Marketing & Religion

image1Marketing Religion in the 21st Century

In our more modern world there is an increasingly fickle relationship with religion, many see it as an outdated concept whereas others will reach for the comfort of religion after some traumatic event like a bereavement or low period of their life such as after drink or drug rehabilitation.

Recognizing that churches and religion provide so much comfort in these periods of stress or emotional turmoil, consider for a moment how much impact there would be if there was a total void in the world where there was no more religious support?

Churches and religion are therefore looking at more modern methods such as marketing to help play a role in gathering in these congregations in a way which they may not have previously considered. Modern technology like the internet, email and YouTube has helped fuel the growth in religious blogs and self published TV channels. These allow outlets for preaching and emotional support outside the confines of a church structure itself. It is worth noting that the original term church referred to the congregation or membership of the parish rather than the physical structure, originating back to a time when the structure was not in place but members would congregate at a regular interval to hear religious preaching.

“To use consumer terminology, brand loyalty is way down.”

Brand loyalty should not be confused with a lack of faith, however. That is, “nones” aren’t necessarily nonbelievers, just non-church goers. Sixty-two percent of 18- to 34-year-olds consider themselves spiritual, and another 43% have prayed in the last two months, according to a survey by Bohan Advertising/Marketing, the Barna Group and the United Methodist Church.
Marketing is seen as both the source of the problem and a potential solution.

Branding Faith 
There are many parallels between religion and marketing; as like with brands people who hold religious beliefs are very attached to a religion in the same way someone supports their brand of product.

Many contend that it is our consumerist society and marketing led concepts, that has given people the idea they have a right to choose whatever they like and to the way they treat faiths is the same way they’d treat any other brands, switching religions or choosing to have none. This increases the reliance on marketing then to ensure that once a religion has members they need to hold onto them with traditional brand marketing methods.

People now expect brands to manufacture and support the users demands and religion is then required to also support this model. To be available when they require it and in the model available they desire to support their own needs.

Marketing alone isn’t to blame for religions’ faltering — an influx of new religion choices via immigration, the rise of the megachurch and widespread criticism of organized religion all play a role — but marketing is increasingly the tool of choice for religions seeking to reverse the trend.

The United Methodist Church wrote that they previously launched a $20 million campaign to specifically reach 18- to 34-year-olds with a “Rethink Church” message. The UMC has done national advertising for several years, but this effort is aimed at not only the younger generation, but also at changing the image of the church from passive to an active community of believers “redefining the church as a 24/7 social interaction”.

The growth in Church, charity, website and marketing events where users can do everything from posting prayer requests and purchasing malaria nets for charity to finding like minded people to build support groups or support local initiatives like homelessness and poverty are all very worth while causes.

Other modern marketing initiatives include street teams, door hangers, T-shirts, Pay Per Click, search engine marketing, SEO agency Bristol, social media, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook are included as campaign media, along with network TV, radio print, mobile, e-mail, outdoor activities and even event sponsorship.