The American consumer marketplace is a patchwork of niche audiences and target markets. Where does faith fit in such a diverse marketplace? A new study by Barna Group explores whether Americans are supportive of businesses and brands that have an overtly Christian connection.
The research uncovered that those who would support Christian-branded enterprises significantly outnumber those who refrain from such brands because of that faith connection. At the same time, most American consumers simply reported being indifferent to faith-oriented businesses.
MANAGING BY CHRISTIAN PRINCIPLES
The research looked at Christian-friendly consumers from two different angles. The first query asked the nationwide sample of U.S. consumers if they would be “more likely or less likely to buy a particular brand if they knew it was from a company that manages its business according to Christian principles, or wouldn’t it make a difference."
Overall, about two out of every five adult consumers (43%) said they would be receptive to this type of transaction (with 27% of adults strongly so). While most respondents claimed to be indifferent (51%), only 3% indicated that an overt connection to the Christian faith would make them less likely to do business with this type of vendor. In other words, a product or service managed according to Christian principles generated a positive-to-negative ratio of 14 to 1.
EMBRACING THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
Another survey question asked if people would be “more likely or less likely to buy a particular brand if they knew it was from a company that embraces and promotes the Christian faith, or wouldn’t it make a difference.”
In this respect, one-third of all U.S. adults (37%) said they would be more likely to purchase from this type of business (with 22% expressing the highest level of interest possible on the five-point scale). Again, only 3% said such a faith connection would make them less likely to support this type of organization and its products, resulting in a favorable-to-unfavorable ratio of 12 to 1. As was the case regarding organizations who manage their company according to Christian principles, most consumers (58%) were indifferent to whether or not a company actively embraces and promotes Christianity.
WHO SUPPORTS CHRISTIAN BUSINESS?
Consumers in the Midwest and South were most likely to express interest in both iterations of Christian business. Nearly six out of ten consumers in the South and half of buyers in the Midwest were more likely to support a business operated by Christian principles. In the West and Northeast, only one-third of customers expressed a preference for a Christian-operated business. Yet, even when asked about the most overt type of faith-based business, only small percentages of customers in the West (2%) and Northeast (3%) said they would be less likely to do business with such an enterprise.
Other demographic segments favoring businesses incorporating Christian elements were women, Boomers (ages 46 to 64), Elders (ages 65-plus), married adults, parents of children under age 18, political conservatives, and Republicans. College grads were slightly less interested than average in Christian companies, though income was not a defining factor for or against.
In terms of faith variables, active participants in Protestant churches were among the most attracted, with two out of three interested in products and services that promote Christianity; active participants in Catholic parishes were on par with the national average in terms of support for Christian-oriented companies.
David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, directed the study and observed: “There appears to be a significant opportunity for enterprises that understand and value faith to express their faith consciousness through their business practices — not simply as a marketing gimmick but as an authentic part of their content, their mix of products and services, their branding, and their corporate culture.[Source: "Do Americans Support Christian Businesses and Brands?" Barna Group/Omni Poll. 14 Feb. 2011. Web. 16 Feb. 2011.]