Marketers May Target ‘Faith-​Based’ Shoppers

Are marketers making a mistake if they neglect to engage with consumers on a religious level? A report from Yankelovich Monitor Minute indicates companies could be missing an opportunity when they ignore  the religious beliefs of consumers. Why? Because between 45%-50% of consumers make purchases, partly, based on their religious values.

Writing for Adweek, Mark Dolliver rightly emphasizes that marketers should not confuse church-​going with religious beliefs when targeting consumers. Currently about 39% of the population attends church on a weekly basis. According to the Yankelovich report, an even larger group of consumers wants to express faith as part of their activity of daily life and for many this extends to purchasing goods and services. Taking it a step further, Ann Clurman, executive vice president of trends and futures consulting at The Futures Co. says that “most marketers are comfortable going the spiritually fulfilling route, but less comfortable going the faith-​based route.” In other words, it's easier to discuss general spirituality than it is to connect with the personal aspects of one's faith.

Marketers are nervous about making mistakes when appealing to the religious beliefs of consumers. However, Scott Shuford, principal of FrontGate Media, says taking simple steps works well. For example, promoting sound equipment using scantily clad models might draw attention on the Internet but when targeting church buyers, marketers should change the appearance of their models. Another key behavior to remember when targeting religious buyers is modesty – as in avoid bragging. A company can promote its history of charitable giving but the tone makes all the difference. Marketers who are seen as boastful will turn off  the 2/3’s of shoppers who ‘don't trust companies that brag about all of the good that they do.’

While anecdotal evidence might suggest that society is growing less religious,  ad industry experts like Shuford believe consumers are drawing on their faith to get them through difficult times.  Marketers who find the right way to tap into that emotion could enjoy a boost in sales.
[Sources: Dolliver, Mark. Marketers could be making a mistake when they fail to engage 'faith-​based shoppers' on the basis of their religious beliefs. Adweek. 5 Apr. 2010. Web 6 Apr. 2010; Is a Bad Economy Good for Church Attendance? Pew forum on Religion and Public Life. Pew Forum​.org. 12 Mar. 2009. 6 Apr 2010 ] 

Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice President of Research for SalesFuel. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and oversees a staff of researchers, writers and content providers for SalesFuel. Previously, she was co-​owner of several small businesses in the health care services sector.