Where the marketers for ‘The Science of Yoga’ went wrong

First off, a disclaimer: Bobbie does not approve of this post.

She thinks we ought to say nothing about The Science of Yoga book, mainly because the author continues to say the most ridiculous and inane things in promoting it.

I’m sure you’ve seen them, so I don’t have to rehash. Instead, I’ll direct you to a video you’ve also probably seen, but in case you haven’t: Eddie Stern challenging the author to a Vedic debate:

My sense from Eddie’s response is he feels pretty much like we do. We don’t really want to give the author the time of day, but he’s got a pretty big platform so it is hard to ignore. We also agree with Eddie that all the talk about how yoga can hurt you and how yoga began as a Tantric sex cult is part of the marketing effort.

And that’s what I want to talk about. Because I think this marketing plan has crashed and burned.

I think it for two reasons. One, just anecdotal. The second, loosely based on some research. Both point me to the same conclusion: This book isn’t a blockbuster.

First, the loosely based research. This past week, the book was No. 22 on the New York Times best seller list; the week before, it was No. 17; the week before that, and apparently its first week in release, it was 14. That’s the highest it got. And probably will get.

Separately, on Amazon it is No. 7 in the subcategory of health and fitness and noted as a “hot new release.” But it is no where near the top of the best seller list. It appears now to be about 4,100. According to the ever-so-trustworthy Internet, the No. 7 ranking suggests it might be selling a few hundred copies a day — although the 4,100 figure drops that as low as a handful. How about figuring it is somewhere in between?

As I said, the Internet is always so reliable, and Amazon’s rankings are notoriously difficult to decipher. But it is fair to say the book isn’t at the tippy top, where it is easier to correlate rankings with thousands of sales per day.

I don’t want to guesstimate a total sales number, but if we are talking hundreds per day rather than thousands (or tens of thousands), you can do the math over a three or four week period. Even thousands a day, which seems a high mark, doesn’t add up to a ton, right?

OK. That’s my “research.” My anecdotal evidence is that I don’t know any yogis who are buying the book. That includes Bobbie and me.

And I think there’s an obvious reason for that, which I also maintain is the reason this book isn’t at the top of best seller lists: The marketing campaign has alienated the target audience rather than intrigued it.

Keep in mind, there’s an estimated 15 to 20 million people practicing yoga just in the United States. If just 10% of them had bought this book, it would be a huge hit.

Instead, while I don’t know what the sales are, perhaps we’re talking about 1% of yogis having bought it. Whatever the number, it sure seems low and indicates an untapped market — and I believe it is because the likely audience has reacted against the book.

Eddie noted at the Confluence that writing a magazine article titled, “Yoga will make everything better” doesn’t generate interest. That’s true. I understand why, out of the gates, they wanted to go with an attention-grabbing article. But if things had stopped there, perhaps streams of yogis would have rushed to Amazon or their local bookstore and picked up a copy to find out what this book was all about.

But then the marketing lines kept coming. We got the sex cult history lesson. And we got more and more emphasis on the whole “yoga can hurt” you angle, which, really, you only need to hear once. Not again and again, as this marketing strategy seems to think is wise.

Here’s what I haven’t seen done yet: actual outreach to yogis. Where’s the Yoga Journal interview that focuses on how the author tried to use scientific research to show where yoga is beneficial or how science can help us better understand our practice? Heck, where are the interviews with any number of yoga-focused publications about the author’s desire to understand yoga more fully by bringing science into the conversation?

That book I might buy.

Instead, it all seems to have been about the sensationalism. Perhaps this really reflects what the book is. I’ll never know, as all the marketing has convinced me not to buy it.

I raise this topic now, by the way, because the book’s author’s latest PR bit was at Slate.com on Monday. And this time he’s seemingly upped the ante, again. The piece is titled: “Death by yoga.”


Maybe I should have titled this post, “Death by marketing.”

Posted by Steve


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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

4 thoughts on “Where the marketers for ‘The Science of Yoga’ went wrong”

  1. Leslie Kaminoff had a great trilogy of response videos on this book:

    1st: http://www.yogaanatomy.org/2012/my-2-cents/
    2nd: http://www.yogaanatomy.org/2012/egg-on-my-neck-follow-up-to-my-2-cents-about-how-yoga-can-wreck-your-body/

    and 3rd, his thoughtful review of the book: http://www.yogaanatomy.org/2012/my-review-of-the-science-of-yoga-the-risks-and-the-rewards-by-william-j-broad-and-a-defense-of-my-firend-larry-payne/

    based on his recommendation, I did buy the book, but am sort of afraid to read it at this point! :-/

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