By Adam Kaz
If advertising is the art of persuasion, it’s fair to say that it’s one of the oldest arts known to man. Throughout history, we can analyze advertising research methods played its part in important decisions. Perhaps one of the best examples of this was St. Vladimir’s use of research to determine the religion of Kievan Rus’ in the ninth century. Vladimir may not have been familiar with the term “market research analysis,” but he certainly understood the underlying power behind the concept.
Vladimir first had emissaries of each religion – Eastern Christianity, Western Christianity, Judaism and Islam – come to speak to him about their brand. Just as advertisers talk to consumers in order to learn how to adjust their brand, here we see how Vladimir utilized first hand accounts to make his decisions.
The religious sponsors, advertisers in their own right, told Vladimir about the glory of their faith. However, our oppressive hero, like any good market researcher, looked past their biased perspectives and tried to find inconsistencies in their stories.
Although the Jews claimed to be the chosen people, Jerusalem’s recent devastation made him uncertain of their legitimacy. The Muslims claimed to offer peace and happiness, but their abstinence from alcohol made Vladimir skeptical of their application to his people.
“Drinking,” said he, “is the joy of the Russes. We cannot exist without that pleasure.”
Vladimir’s disinterest in Judaism showed he understood the importance of results. It’s not enough to promise a great product, you have to deliver. His action towards the Muslims shows he had a handle on his target market. Knowing his people had a tendency to drink, Vladimir assumed Islam wouldn’t appeal to their palette.
Although he had pretty much ruled out Judaism and Islam, he was still interested in the Greek and German Christians. Both sects represented a similar religion, but only the Greeks condemned all other faiths and promised an “artful” description of eternal salvation. We can view this as akin to the constant battle between Coke and Pepsi.
Vladimir didn’t know which one had better test samples to back up their claims, so he asked his vassals for their advice.
“The vassals and the elders replied, ‘You know, oh Prince, that no man condemns his own possessions, but praises them instead. If you desire to make certain, you have servants at your disposal. Send them to inquire about the ritual of each and how to worship God.’”
Vladimir’s vassals understood the importance of observational research. Every market researcher worth their salt knows they have to get an objective spin on their research.
However, if we can take one lesson away from this story it’s that humans have used marketing practices for centuries. Whether it’s building or mop testing, market research is vital.