URC

Would You Buy That Church?
 A Study of the Branding of Denominations

Danielle Gargiulo
Kirby Gowen
Shar’Niese Miller
Josann Schoeff
Huntington University

Abstract

This study examined whether individuals treat denominations like product brands. It was hypothesized that people would be more loyal to a brand than to their church. Thirty college professors, 20 healthcare workers from Family Practice and Associates (a prestigious healthcare facility in Huntington), and 97 college juniors and seniors from Huntington University (a Midwestern Christian college) were selected at random. They were asked to complete the “Denominational Loyalty Assessment,” which is a survey comprised of multiple studies: a three year study of churches by the Search Institute (1990), a brand study by R. Bennett and S. Rundle-Thiele (2000), and a study done by the Pew Research Group (personal communication, February 21, 2011). The results were then analyzed using the Pearson r correlation. This study found that generational difference played a role in the way people treated their denomination.

Keywords denominations, loyalty, brands, consumerism

Introduction

Society seems to be headed in a direction where all aspects of life are viewed in a consumerist mindset. There is a possibility that this trend is affecting denominations as well. Although there is little research investigating this possibility, this study will look at loyalty to a denomination as well as loyalty to brands. To begin, studies on brand loyalty will be examined.

In the article by Kim, Morris, and Swait (2008), five antecedents of true brand loyalty were listed: brand credibility, affective brand conviction, cognitive brand conviction, attitude strength, and brand commitment. These antecedents are functional in forming a consumer’s genuine commitment to a brand. In their study they considered behavioral intention as brand commitment, leading up to brand loyalty, but not necessarily being indicative of it. They concluded that there was a close relationship between brand commitment and true brand loyalty, which they cited as transcending simple repeated purchases—genuine commitment to the brand.

Chaudhuri and Holbrook (2001) cited the impact of purchase loyalty and attitudinal loyalty on a consumer’s overall brand loyalty. They defined purchase loyalty as a consumer’s likelihood to repurchase items from the brand again and attitudinal loyalty as the average level of commitment of the consumer to the brand. Along with purchase loyalty and attitudinal loyalty, the level of brand trust and affect were considered to be in direct relation with overall brand commitment. They claimed that there was a chain of processes that must be followed to reach the brand commitment and that these factors were all linked together to form that chain.

The attitudes that people hold towards a brand seem to indicate brand commitment. Swaminathan, Page, and Gürhan-Canli (2007) noted the impact of self-construal on the consumer’s brand attitude, citing the differences between independent and interdependent self-construal. In terms of the independent self-construal, Raju, Unnava, and Montgomery (2009) emphasized the idea that consumers held a more favorable view toward a brand that is similar to a brand that they preferred than one that is dissimilar to their preferred brand. The focus of the consumers on the similarities between the brands improved their view of the product, while the differences led them to avoid the dissimilar ones. Park, MacInnis, Priester, Eisingerich, and Iacobucci (2010) compared the ideas of brand attitude and brand attachment and found that although they were similar in theory, they both should be viewed as separate constructs. They suggested that both are important, yet their distinctions should be noted.

A commonality of two studies on brand commitment and loyalty is seen in the mental associations that are developed towards brands and the impact of physiological factors. In one aspect, Kim, Han, and Park (2001) give a list of five dimensions that measured brand personality—the view that people develop towards a particular brand as though it were a person with whom they could relate. Their five dimensions are sincerity, excitement, competence, sophistication, and ruggedness. The second article by Lin, Tuan, and Chiu (2010) cited the influence of the medial frontal cortex in shaping consumers’ views of products and how product assessment was processed.

These five dimensions are used in advertising through multiple sources of media in order to promote the products and brands to the general public. Companies use television, radio, magazines, billboards, and other means to push their products to the consumer. Cereal, toothpaste, paper towels, and other products such as these are not the only things being advertised. Nowadays it is very common to see churches and denominations using the same advertising techniques to promote their products and brands. McDaniel (1989) stated that common advertisement avenues for churches include newspapers, television, radio, and other similar methods. In another study, McDaniel (1986) investigated whether the general public and the clergy’s perceptions about church advertising were aligned. His findings showed that clergy had a more positive view of their church advertising then the general public. Now, almost every church markets itself in one way or another.

The methods of marketing are used according to the reason the church believes it might be losing its attendees. People switch churches for many different reasons: influence of spouse, better children’s programs, spiritual reasons, and theological disputes, and a feeling of belonging or lack thereof (Hoge & O’Connor, 2004). Therefore, a church has to be very aware of what is “in” and what is not. Churches either make the decision to market their “product” or not. McDaniel (1989) found that today many more churches seem to be choosing to market their programs to the needs of the consumer. This avenue of choice is very similar, if not the same, to a company trying to appeal to its targeted group of consumers.

