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The Product Growth-Market Share Matrix for Religion




In 1970, the Boston Consulting Group created the product growth-market share matrix to help corporations analyze their product lines. The process used a two-vector array that ranked the different products by growth and market share. Growth indicates how attractive the product (in our case, the religion) is appealing to the population. If the rate of expansion is higher than the competition, then that specific religion has some advantage that causes people to become members. For example, the birth rate in Islamic families is higher than in Christian families, which gives Islam an inherent advantage in the amount of growth. The other vector, market share, measures adherents' competitive size that uses and accepts the religion. The actual term should be “relative market share”, as it compares to other religions. Relative market share indicates that higher economies of scale and experience result in higher market penetration (missionaries, in this context) and higher conversion rates. In business, the goal would be increased cash flow, but in religion, the goal is to save souls by converting people to your religion. Looking at these two attributes (product growth and market share) allows management to judge any given product's viability compared to competitive products.


In the table below, I have listed seven prominent religions most people are familiar with. I listed their membership from the year 2000 to 2013 so that I could calculate market share as a percent of the global population and the compounded average growth rate as a percent during that period of time. I used that period of time because I could not get membership numbers for all

religions except for those dates.


The average growth of these seven influential religions between 2000 and 2013 was 1.3 percent compounded annually, which is slightly higher than the global population growth rate of 1.2 percent during this period. Since the fastest growing religion is Islam at 1.8 percent per annum, I will make our graph capable of handling up to 2.0 percent growth. I will use 1.0 percent as our midpoint; we automatically assume that the fastest growing religions would be above the 1.0 percent line, and the laggards would be below.


Fastest Growing Religions Slowest Growing Religions

Islam 1.83% Buddhism .93%

Sikhism 1.73% Judaism .53%

Hinduism 1.38% Chinese Folk Religion .02%

Christianity 1.32%


Market share is a metric used to measure the consumers' preference for a product over other similar products. If there are 100 people in a sample – 20 people are Christians, and 15 people are Muslims – the sample's market share would be 20 percent Christians and 15 percent Muslims. In our case, the base we are using was the world’s population in 2013. The world’s population in 2013 was 7.21 billion people. Of that total, 2.355 billion people identify as being Christian, which is 32.7 percent market share. The table below displays the market share for each religion. The religion with the largest market share is Christianity, at 32.7 percent. Our graph will accommodate up to 40 percent market share with the halfway point at 20 percent. Religions with less than 20 percent market share fall into the Smaller Market Share Religions category. The breakdown looks like this:


Larger Market Share Religions Smaller Market Share Religions

Christianity 32.7% Hinduism 13.6%

Islam 22.7% Buddhism 7.1%

Chinese Folk 6.0%

Sikhism 0.3%

Judaism 0.2%

Using the Market Share Ranking in collaboration with the Growth Rate Ranking, we have a matrix with four quadrants. The four quadrants are described as follows:


Question Marks - This quadrant is sometimes referred to as a “problem child” because of the opportunities and problems that go with it. The product here has a relatively high growth rate (a plus) but a minuscule market share (a minus); thus, it is a Question Mark. Question Marks can be seen as the religions that require much closer investigation. People are attracted to these religions hence the stable growth rate. However, these religions do not have a sizeable congregational base. For some reason, people do not stay with the faith, or it is a new religion, and is taking time to build up a base. It is a Question Mark as to whether the religion will succeed or fail. These, therefore, hold a low market share in a fast-growing market consuming many resources. It is questionable whether they have sustainability. They have the potential to gain market share, but if they do not, they become irrelevant. They have something to offer, but whether they can market their ideology and increase the numbers of adherents is questionable. The religions of Hinduism and Sikhism fall into this category. These religions are growing fast but have a small sum of members compared to the more significant faiths and even the world population.


Stars – A quadrant where the religions have a relatively high growth rate, and a high market share is a Star. Religions that fall into this category have access to resources, and their sustainability is assured. The fact that the market share is high indicates that they meet most people's needs in their region. Most of the people that join these religions end up staying. These religions have the resources to send out missionaries (market penetration). They can market their ideology to attract new converts from other religions (new markets) and are big enough to increase the number of their mosques and churches. They can offer new products like religious schools and even offer incentives like scholarships or school lunch programs (new products) to draw new members. Marketing of ideology, additional new locations, charismatic speakers, etc., all play a part in this effort to grow the religion. Christianity and Islam fall into this category.


Dogs – The name of this next quadrant “Dog” is not meant to be reflective on the religions or even any business products that fall into this category. The term “Dog” is meant to reflect on products and services with a low growth rate and a small market share. The religions that fall into this quadrant are mostly ancient religions that appeal only to select populations. In our discussion, only three religions fall into this category: Judaism, Buddhism, and Chinese Folk Religion. Judaism originated around 2,000 B.C., with Abraham as the father of the Jewish people. Judaism only appeals to the Jewish sect; thus, the growth and market share waxes and wanes with the Jewish population. In China, the Communist Party has tried to remove this aspect of organized religion in their country. The Chinese Folk Religion values have been trampled upon, which has eliminated most growth from this religion. The present-day government of China has generally suppressed Chinese Folk Religion to promote “modern” values. As for Buddhists, they have a low birth rate compared with other religious groups and do not actively seek conversions or religious switching.


Cash Cows – Just like “Dog” is a business description of a particular quadrant, the term “Cash Cow” has similar origins. Technically, a cash cow is a business that generates a steady return of profits that far exceeds the outlay of cash to maintain it. Organizations that fit that description fall into this quadrant. Here, we have religions with low growth but a significant market share as compared to other religions. Weak growth means that demand for the product has peaked, but many people still worship the faith's tenets. If Buddhism and Chinese Folk Religions had a more significant market share, they would have fallen into this quadrant. Both religions have notable population sizes that can generate substantial resources, but unless they use their donations and gifts to grow the faith, their organizations will wither. More than likely, both religions will trend downward in both growth and relative market share.


One of the advantages of looking at a grid like this is you can see strengths and weaknesses of one competitor versus another. Interestingly, both Christianity and Islam have similar characteristics in that they are both growing in annual membership and they both have a large membership core. Their strategies should be adding new attributes and support services like schools, day-care services, healthcare and social services. Increasing product distribution towards new markets is important by building new churches and mosques. One important characteristic that both religions possess is access to greater financial resources and human resources than other institutions might have.


I address this use of the Product Growth Market Share Matrix in my soon to be published manuscript Muslim Mechanics. I also look at the Product Life Cycle as another way to analyze religions.

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