Landmark Education and its Landmark Forum program are the first cult brand many people think of inside the personal development/self-help industry. Landmark Education 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 Education also offers corporate programs under its subsidiary, The Vanto Group.
Landmark Education and The Landmark Forum have their origins in the Est Training, the edgy and controversial personal growth program started in the 1970s by Werner Erhard. Landmark Education and The Landmark Forum are 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 of Landmark Education’s 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 Education 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.