Churches have had to turn to marketing strategies in order to attract more people. Each church or denomination is different and has something unique to offer to the public. Therefore, marketing strategies for churches will need to differ, just as strategies for marketing other products differ. An example of this is that Presbyterian churches typically tend to emphasize “mission and ministry” rather than “growth” (Vokurka & McDaniel, 2004). Many other churches have a desire to become a “mega-church” and focus on growth. This focus consequently leads the church to market the experience of church-going. This experience can include the location, decorations, the friendliness of its members, the quality and type of music and sound, the style of preaching, and the practice of the sacraments (McGrath, 2009). Nowadays, it would seem most churches are trying to market towards an excellent unique church-going experience more than any other aspect. Besides the church experience, churches tend to gear their marketing strategies towards three distinct facets: traditional, program-oriented, and worship-oriented. “Traditional” is focused on keeping their services and programs the same, resisting too much change. “Program-oriented” focus on trying to fill their churches with a variation and multitude of programs, both inward and out-reach. “Worship-oriented” tend to concentrate on adding unique spins on their worship style (Vokurka & McDaniel, 2004).

The three different aspects are relevant because people tend to go to churches that will meet their needs rather than those that align with a specific denomination (Shimron, 2009). The Search Institute (1990) conducted a three-year study on denomination loyalty. This study concluded that loyalty to a denomination varied greatly depending on which denomination was being studied. Of the six denominations the Search Institute team studied, the Southern Baptist Convention scored an 81 percent rate of loyalty to the denomination. And on the other end the United Church of Christ had only a 53 percent rate of loyalty to the denomination. Overall their findings showed only a 66 percent rating of loyalty to denominations in the five mainline churches. 

It is important to note that people tend to be brand-specific or in this case “church-specific” because of the aspects a church offers, not because of the personality of the consumer. Bennett and Rundle-Thiele (2000) from the University of Queensland and the University of South Australia, respectively, conducted a study to prove business should not focus on the personality of the consumer but the brand name of their new product.

For this study, it was hypothesized that people would be more loyal to a retail brand compared to loyalty to a church, as indicated in commitment scores on a compiled survey of brand and church affiliations.

Method

Participants

The sample was comprised of 97 Midwestern Christian University’s junior and senior students, 30 of its faculty and staff, and 20 employees of Family Practice and Associates, a prestigious healthcare facility in Huntington County. The participants were chosen using convenience sampling at the discretion of the researchers.

Measures

The loyalty to a brand and loyalty to a denomination was assessed using three surveys from previous studies done (Bennett and Rundle-Thiele, 2000; Pew Research Group; Search Institute Study, 1990). These previous studies examined churches, denomination, branding, and the loyalty of the consumer. This combination of surveys was then reorganized and titled the “Denominational Loyalty Assessment” (Gargiulo, Gowen, Miller, & Schoeff, 2011). The Denominational Loyalty Assessment consists of 13 questions. The first half of the survey measures how loyal one is to his or her denomination and the second half measures how loyal one is to the brands he or she chooses. We used several types of survey formats, from Likert-Scale to rank order to open-ended questions. Because the survey is newly developed, the reliability and validity are unknown. To view the complete survey, see Appendix A.

Procedure

Surveys were distributed to the participants in the following ways: the juniors and seniors were sought out in dorms and apartments and Family Practice employees and the faculty members of the Midwestern Christian University were approached in their respective offices. Because the surveys were distributed by hand, the rate of return was 97 percent.

Results

The data were separated into two groups: students and adults. Both sets of data were then analyzed using a Pearson r correlation. In order to analyze the data in a simpler manner, the multiple parts of questions 12 and 13 were combined. Question 12 was then labeled "product commitment index" and question 13 was labeled "store commitment index" (see Table 1). All variables used Likert scales (1= very committed; 2=somewhat committed; 3= neutral; 4=barely committed; 5=not committed).

Table 1. Correlations

Correlations Adults

 

Students

 

 

Store Index

Product Index

Q2

Product Index

Store Index

Q2

Store Index

Pearson Correlation

1

.560**

.223

1

.637**

.449**

Sig. (2-tailed)

 

.000

.136

 

.000

.000

N

47

44

46

83

82

78

Product Index

Pearson Correlation

.560**

1

-.048

.637**

1

.322**

Sig. (2-tailed)

.000

 

.759

.000

 

.003

N

44

45

44

82

89

84

Q2

Pearson Correlation

.223

-.048

1

.449**

.322**

1

Sig. (2-tailed)

.136

.759

 

.000

.003

 

N

46

44

49

78

84

88

**. Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).

 

 

 

 

 = 3.33 (Product Index)
= 3.5 (Store Index)

In the student group, a .449 correlation was found between product index and the importance level of one's denomination. In comparison, the adult group showed no significant relationship between question two and the product index.

