Many professing Christians seem unconsciously torn between the consumer-driven world that encourages material wealth and their religious beliefs, according to research publicized by the University of Bath on 22 August 2011 in a press release available at:
The study was conducted by Avi Shankar, of Bath’s Centre for Research in Advertising and Consumption, and Ekant Veer of the University of Canterbury, New Zealand.
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.’
More generally, there is a dearth of survey information about religion and consumerism readily available in the public domain. This is true, for instance, of a major but largely inaccessible report on marketing to Muslims from JWT Worldwide in 2007, in which 350 British Muslim adults aged 18 and over were interviewed.
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