From a marketer’s point of view, the only thing that would bring any of the qigong and TCM knowledge back to the future is changing consumer demand, driven by a real or perceived need. Most likely that means demand driven by patients’ needs (because neijia hobbyists are few, but everyone needs to be concerned with health, especially in economies with rapidly “greying” populations) and the trend in appreciating “alternative” and “holistic” medicine on both the supply and demand sides, as well as in related industries such as insurance (what works and is cheaper is better) and pharmaceuticals (difficulty of creating new compounds is possibly balanced by research into traditional herbs and why they work).
Unfortunately, the people most likely to try something like qigong are the ones who would take it up too late to derive any “mastery” save for youngish people with more time to recover fully and keep training for “wellness”. Yoga, however, has taken off among youngish, healthy populations in Western countries. Nevermind that asanas are really one of eight limbs that is really about preparing for meditation toward spiritual goals. “Absorbing what is useful” in a secular, health sense, is fine and good from a capitalistic, economic point of view that isn’t knowledgeable about or particularly interested in a specific spiritual tradition.
The subset of people (segment of the market) who take up yoga and then wonder about qigong are more likely to seek some “mastery” of biomechanics and “internal stuff”. Firms selling qigong should target yoga “consumers” with “cross sell” messages, e.g., why qigong will help you take your yoga to the next level. Something like that.
When terms such as “namaste”, “chakras”, “third eye”, and “ujjayi breathing” are in pop culture, then it’s easier to imagine that terms like “meridians”, “acupuncture points”, and “dantian” could enter pop culture as well. It could happen. Right now, as a proxy to broader interest, when I track feeds for yoga topics in blogs, the feeds are updated incredibly frequently. The feeds for tai chi, taijiquan, qigong, etc., are updated very rarely. The other factor is simply that yoga has sex appeal, whereas qigong has none. No one can see what’s happening. The benefits and even the process itself are unseen and therefore more difficult in a way. “Stress reduction” is a good benefit but that has more mainstream competition from not only yoga but even something like running or lifting weights. It doesn’t firm your abs and so on. Also, there are no ridiculous accessories like halter tops, eco-friendly mats (aren’t all these stupid accessories going in a landfill? what do you do with your old non-eco-friendly mat after buying the new one?), straps, blocks, blankets, music, and so on to hawk at great profit. It could at best be marketed as an auxiliary exercise to a hardcore subsegment of this market. Well, maybe it could be tied to “more youthful appearance” or something like that that targets the same psychological vanity-based needs that yoga unfortunately hits on.
That means there are basically three segments a firm could target:
1) patients seeking alternative treatments and exercises, but can’t do a lot of movements found in things like yoga
2) a tiny subsegment of yoga hobbyists
3) a tiny subsegment of neijia hobbyists
Hypothetically, the messages to reach each of these segments needs to be very different, maybe:
1) health and wellness exercises not requiring difficult movements
2) the next step to improve your asana work: pranayama and its cousin qigong
3) ugh. [very problematic. this population embraces yet rejects and criticizes qigong work.]
Based on this thought exercise, as a marketer, I would reject segment 3 and just target 1 and 2. As a student, I find that is unfortunately ironic that neijia continues to have no nei and I can think of no environmental factor that could influence that behavior and attitude and receptiveness to change in the near future. This segment that used to incorporate qigong almost by definition seems least likely to embrace it due to its ambivalence and confusion. Anyway, segments 1 and 2 look somewhat promising as tiny “niche markets”.