Study: Brands replacing religion (by Austin Carr)

Austin Carr of Fast Company discussed a recent research about brand and religious behavior. I found it very critical and push ourselves to think about what we are really  looking for in the brands, or religious symbols. It’s about self worth!

Apple Logo Is an Agnostic’s Crucifix, Star of David: Study

BY Austin Carr

September 29, 2010

Heavenly Apple

As it’s stated in the book of Jobs: Thou shalt not worship false iPhones.

Or so goes the thinking in a new study from Duke University, which concludes: “The brand name logo on a laptop or a shirt pocket may do the same thing for some people that a pendant of a crucifix or Star of David does for others.” In fact, the more religious a person is, the less brand expression appears to matter.

Researchers at Duke ran several experiments to determine this disconnection between brand importance and religiosity. In one, the team analyzed geographic areas for the number of Apple, Macy’s, and Gap stores per million people. These statistics were compared with brand-discount stores. “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,” the report says. “In every analysis, they found a negative relationship between brand reliance and religiosity.”

In another experiment, a group of students were asked to write an essay on “what your religion means to you personally.” A second set of students wrote essays on an unrelated topic. Both groups then underwent an imaginary shopping trip, where they were asked to choose between a series of products. A similar online experiment was conducted with hundreds of participants, divided between those who reported being religious and those who did not. In both cases, “those that were highly religious [or primed to think about religion] cared less about national brands … religion reduces brand reliance by apparently satisfying the need to express self-worth.”

While this perhaps finally solves the mystery of why Christopher Hitchens and Nietzsche were such label whores, it also provides insight into how certain brands–namely Apple–develop cult-like followings. Similar to Duke’s report, brand expert Martin Lindstrom conducted a 3 year, 7 million dollar study comparing brain scans of the religious to those with high brand loyalty. Lindstrom discovered that the scans of people loyal to Apple matched the scans of devoted Christians.

All praise the almighty Steve!

“Brands are a signal of self-worth,” said Gavan Fitzsimons, professor of marketing and psychology at Duke. “We’re signaling to others that we care about ourselves and that we feel good about ourselves and that we matter in this world. It’s more than ‘I’m hip or cool’…I’m a worthwhile person, and I matter, and you should respect me and think that I’m a good person, because I’ve got the D&G on my glasses.”

And an Apple on my iPhone.



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