Friday, September 09, 2011

How To Sell Stuff to Christians

Fascinating piece on British Religion in Numbers a few days back, on how consumerist Christians manage to square the circle with themselves (ourselves, lets be honest here). This week's turned into a bit of a marketing theme....

More than 400 people living in the UK were shown an advert for the same watch that was either depicted as being an item of desire and public recognition, or as an item of functional value.

Half of the sample identified themselves as Christians believing that materialism was wrong. Although non-religious consumers did not prefer one advert over the other, religious consumers were 25% more likely to purchase the watch if they saw the advert that did not portray it as a materialistic item.

‘We found that expensive luxury watches that were advertised as being showy or an item of envy were frowned upon by religious consumers. However, when the same item was advertised as being high quality and enduring, rather than having materialistic value, the religious consumers were significantly more willing to purchase the product.’

The authors claim that the results of the study ‘help to explain how many Christians acquire and store materialistic items for themselves and their family, despite many Biblical teachings that discourage hoarding wealth.’ They suggest the findings could be used by marketers, advertisers and sales forces to drive sales up.

‘It’s important to know what type of person you’re dealing with,’ said Dr Shankar. ‘If you are talking to someone who is clearly not averse to being materialistic, then it doesn’t really matter what you say. But, if you’re targeting a high-end, expensive, flashy product to people who are put off by materialism, then you need to change your approach.’
In other words, Mammon is more subtle than we thought, and we're more materialistic than we like to think we are. At the end of the day, we still buy far more stuff than we need, and consume far more resources than our fair share as planetary citizens.

I still maintain that Christian marketing is a contradiction in terms, but con myself that our families minor victory over marketing (all of us, kids included, now automatically mute the ads on TV) represents VM day, rather than a minor skirmish. I'm still far too easily taken in by BOGOF and big discounts.

Internet Monk is also worth a read, notably on the 'Jesus junk' market, and Orthocubans response. Excuse me whilst I pin a WWJD badge to my JC/DC t-shirt. 


  1. David,

    Really interesting article. It does show that advertising can be very subtle. I don't think that this is surprising. I think that all too often Christians are very naive in this. Anger and frustration won't change anything. I suppose that the only way through is looking at living life simply and helping people ask the question what do I really need.

    As we say in our household "a bargain is only a bargain if you need it".

  2. Most of what we watch on TV is via the digital recorder which has a jump forward button set to 30 sec increments. As a family we know that 6 clicks jumps through the adverts on a programme. I think broadcasters were trying to ban this feature but haven't seen any more info about it.

    When we are watching something live it is frustrating when we get to the adverts. Someone automatically hits the jump button and we groan when we remember it isn't a recording. My guess is more and more people are using this feature as part of their tv viewing.