Landmark Forum

The Landmark Forum program offered by Landmark (formerly Landmark Education) is the first cult brand many people think of inside the personal development/self-help industry. Landmark was founded in 1991 and offers personal growth seminars in 20 countries throughout the world. Its most well known program, The Landmark Forum, has developed a passionate cult following among the over 1.4 million people who have taken the course. In addition to a wide assortment of personal programs, Landmark also offers corporate programs under its subsidiary, The Vanto Group.

Landmarkand The Landmark Forum have their origins in the Est Training, the edgy and controversial personal growth program started in the 1970s by Werner Erhard. The Landmark Forum is said to have a gentler approach and different course material than the Est Training, but both Est and Landmark have a cult following among those who say the courses have ‘transformed’ their lives.

Conducted in a classroom format wherein a leader presents ideas and the participants then ask questions and interact with the course leader about those ideas, The Landmark Forum takes place over three days and an evening.

Unlike some other personal development courses that specialize in incrementally improving oneself or offering specific techniques, The Landmark Forum takes a broader approach, promoting the notion that people regularly mistake their individual points of view with what is actually true, and suggesting that these oft-mistaken viewpoints lead people to patterns of behavior that they follow despite their ongoing ineffectiveness. Participants are encouraged to make amends for past behavior where appropriate, and invent new possibilities in areas of life that are important to him or her.

Landmark’s supporters point to the fact that many Landmark advanced courses involve creating some sort of community project or involvement that makes a difference in the world, saying that positive resolution of various personal issues allows for one to be less narcissistic and more focused on other people.

Landmark cult brand status has been enhanced in recent years by thorough reviews in major written and social media outlets, such as The New York Times, Time Magazine, The Guardian and The Huffington Post.

The New York Times reviewer said that “I’m more prone to telling loved ones and colleagues, in person and without glibness, that I love or admire them,” while Time Magazine called it “a withering series of scripted reality checks meant to show us how we have created nearly everything we see as a problem.” The Huffington Post called it “simple common sense delivered in an environment of startling intensity”.

Small wonder then that this intensity has led to both vocal advocates and critics. Like many cult brands, Landmark also has some vocal detractors, some of whom dislike the enthusiasm and zealousness of Landmark’s fans, as well as its word of mouth marketing, which encourages people who have gotten value from the course to share it with their friends and families.

In summation, Landmark fits the cult brand definition almost exactly – a distinct brand message, passionate supporters and detractors, and persistent brand enthusiasm that has allowed it to survive and thrive over the long haul.



  • John B.
    July 19, 2012 - 11:51 pm | Permalink

    I have heard many pros and cons about Landmark, so I thoroughly checked out both view points. I have found very, very few negatives from people who actually participated in The Landmark Forum. The vast majority of the negative comments, including those on anti-cult sites, are from people who haven’t even taken The Landmark Forum, which is strange to me. Here are some of the positive things I have found; many are from very credible places.

    New York Times story:

    Business Week/Panda Express story:

    The Landmark Forum: Transformation or Cult? 2-3-2012

    Top 100 Adventures Rates The Landmark Forum as # 3

    Landmark forum – cult, scam, or path to enlightenment? February 2011
    Recent Participant

    Wall Street Journal April 16, 2011

    Live A Better Life By Improving Your Communication Skills – CBS TV Los Angeles July, 2011- Landmark Forum: Creating a new relationship with your father Inlaw

    A Veteran’s Perspective

    Inside the Landmark Forum – Canadian TV coverage on Positive Living
    After discovering this very positive information, I participated in The Landmark Forum. I have completed several other Landmark courses since then. They have all been truly life altering in many ways, including, I have a stronger and more loving relationship of my wife of 42 years than I ever dreamed possible and also with our daughter. My relationships with all of my family members and friends have never been better.

    Since my participation, my wife, daughter, several of my family and friends have participated in The Landmark Forum. Their results have been positively life altering. I have participated in many business, college and personal development courses over the years; Landmark’s were the most reasonably priced and impactful courses I have ever taken.

  • Michael Aniff
    February 12, 2013 - 5:57 pm | Permalink

    Landmark programs are excellent. I have never understood how any reasonable person could use the word cult to describe it. You may not like their sales and marketing but if you can look past that (just like adds on a website) there are many great things to gain. Anyone I ever encountered acctually believed the cult nonsense had no actual first hand expereience but rather got up in internet hearsay.

  • May 1, 2013 - 12:27 pm | Permalink

    Right on the mark – maybe a “cult brand”, but definitely not any kind of “cult” in the pejorative sense. In fact almost the opposite on every count:
    – instead of isolating you from family and friends, they encourage you to get in contact and clear up past misunderstandings or estrangments;
    – instead of telling you what to think, they encourage you to make up your own mind;
    – instead of prescribing any specific lifestyle, they encourage you to find your own self-expression.

  • May 4, 2013 - 8:58 pm | Permalink

    It would seem that this site is using the word “cult brand” in a mildly and ambiguously pejoritive, possibly even humorous sense, but that seems inapropriate when applied to the growth and development industry. One could probably describe just about any G&D enterprise, such as Tony Robbins (which it does), Byron Katie, T. Harv Ecker, etc., etc., etc. Human growth and development is grounded on the idea that extraordinary results are possible in life; therefore, if those results are achieved, it is inevitable that that company/personality/methodology would develop and enthusiastic following, along with a gagle of detractors who just didn’t get it.

    I did the Landmark Forum in 1999, and it turned my life around 180 degrees from being a dead-end melodrama to being a thrilling and fruitful adventure. I have gotten nothing but positive value from that and all of the graduate courses that I have done since then, which leaves me partial, but not partisan. If you want to use the world “cult brand”, use it for something like the Rocky Horror Picture Show (which, after 20 years, I should probably go see again sometime…)

  • May 6, 2013 - 11:01 pm | Permalink

    I’m on the fence here. On the one hand, I have my issues with Landmark, namely about their marketing. On the other hand, the ‘Landmark cult’ claims I’ve read about seem ridiculously overblown (I know the article isn’t really calling Landmark a cult, only a ‘cult brand’).

    Do they separate you from your family or give them all their money? No. So obviously it’s not a real cult. Do Landmark types seem cliquish, strange, and overly passionate? Perhaps, but then so do fans of the Red Sox, Apple, The Big Lebowski, etc. It seems the only way the Landmark cult claims make any sense is if you use cult as a broader term that sometimes gets thrown around which really means not a true cult but something odd that we look down on.

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  • October 28, 2014 - 6:44 pm | Permalink

    As a Spiritualist, Business Coach and former Landmark Education Program Leader (I quit in 2006). I feel that the Landmark brand is indeed a “cult” brand. Having seen behind the curtain of the enterprise, they are masters at word-of-mouth marketing while engaging 1,000s of people as volunteers to operate their business.

    As with any cult brand, there are people who love it zealously and others who don’t get what the fuss is all about.

    Rev Terry

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