Prof. Ron Shachar of Tel Aviv University's Leon Recanati Graduate School of Business Administration says that a consumer's religiosity has a large impact on his likelihood for choosing particular brands. Comsumers who are deeply religious are less likely to display an explicit preference for a particular brand, while more secular populations are more prone to define their self-worth through loyalty to corporate brands instead of religious denominations.
This research, in collaboration with Duke University and New York University scientists, recently appeared in the journal Marketing Science.
I am reminded of a quote (comes in variations) attributed to G.K. Chesterton: "When a Man stops believing in God he doesn't then believe in nothing, he believes anything." The real origin of the quote might be Emile Cammaerts writing about Chesterton:
The first effect of not believing in God is to believe in anything.
Okay, without taking a side in the God Stuff debate can we think rationally about what is going on here? (the answer to that question might depend on our specific brand loyalties - not sure if my fairly shallow loyalties to Google, Amazon, or Norelco will serve as an obstacle). My take: I suspect we all have a finite capacity for loyalty or feeling of being allied or bonded. Take away a supernatural belief and reverence and basically some unused capacity for loyalty (need for loyalty?) becomes available for hijacking by corporate marketers. Is this an improvement? It depends on the specific beliefs and loyalties. For example, I'd rather someone have loyalty to a brand of running shoes or cell phone than loyalty to a diety who he thinks wants him to blow up tube stations. But loyalties to cigarette brands or sugary soda brands are definitely harmful to health.
Think religious thoughts before shopping and your purchasing choices will be less driven by brand loyalties.
Researchers discovered that those participants who wrote about their religion prior to the shopping experience were less likely to pick national brands when it came to products linked to appearance or self-expression — specifically, products which reflected status, such as fashion accessories and items of clothing. For people who weren't deeply religious, corporate logos often took the place of religious symbols like a crucifix or Star of David, providing feelings of self-worth and well-being. According to Prof. Shachar, two additional lab experiments done by this research team have demonstrated that like religiousity, consumers use brands to express their sense of self-worth.
Ever noticed how some ex-religious believers are incredibly bitter toward their former religion? This seems most visible with some ex-Catholics. Well, since brand loyalty seems to develop more strongly when religious loyalty is absent loss of brand loyalty makes people extremely emotional about their former loyalty.
It's just like a bad breakup: People get emotional when they end a relationship with a brand. A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research examines what happens when people turn their backs on the brands they once loved.
"Customers who were once enthusiastic about a brand may represent a headache for the associated firm beyond the lost revenue of foregone sales because they sometimes become committed to harming the firm," write authors Allison R. Johnson (University of Western Ontario), Maggie Matear (Queens University, Kingston, Ontario), and Matthew Thomson (University of Western Ontario).
Online forums are overloaded with customer complaints from people who once loved or were loyal to particular brands but now strongly oppose them. "I used to love (name of store), let me tell you all why I plan to never go back there again; I hate them with a passion now," writes one unhappy former customer, for example.
Why do these people feel so strongly about brands they once favored? According to the authors, some people identify so strongly with brands that they become relevant to their identity and self-concept. Thus, when people feel betrayed by brands, they experience shame and insecurity. "As in human relationships, this loss of identity can manifest itself in negative feelings, and subsequent actions may (by design) be unconstructive, malicious, and expressly aimed at hurting the former relationship partner," the authors write.
Do you have any strongly felt brand loyalties that might disappoint you? Might want to try some competing products before you become disappointed. That way your loyalty will weaken before your loss of brand faith. That'll make it easier to move on.