Ron Shachar (Tel Aviv University), Gavan Fitzsimmons (Duke) and Tulin Erdem (NYU) published a study in Marketing Science that has ramifications for each of us in business. They found that the more religious a person is, the less brand affiliation seems to matter. Basically, they found that for non-religious persons, brand affiliation provides self-worth, similar to the affirmation that religion affords the religious.
One test monitored the number of Apple, Macy’s and Gap stores per million people in various regions. This was compared with self-reported attended at religious services and the number of congregations per thousand residents. They routinely found a negative correlation between brand reliance and religiosity.
Another test employed two groups of students (45 in total). One group wrote essays on “What your religions means to you personally”; the other group “How they spent their days”. All the students were sent on an imaginary shopping trip; the choices were among functional items (bread, batteries, ibuprofen) and self-expression items (watches, socks, and sunglasses). The choices were among national brands and store brands. Those that wrote about religion were less likely to choose national brands (choosing generic, store brands) for the self-expression items.
A third test involved 356 students (via the internet) that were queried as to their religious beliefs. They then went on the same imaginary shopping trip. Again, for the functional products there was not much difference, but the religious group more likely chose the store, rather than the national, branded items.
Similar results were found by Martin Lindstrom, reported in his book “Buyology” several years ago. He found (using fMRI brain scanning) that the affinity of devout Christians for religion and the affinity for a brand name by non-religious had similar brain scans. (He also found that we remain brand loyal until they sell us three bad products.)
This takes the old adage of “location, location, location” one step further. We need to determine the religious demographic of the targeted region. If the citizenry are more religious, a generic or store brand would be the product of choice; branded items seem to appeal more to those of us that feel less religious.