September 13, 2012

Is There a Market for Atheist Products?

Bloomberg Businessweek asks an interesting question: Can the godless market evolve beyond bumper stickers? In other words, is there really a market out there for atheist-related products? In one sense, the answer would be an obvious yes. Most of us could go online and find atheist-oriented products (e.g., books, t-shirts, bumper stickers and automotive accessories, jewelry, and the like in a matter of minutes. But what the article is really asking involves the potential for growth in this tiny niche market beyond what we are currently seeing. That is an intriguing question and one which I am not sure how to answer.

The quote in the article that got my attention was this one:
That works out to about 15 million Americans who describe themselves as “convinced atheists,” more than many mainline Protestant denominations, Jews, or Muslims.
Think about that for a minute. There are more of us in the U.S. than there are Muslims, Jews, or many Protestant denominations (and yet, we continue to allow our political parties to ignore us). With our numbers growing, it is only natural that someone would ask the question about whether there is a market for atheist-oriented products. And with this many of us, it does make sense that we'd be an appealing demographic.

When one surveys the landscape of existing businesses that cater to the atheist market, one finds a rather short list. The article mentions EvolveFish as one clear example. I'm familiar with them, as I've ordered a few things from them over the years (e.g., t-shirts, hats, stickers, gifts). In addition to atheist-oriented products, they sell quite a bit of political stuff and pro-science stuff. I've been very pleased with everything I've ordered and would not hesitate to buy from them again.

While EvolveFish is not the only business out there, they are one of the larger ones. Hemant Mehta (Friendly Atheist) notes that there is a big difference between selling products of interest to the atheist community on CafePress or Zazzle and owning a business like EvolveFish that specializes in this stuff. I see his point, but I think we're living in an age where businesses that start out as small online storefronts have tremendous growth potential as their customer base grows.

One of the limiting factors I see at present concerns the nature of the products being marketed to atheists. It seems that everybody sells books, t-shirts, stickers, and jewelry. Is this really the extent of the products that can be marketed to atheists, or are there other untapped areas? I suppose one way to look at this would be to ask ourselves whether there is anything else we might be inclined to buy if it was more clearly aimed at us. I'm not sure. What do you think?

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