The Wealth of Consumer Religion

Author: Lee Chapman
Published: August 24, 2010 at 5:43 pm


Crosscuts: Family & Faith x Economy & Finance

Culture Cut: Religion is a culture unto itself.  The practice of faith is a powerful ritual in all societies.  As consumers practice their faith as lifestyle, their religion tends to influence and, perhaps, motivate their social, political and consumer views.  Right now, we are protesting against a 'proposed' mosque in Manhattan, supporting the Dali Lama to Free Tibet, literally "warring" over Jerusalem, etc.  Religion cuts in ways undecipherable to the intellect.

Most religions practice offerings of money.  From Parishioners to Consumers, Americans give a lot. Churches have become malls and arenas - not just Sunday destinations.  Bloomberg Businessweek's "Popularity Issue," indicates that U.S. megachurches have grown from 200,000 to 8 million in two decades.  Joel Olsteen reaches 7 million viewers weekly from his Lakewood Church.

Commerce Cut: Good and Column Five created a infographic of the variances of annual income across the spectrum of religions practiced, essentially mapping the distribution of wealth.

  • 22% of Buddhists earn $100K or more
  • 31% of Catholics bring home less than $30K
  • 47% of Historically Black church-goers earn only $30K
  • 15% of Hindus earn between $50K-$75K
  • 59% of Muslims earn between $0 and $75K

Crosscutting: Americans have looked financial death in the face for the last two years.  Religion has been a beacon for many consumers seeking spiritual guidance, emotional strength and relief from harsh economic and financial pressure.  Ironically, self-help is one of the fastest-growing categories of "religion."  Man always believes in himself for some reason. 

This creates a slight paradox in interpreting the fine line between secularism and faith.  Most brands not affiliated directly with the category or offering a unique selling proposition to its user, tend to tread carefully or outright reject an attempt.  But religion can extend into wellness and even sustainability, in the green sense, if you think about it - biodiversity and ecology preserve the environment which God made, if you believe in that "way."  It's ultimately about one's judgment.  Consumers are defining new methods to practice old rituals.

Brand Opportunity: Religion is another anchor to better understand the consumer psychographic and state-of-mind.  Often there is a high correlation between the religious values practiced and the values aspired to in brand consumption.  On some level, anyway.  Brands shouldn't commercialize religion, but the lifestyle associated with religion is expanding.  The appeal and tone of brand messaging and religion has traditionally been parochial.  But practicing Millennial and Mid-20s religious consumers potentially indicate the future Culture of religion and consumerism.

Market Risk: Blasphemy


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Article Author: Lee Chapman

What: Crosscutting, a way to think across consumer and business segments. How: 20 Culture segments x 20 Commerce segments. When: Account Planning, Brand Managing, Consumer Insighting, Creating, Designing, Engineering, Forecasting, Ideating, …

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