Homo Consumericus

The nature and nurture of consumption

The Brand Loyalty of Religion Is Unsurpassed

Religion rules the brand loyalty roost.

For most brand managers, brand loyalty is a crucial metric of success. One way to measure brand loyalty is by gauging the extent of repeat purchases. Suppose that we were to keep track of the next ten purchases of soft drinks for consumers A and B. If consumer A buys Pepsi on each of the ten occasions whereas consumer B buys Fanta, Pepsi, and Coke three times each, and 7 Up on one occasion then we can conclude that consumer A displays greater brand loyalty within this particular product category. A natural extension is to then ask whether consumer A's unwavering brand loyalty and consumer B's variety seeking are situational-based or whether these preferences are manifestations of dispositional traits. Another issue of interest to marketers is whether brand loyalty for a particular product might be transmitted intergenerationally. If your parents always consumed Pepsi at home, does this increase your likelihood of becoming a diehard Pepsi drinker? This brings me to the key issue of today's post: which product garners the greatest amount of intergenerational brand loyalty? Well, the winner is miles ahead of the next contender. Religion rules the brand loyalty roost.

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Most marketers would salivate like Pavlovian dogs at the thought of their products possessing an intergenerational brand loyalty score remotely close to that garnered by religion. In the social sciences, many academics are supremely excited if they have a model that explains 30% of the variance for the phenomenon under investigation. Well, your parents' religion is a near-perfect predictor of the religion that you'll call your own. In other words, intergenerational transmission of religious beliefs explains close to 100% of the variance in question. Hence, which religious narrative one believes (and in some instances is willing to die for) is completely driven by the "accidental" family to which one was born into.

Some religions provide alluring incentives against variety seeking (apostasy)...DEATH. Remain a loyal customer or die. Of course, other religions are somewhat subtler in their attempts to maintain the brand loyalty of their flocks. Stay in the club and reap the rewards in heaven, or leave the club and prepare to fry in hell for eternity. These are some rather powerful key selling points!

One of the benchmarks for determining whether it is ethical to advertise to children is to ask the following question: What is the minimal age at which children have the cognitive capacity to understand the ulterior motives of advertisers, and accordingly to build cognitive defenses against such attempts? This approach is congruent with the work of the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget who studied the cognitive developmental stages that children traverse. Whereas there are some cross-cultural differences in terms of the minimal legal age for targeting children, a common benchmark is eight years of age. Hence whilst it is unethical to advertise to young children who are otherwise cognitively unprepared to understand the persuasive intent of advertising messages, it is apparently perfectly moral and ethical to "advertise" one's religious beliefs to children shortly after they make their entrance into the world. It seems that divinely ordained products do not need to conform to the same ethical standards as those imposed on tobacco companies by the FTC, or those forced on movie producers (via movie ratings) by a committee mandated to enforce some fuzzy and ephemeral community standards. It is interesting to note that the law stipulates very specific guidelines as to when individuals can have sex, can vote, can get married, can drive, or can drink (as they are otherwise cognitively and emotionally unprepared to partake in the behaviors), yet they are fully "prepared" to be exposed to religious narratives straight out of the womb.

Happy holidays, or should I perhaps say Happy Festivus (in the immortal words of the Seinfeld gang)! Ciao for now.

Image source:
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:Religious_symbols.png

Gad Saad is Professor of Marketing at Concordia University and author of The Evolutionary Bases of Consumption and The Consuming Instinct.

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