In the student group a positive correlation (r= .322, p < .01) was found between the store index and question two. Again, the adult group showed no significant relationship between these two variables.

Discussion

The results of our study show a correlation between the loyalty of students to denominations and their loyalty to specific brands or products. Our study obtained data through convenience sampling in order to have a more balanced distribution of responses across social and age groups. Our findings showed a positive correlation with our student group but not our non-student group. Therefore, our hypothesis that stated all would have more loyalty to their brands than their denominations was not fully supported. Although the findings of our study were not wholly conclusive, there certainly are beneficial implications from our findings that are applicable to further research and studies in this area.

The results of this study are indicative that students who have a higher commitment to denominations will likewise have a relatively high commitment to brands. Our study, while having a slightly different focus than Kim, Morris, and Swait (2008), shared a similar correlation of brand commitment and brand loyalty. The findings also showed little correlation between non-student commitment to denominations and brands. There could be several possibilities for this, one being the age difference and a possible change in socialization. The non-students may have grown up learning to treat their denominations with more loyalty, whereas society today focuses more on spiritual than religious commitment. People seem to be more consumerist in their approach to church and also more individualistic today.

A possible explanation for the results involves the convenience method used for obtaining data. The sample selection was limited due to financial and time constraints, thus the selected individuals were chosen locally. The balance of gender, ethnicity, and age were not ideal, as the participants heavily represented females, Caucasians, and individuals between the age of 21 and 30. Further study should examine the implications of generational variance in commitment to brand and denominational loyalty. A consideration of the correlation between denominational loyalty and brand loyalty among college students perhaps would be beneficial as well.

In conclusion, while there is little research on this topic our society seems to be headed towards a more consumerist mindset. The general population seems to be evaluating all aspects of life through a cost-analysis lens. The more research that can be conducted to investigate this consumerist approach to life will help us to learn more about the direction of loyalty is headed.

 

References

Bennett, R., & Rundle-Thiele, S. (2000). Attitudinal loyalty: Personality trait or brand specific? ANZMAC, 97-101. Retrieved February 24, 2011, from http://smib.vuw.ac.nz:8081/www/ANZMAC2000/CDsite/papers/b/Bennett3.PDF

Chaudhuri, A., & Holbrook, M. B. (2001). The chain of effects from brand trust and brand affect to brand performance: The role of brand loyalty. Journal of Marketing, 65(2), 81-93. doi:10.1509/jmkg.65.2.81.18255

Hoge, D., & O'Connor, T. P. (2004). Denominational identity from age sixteen to age thirty-eight. Sociology of Religion, 65(1), 77-85.

Kim, C. K., Han, D., & Park, S. (2001). The effect of brand personality and brand identification on brand loyalty: Applying the theory of social identification. Japanese Psychological Research, 43(4), 195.

Kim, J., Morris, J. D., & Swait, J. (2008). Antecedents of true brand loyalty. Journal of Advertising, 37(2), 99-117. doi:10.2753/JOA0091-3367370208

Lin, C., Tuan, H., & Chiu, Y. (2010). Medial frontal activity in brand-loyal consumers: A behavior and near-infrared ray study. Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Economics, 3(2), 59-73. doi:10.1037/a0015461

McDaniel, S. W. (1989) The use of marketing techniques by churches: A national survey. Review of Religious Research, 31(2), 175. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

McDaniel, S. W. (1986). Church advertising: Views of the clergy and general public. Journal of Advertising, 15(1), 24-29. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

McGrath, J. (2009). Congregations as consumers: Using marketing research to study church attendance motivations. Marketing Management Journal, 19(2), 130-138. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Park, C., Maclnnis, D. J., Priester, J., Eisingerich, A. B., & Lacobucci, D. (2010). Brand attachment and brand attitude strength: Conceptual and empirical differentiation of two critical brand equity drivers. Journal of Marketing, 74(6), 1-17. doi:10.1509/jmkg.74.6.1

Raju, S., Unnava, H., & Montgomery, N. (2009). The effect of brand commitment on the evaluation of non-preferred brands: A disconfirmation process. Journal of Consumer Research, 35(5), 851-863. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Search Institute. Effective Christian education: A national study of Protestant congregations (1990).Minneapolis, MN.

Shimron, Y. (2009, April 9). Choosing their religion: Local churches grow quickly as people join for many reasons, not all of them spiritual. News & Observer, The (Raleigh, NC). Retrieved from EBSCOhost..

