Monday, June 7, 2010
Religion and Marketing
By Sharon Parr
Mara Einstein, in Brands of Faith, asks: “How do religion and marketing interact in the 21st Century?” (2008) She presents the ideas of the commercialization of religion and religion as a commodity, and also describes the development of secular products into quasi-religious icons. (Einstein, 2008) Her perception is not isolated, and discussion over the interactions between marketing and religion has been heated, with many disagreeing over the changing ways religion and marketing are associating and their implications for the current generations. (Sayers, Consumerism as Spirituality, 2008) (Campolo T. , Commentary on Mega-Churches, 2009) (Ferguson, Ferguson, & Bramlett, 2007) (Gilley, 2005) However, change in progressive societies is inevitable (Disraeli, 1882). It is necessary to understanding the changes and interactions occurring in order to respond to the changing social environment appropriately.
According to the American Marketing Association, marketing can be described as “the process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion and distribution of ideas, goods, and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organizational objectives” (Belch & Belch, 2004, p. 7). This is a very broad definition that could, by some, be related to any planned communication or interaction with targeted consumers by an organization, with the view towards mutual interaction. Indeed, Mara Einstein highlights that marketing in religion has been going on since before the invention of the printing press in the fifteenth century (Einstein, 2008, p. 4), despite perhaps not having a formalized name for the theories of promotional activities being undertaken at that time. A lot of marketing focuses around illusion and perception through association and brand development (Silverman, 2001, p. 11) (Cooke, 2008, p. 42), and with the rise of integrated marketing communication the focus is the brand story, (Twitchell, 2004) (Cooke, 2008) and underlying big idea, (Ferguson, Ferguson, & Bramlett, 2007) something easily associable with the brand name and image (Belch & Belch, 2004). Therefore, for the purposes of simplicity, a more relevant focus might center on the current examples seen by observing individuals and organizations in the marketplace, involving Religion and Spirituality interacting with brand development, message and focus.
The proliferation of Australian culture with American influences is observable, and there is a high degree of cultural convergence (Mahoney, Trigg, Griffin, & Pustay, 2001, p. 406). Marketers infer little differences in the youth market internationally which are a key focus market for generalized products (Belch & Belch, 2004, p. 675), and researchers have deducted that shared language indicates a high level of cultural similarity. (Mahoney, Trigg, Griffin, & Pustay, 2001, p. 380) Furthermore, the cultural cluster of Australia and United States (US) is defined as “Anglo” (Ronen & Shenka, 1985), and in International Business theory, Australian’s hold a closer connection to the British and US culture then even the US to Great Britian or Canada (Hofstede, 1980) (Mahoney, Trigg, Griffin, & Pustay, 2001). Therefore, in order to adequately analyze Australia’s connections with religion and marketing, examination of the British and US theories and examples are justified. In 2006, of respondents to the question of religion on the Australian census, 79% of Australians identified with a set religion and 71% of Australians identified as Christian. (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2008). Similarly, in America, religious faith is considered very important in the lives of 70% of Americans, and 84% of Americans identify as Christian (Einstein, 2008, p. 16). In contrast, Religion is considered very important to 33% of Brits, compared to above 80% recorded by surveys in most African and Asian cultures...
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