re a believer or a tourist.
But, you want Buddha to “bless you” (by the way, Buddha is not god and he specifically said ‘do not worship me’), you’re gonna have to pay.
In fact, there are plaque all over temples that say “give to receive”.. or “offering for good luck”.
Yes, you can “buy” luck from Buddha as if Buddha has a factory making little trinkets of luck.
Hmm.. is it?
You gotta ask yourself this… ever go to a (christian) church and say you gotta tithe.. or “give to the lord so that you shall receive”… or something like that? (In fact, Jeremy talks about how internet marketers can learn from religions.)
Or better yet, ever watch people play Farmville or any of those time wasting games where you can buy virtual crap with REAL money?
Yea, freemium works. Don’t believe me? Look at how much freemium game maker Zynga is worth. Yes, people.. that’s a “B” as in BILLIONS.
2) Micro payments trump lump sum
Maybe the people running the temples saw informercials… or maybe informercial people visited the temples and copied it.
Small payments are EASIER than lump sum.
For example, if you visit the temples here, you’ll notice sometimes that there are ROWS and ROWS of donations boxes.
Each one of them has description on the box: “temple utility bills”… or “feed the hungry”… or “build a new meditation center”.
Some temples are more imaginative “for good luck”… “for good health”… “for prosperity”.
And what’s at the END of these boxes?
Correct – a cashier giving out change, so that you can get “luck” for each and every one of these categories. ( Who DOESN’T want good luck AND good health AND prosperity … etc).
In another words, you can HAVE IT ALL. And you don’t even have to pay a lot… just a change here and there… 35-40 times. That’s all.
The direct response marketers understand this: small monthly payments.
3) Make it easy to pay
For some reason, every culture seems to like pyramids, not just Egypt.
And Thai Buddhists are no exception.
There was this one pyramid structure that was ultra hard to climb, but everyone, and i mean everyone, wanted to go see what’s up there.
After a pretty arduous 1 minute climb (we’re talking 50-60% incline), i got to the top and saw this small room where there were more statues of Buddha.. and a little pit.
What’s the pit for?
No pun intended: to pour money down the drain. (i.e. donation pit)
People seemed to be enjoying themselves trying to put coin in the middle of the hole.
And of course, they dont’ want you to go ALL the way down to get change because they know once you go down, you ain’t coming back up.
Solution? Volunteer cashier on top of the pyramd.
(Actually it was an old white guy. I doubt he signed up to do this when he was seeking englightenment).
Yes, make it EASY to pay. One click if possible.
4) Use psychology (Gamification)
This is probably the most interesting one. (Actually this isn’t a Buddhist thing.. but more cultural thing.)
In some temples, you’ll notice this container that contains these long sticks that look like little arrows.
They’re called “lucky sticks”.
The concept is that you shake it until a stick pops out.
On that stick is a number.
And of course, that number tells you the number to the pamphlet that explains what your “luck” represents.
Like the donation boxes, they usually say some good stuff… like “you’ll be successful”… “you’ll find your true love soon”.. blah blah.
But unlike the donation boxes, some of them are actually quite … i’ll say it.. fucked up.
There was one that said “be careful as your decision might cause a grave harm to your future”.
Seriously, who the hell wants to receive that?
In fact, I’ve seen people actually get these foul predictions.
So what do they do?
Go back, spend another 50-100 BHAT, ($1.50 – $3 USD) and try again.
In fact, they’ll keep doing it until they see something they LIKE.
More money for the temples? Hell yes. KACHIIIING.
OK… I made it sound like Buddhist temples were some kind of corporate money making machine.
As with all man made religions that started out with good intent around true faiths, there are flaws and things that people can definitely criticize, especially for outsiders looking in.
But I must admit, temples (like churches and synagogues) definitely do provide a sense of stability, serenity, and community.
On top of that, they provide economic activity. Like the tourists that come to visit them.. or the construction companies that help to design, construct, and maintain them.. or the food vendors that come to sell the food to the believers who in turn donate to the monks.
In the last 3 months in this foreign country called Thailand, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing interesting, funny, exciting, and scary things.
An elephant tried to slap me once.
A monkey tried to slap me once.
No, i don’t know why these animals hate me so much.
No, I’m not that korean guy Dr. Ken Jeong from Hangover 2.
And of course, meeting people, especially the Thai entrepreneurs who are creating value and, of course, jobs (like the founder of HomeCareSpot.com, who is literally creating jobs by creating connections between host families needing home care and international students around the world looking for home care jobs), had to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
As I leave Thailand in less than 24 hours, I just want to say “sawasdee khap” to the people who gave me the most interesting experience of my adult life so far.
[Insert sappy song here]
PS: Do you like my posts? I am looking for opportunities to expand my guest blog or do public speaking on online marketing & lead generation (I run a solar lead generation company). You can read about who I am, what I do and my experiences on my personal blog. If so, please contact me.