Swaminathan, V., Page, K. L., & Gürhan-Canli, Z. (2007). "My" brand or "our" brand: The effects of brand relationship dimensions and self-construal on brand evaluations. Journal of Consumer Research, 34(2), 248-259. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Vokurka, R. J., & McDaniel, S. W. (2004). A taxonomy of church marketing types. Review of Religious Research, 46(2), 132-149. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

  

 

Appendix A

Denomination Loyalty Assessment

Directions: Place an X by the answer that most appropriately applies for you. Be as honest and truthful as possible

1. Choose the denomination you would affiliate with:

__ Baptist __ Brethren   __Catholic __Episcopal   __Holiness

__ Lutheran __Methodist __Nazarene __Non-Denom. __Pentecostal

__Presbyterian  __Southern Baptist __United Brethren 

__None (if none skip to question 5)

__Other (Please Specify) ______________

2. How important is it to you to attend a church of the denomination you marked above?

___ It is extremely important to me.
___ It is important to me.
___ It is somewhat important to me.
___ It is not too important to me.
___ It is not important at all. I could just as well attend a church of another denomination.

3. How satisfied are you with the denomination you marked in question 1?

___ Very satisfied
___ Satisfied
___ Somewhat satisfied
___ Dissatisfied
___ Very dissatisfied

4. If you moved to another city that had many churches from which to choose, would you attend a church of the same denomination you now attend?

___ Yes, absolutely
___ Yes, probably
___ Maybe
___ Probably not
___ No

5. Would you consider attending a church of any of the denominations listed in question 1, if so please specify below:

___________________________________________________________
___________________________________________________________
___________________________________________________________

Questions 6-11 relate to your view on purchasing in general. Please circle the category that best reflects your opinion.

1 = Strongly disagree 2= Disagree 3 = Neutral 4 = Agree 5= Strongly Agree

6. I would rather stick with a brand I usually buy than try something I am not very sure of.

1 2 3 4 5

7. If I like a brand, I rarely switch from it just to try something different.  

1 2 3 4 5

8. I rarely introduce new brands and products to my colleagues.

1 2 3 4 5

9. I rarely take chances by buying unfamiliar brands even if it means sacrificing variety.  

1 2 3 4 5

10. I usually buy the same brands even if they are only average.

1 2 3 4 5

11. I would rather wait for others to try a new brand than try it myself.  

1 2 3 4 5

12. Think about the brand names of different types of products you might buy. For each of the types of products listed below, which statement best describes how you choose what you buy (place number in blank after choices).

RESPONSE OPTIONS  

  1. You have only one brand you will consider buying
  2. You have a favorite brand, but will also buy others
  3. You have a small number of brands you will consider buying, with no particular favorite  
  4. There are certain brands you avoid, but no particular brands you prefer
  5. You don’t really pay attention to brands when you buy this kind of product  
  6. You don’t buy this type of product at all

PRODUCT TYPES

a. automobiles __
b. toothpaste __
c. gasoline or diesel__
d. bathroom tissue/toilet paper __
e. bottled water __
f. soft drinks __
g. fast food restaurants __

h. airlines __
i.  hotels__
j.  athletic shoes__
k. computers __
l.  major appliances
m. pain reliever __

13. Think about the brand names of different types of stores where you might shop. For instance, there are nationwide brands of toy stores such as Toys R Us and KB Toys, as well as local brands with only one or two stores. For each type of store listed below, which statement best describes how you choose where you shop? (place number in blank after choices)

RESPONSE OPTIONS  

  1. You have only one brand of store where you will consider shopping
  2. You have a favorite brand of store, but will also shop at others  
  3. You have a small number of brands where you will consider shopping, with no particular favorite  
  4. There are certain brands of stores you avoid, but no particular ones you prefer  
  5. You don’t really pay attention to the brand or name of the store when you shop at this kind of store  
  6. You don’t shop at this type of store at all

TYPES OF STORES

a. home improvement stores __
b. pet product stores __
c. department stores __
d. furniture stores __
e. convenience stores __
f. grocery stores __
g. clothing stores __

h  book stores__
i.  consumer electric Stores__
j.  Christian/religious bookstores__
k.  drug stores __
l.  shoe stores __

Background Information:

Please Mark Correct Response:  Male _____  Female _____

Age (Circle one): 18-20 21-23 24-26 27-29 30+

Ethnicity: (Please check all that apply)

____ African American/Black ____ Asian ____ Caucasian/White

____ Hispanic  /Latino ____ Native American ____ Mixed

____ Other (please specify) ___________________

 

 


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