Influence of Religion on Consumer Behavior and the Effects on Marketing

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National borders no longer restrict the consumer marketplace and markets are trending towards global unity through regional unification (e.g. The European Union [EU]) and international standards and trade agreements, the standardization of manufacturing and technology, global investment opportunities, rapid increases in education and literacy, the urbanization and infrastructural advancements in developing and emerging nations, expansion of world travel, free flow of information across borders, increases in consumer knowledge, sophistication and purchasing power, and easier access to and more widespread global media. Even if a firm chooses not to participate in globalization, they will feel the effects as firms from far reaching areas may choose to compete for and influence the purchasing decisions of the same customers. In order for firms to compete in the hyper-competitive global market and address the ever increasing expectations of consumers, it often takes more than developing a broad global marketing strategy, firms must recognize the individual differences, cultural attitudes and preferences of consumers within a given region. The segmentation of markets based on cultural characteristics at the global level enables firms to market their product or service to consumers who share certain socio-demographic traits, values and beliefs, consumption patterns and media usage. Knowing the cultural variations within a region enables firms to tailor their marketing to match the attitudes and beliefs of the market. Within cultural bodies there exists a common set of values, beliefs and assumptions and perceptions about life that are transmitted from generation to generation through social and environmental interactions and the process of learning. These learned behaviors influence the way members of a society interact with one another and behave in ways that are considered socially acceptable. Furthermore, consumption patterns and consumer behaviors are based on the habits, values, social behaviors and conventions exhibited by members of a specific society or cultural grouping. A key aspect of societies that aids in the formation of culture and affects consumption patterns, social behavior values, habits and product expectations is religion or, spirituality. Depending on the topic being researched or studied, religion and spirituality can be viewed as different areas of study or as one in the same. Vitell, Paolillo and Singh distinguish religion from spirituality in stating that religion typically involves a formalized community and teachings to encourage morality while spirituality involves an individualized search for meaning and developing interconnectedness with humanity and the transcendent, however both internalize a sense of morality, perception, values, ethics, identity and desires (1). Kale views religiosity and spirituality from a different perspective, stating that there is significant overlap between the two that they can be looked at together for most purposes, including the study of consumer preferences (2). In relation to consumer behavior, religion and spirituality can be viewed as one in the same as both affect the way a consumer views a product based on their individual preference and internalized beliefs, whether they are due to their religious affiliation or the level of spirituality outside of a formalized religious institution, and can be viewed as one in the same for sake of this paper. Religion and spirituality both create segments of consumers who share similar beliefs and values, which affect purchasing decisions and responsiveness to marketing and therefore firms can target customers based on religious and/or spiritual characteristics. Firms competing in a globalized market cannot ignore religion or spirituality. Religion and spirituality are at the heart of societies and play a crucial role in the creation of social constructs and instill values, desires and principles, as well as...
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