Marketing Tactics from the Garden of Eden by Isha Edwards

Inadvertently, the growing popularity of Discovery Channel’s reality show, “Naked & Afraid” brings to light a story that most would not associate with marketing more so than nudity or survival in a remote wilderness. While the author’s intent skewed towards creation, theocracy, and morality, hidden in the first few chapters of the Book of Genesis, where the concept of being naked and afraid is mentioned, is the oldest written and widely circulated example of marketing strategy to date.

According to the Book of Genesis, what leads to “the fall of man” occurs in “a garden eastward in Eden” where a talking serpent with “feet” beguiles the world’s first woman to eat fruit from a forbidden tree (FYI: there is no specific reference to an apple—just fruit). It is from this story that the following eight marketing tactics are derived.

  • Product differentiation (Genesis 1:27-30; 2:7-9)
    The primary purpose of branding is to differentiate between products. For example, there are trees and then there is “the tree of life” and “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Differentiating through branding is the first step in developing a successful marketing strategy.
  • A unique selling proposition (USP) (Genesis 2:10-17)
    A unique selling proposition is a distinct benefit that can create a competitive advantage. In the Book of Genesis, God is named as creator of all things—including man. After constructing what amounts to be a palatial residence, God places the man, Adam, in the Garden of Eden to “dress and keep it.” Adam was given all the perks of living in Eden with one caveat (see v: 17).
  • A defined target audience (Genesis 3:1)
    Women make or influence 85% of all purchases yet believe that most advertisers do not understand them (see References). In Genesis, it is the woman, Eve who is the primary target because of her ability to influence her husband’s decision and because she was the only other person present. One may deduce that Adam was the more likely of the two to reject the serpent’s sales pitch (Genesis 3:6).
  • An endorsement or compelling sales pitch (Genesis 3:1)
    While product differentiation and a USP are essential for sales conversion, having a celebrity or a highly regarded spokesperson (also known as a key influencer) endorse a product can increase awareness exponentially, which also increases sales potential. According to Genesis, the serpent was “more subtle than any beast of the field.”  The serpent was a standout species in Eden that had a way with words and people.  In addition to product knowledge, key influencers tend to have enough charisma, confidence, and credibility to convince or to compel.
  • The customer’s attention (Genesis 3:1)
    If marketers can get customers to pay attention—even for a split second—to do a double-take, to taste and see, or even to pause and engage, they can make a sale, but the rational has to be spot on. The conversation in Genesis appears to have happened only between Eve and the serpent. It is highly likely that the serpent had Eve’s undivided attention, because Adam is not said to have interrupted.
  • A suggestion/recommendation (Genesis 3: 1-5)
    Ads, PR/publicity, personal selling, direct marketing, and sales promotions are comprised of messages that answer questions that have not been asked. If you can get customers to question the value or the features of an existing product, you can draw them away to an alternative. If you can fill or create a need, you will make a sale. The serpent rephrases the instructions given to Adam in Genesis 2:16 and asks Adam’s wife a related question. Eve’s accurate response leads to an alternate suggestion—one that she did not consider in light of the USP of being in the bountifully provisioned garden.
  • A lasting impression Genesis 2:16-17; 3:6-7)
    Impressions are made through the five senses, and there has to be at least six touch points for an impression to be sealed in the subconscious mind. The best marketers know how to make good impressions, e.g., generate buzz or create memorable experiences that remain in the consumer’s conscious mind. Hence the desire to always be “top-of-the-mind.”  In the Genesis example, two of the six touch points were made through the eyes.  While many would see the palatial garden as impressive and would be satisfied, Eve saw the tree of the knowledge of good and evil as more desirable. After all, it was prominently displayed and singled out with the tree of life. Despite the severe warning, “In the day that you eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you will surely die,” Eve heard the sales pitch, observed the fruit, and handled it before she tasted it.
  • Word-of-mouth (Genesis 3:6, 11)
    Good news travels fast, bad news travels faster, and food will silence a strong nation. More than likely, Eve explained her rational for trying the fruit (v: 6) to Adam. Since the fruit was “good for food” and Eve did not literally “die,” her product co-endorsement was invaluable. You cannot get any more organic than word-of-mouth sales (nod to network marketers)! Thanks to social media, the impact of word-of-mouth is exponential and, if used correctly, profitable.

While the serpent’s tactics were subtle, they translate to a low cost, high impact marketing strategy with high yield. How you may ask? Genesis does not say anything significant happened when Eve ate the fruit. It does say that when Adam ate the fruit, “the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked…” (Genesis 3:7). Later, Adam admits to God that he was afraid because he was naked. The remainder of Genesis 3 lays out the actual consequences of eating from the forbidden tree—including expulsion from the Garden of Eden. For misleading Eve, the serpent was literally left with nothing to stand on, which is often the case when a marketing tactic goes awry.

What is the moral of the story? “Naked & Afraid,” which Discovery aired a two-hour special of on December 8, is just one of many examples that curiosity and pride remain the basis of human motivation. No matter how incredible, irreverent, or trivial a message may be, if it is sealed in the mind through the senses, people will eventually respond (positively/negatively). Peer influence is the greatest of all influences.  Suggestion through words, questioning, reasoning, and the five senses leads to desire and, subsequently, demand.

What other marketing principles stand out in the Genesis story? What messages are you marketing to the masses? In light of the Genesis story, do ethics play a role in marketing? Discuss below.


About Isha Edwards: Known as an idea catalyst, Isha has a global perspective on economic development. Through EPiC Measures, she provides brand-driven marketing consulting and business development services across 12 industries including music, media, film, academia, professional services, nonprofit, and small business administration. Isha is committed to using creativity, ethics, and business acumen to maintain the integrity, productivity, and profitability of an organization and its members. For details, or to contact Isha visit:



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