Giving up God for Ralph Lauren

The Faith & Leadership portal has a fascinating Q&A with a marketing professor who has been studying the interaction of brand-name consumer products and religion.

It turns out that when you get people thinking about religion, they become less likely to choose brand-name products.

It also turns out that if you get people thinking about their favorite brands, their religious impulses and even beliefs are negatively impacted. Perhaps putting a Starbucks in the lobby is a bad idea.

For eons, organized religion has provided a sense of community, has provided a way to say who we are to others, has provided a source of meaning in the world.

Brands, as they have evolved, have just moved into that exact same space with those exact same functions. So if that need is getting fulfilled through brands, it means that we don’t need religion nearly as much to do so.

As a function of that, people don’t think it’s as important to go to services, and it even reduces their belief that there is a higher power looking over us.

As I read it, I think of the ancient Christian caution about being too attached to this world.

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3 thoughts on “Giving up God for Ralph Lauren

  1. Around here, “branding” your ministries (giving them cute names w logos) is all the rage. Is this a problem too do you think or just getting entangled with corporate brands?

    1. I don’t know. Branding and building a church’s brand is something you hear about here as well. The thrust of the Q&A and research beneath it is that people substitute consumer brands for religion — they do some of the same things sociologically for people that church does.

      He also talks with caution about the move by churches to manage their brand. The marketing professor is wary of the consumerist approach to church.

      I’m wary of it, too, but I am not confident I know how to separate being consumerist from being “contextual,” which everyone says is good.

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