The Changing Spiritual Marketplace:
The Effects of the use of Marketing Tools in terms of Christian Consumer Behaviour
Table of Contents
Research Questions and Objectives
Methodology and Research Design
A Reflection on Potential Difficulties and Suggested Solutions
List of References
Being intangible and a highly personal issue, consumer behaviour in terms of religion is a special and exciting area of marketing. However, considering that there is a source, a recipient, various channels and a goal of the message, the congregations’ communication is no different from any brand’s marketing communication strategy: the main goal is to reach out to the target audience and attain or retain them as loyal customers. This dissertation aims to study relevant literature on the marketing communications of religions, highlighting similarities and differences of consumer behaviour in case of traditional products and services versus religious ‘products’ as well as examining churches as brands. In this proposal, I introduce the preliminary findings of literature in terms of ‘purchase intention’, branding and consumer loyalty. The paper also discuss further questions on how the research is going to be executed as it also talks about the research methodology, research plan as well as its limitations.
The constant question that intrigues marketers throughout time and industries is ‘How to attract and retain customers?’. As much as a corporate brand, a church can face the same concerns when it comes to communicating to potential customers: what do they seek in my service? Stability? Trust? Availability? What channels should I use to reach them? In the 1800s, using press as a new channel for religious communication was considered as a questionable breakthrough as Evansen (2003) describes. On one hand, the use of mass media proved to be successful in recruiting new believers, even ‘celebrity evangelists’ emerged. Critics however claimed it was man-made and too commercial. Technical development could not be stopped, and church growth was considered as being positively related to the broadcasting of church services on radio and television (McDaniel, 1989). In this case, no special marketing message was needed, the ‘product’ itself was directly broadcast. Although churches opted for further marketing tools to ‘spread the word’ such as block ads, yellow pages and even sponsorship of sport teams, it is clear that the direct messages, such as PR and live events attracted the audience the most at the beginning. Today, in the era of Internet, just within Christianity a great variety of denominations’ massages are available for internet users in seconds. Advertising online is not just cost effective, but also considered as easy to reach the most precisely defined target audiences through different websites and social media platforms. The term ‘online religion’ was born, referring to not only promoting churches online, but also calling believers to practice their religion online in forms of liturgy, prayers and meditation. In this century there is a great change in consumers’ behaviour in terms of how they seek their daily “spiritual food”. They spend considerably more time online looking for information and can be less touched by TV or door-to-door canvassing. (Soukup, 2002) The idea that repeatedly appears in the literature of marketing of religions is that in spite of all technical developments in order to transmit messages to attract or convert believers to a church, it is still the power of personal invitation that best helps recruiting new members to a church within any denomination. Referrals and direct mails are named by Webb et al. (1998) as the most important tools for the attracting and retaining of members, while Reising (2006) urges churches to make members eager...
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