New Study Puts Faith in Brands


A new study out of the very well-branded Duke University and Tel Aviv University asks if brands are the new religion. The study, which can be downloaded at Marketing Science, goes by the not-at-all sensational title “Brands: The Opiate of Non-Religious Masses?”

The researchers posit that “brands and religiosity may serve as substitutes for one another because both allow individuals to express their feelings of self-worth.” It’s a theory that will cause a reaction within the professional branding community, and that reaction will be “Duh.”[more]

In the tradition of putting official data to something everyone already knows to be true, one of the marketing professors in the study says, “People with a high involvement in religiosity aren’t necessarily as brand-conscious as people who don’t practice religion.” As for the methodology of the study? Well, you just knew it involved the Church of Apple:

“The team first conducted a field study in which they looked at several geographic areas for the number of Apple stores per million people, the number of brand stores such as Macy’s and Gap, and a comparison statistic they called the ‘brand-discount store ratio.’ Then they compared these rough measures of brand reliance against the number of congregations per thousand and self-reported attendance in church or synagogue, controlling for income, education and urbanization differences. In every analysis, they found a negative relationship between brand reliance and religiosity.”

The press release for the study goes on to note a shocker, “So if you were the brand manager for a new kind of apparel, you might study the demographics of your markets in a different way.”

For his 2008 book Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy, marketing guru Martin Lindstrom scanned brain activity of professed Christians versus professed Apple fanatics (of course) and found “exactly the same regions in the brain were activated.” Lindstrom concluded, “The fact is that Apple is a mini-religion.”

That will come as no surprise to the Rev. Doctor Bobby Newton, the self-professed spiritual leader of the Church of Mac. Of course, the definitive research on this subject was done in a study known as “The Mount Sinai Gold Study.” This 40-day study conducted by Moses found that in the absence of strong faith, consumers took all of their former adoration for a god and refocused it on a material item.

But seriously, read the report — and let us know what you think.