However, considering that there is a source, a recipient, various channels and a goal of the message, the congregations’ immunization is no different from any brand’s marketing communication strategy: the main goal is to reach out to the target audience and attain or retain them as loyal customers. This dissertation aims to study relevant literature on the marketing communications of religions, highlighting similarities and differences of consumer behavior in case of traditional products and services versus religious ‘products’ as well as examining churches as brands.
In this proposal, I introduce the preliminary findings of literature in terms of ‘purchase intention’, branding and consumer loyalty. The paper also discuss further questions on how the research is going to be executed as it also talks about the research methodology, research plan as well as its Faith Marketing By Laura-Shirks limitations. Literature review The constant question that intrigues marketers throughout time and industries is ‘How to attract and retain customers?. As much as a corporate brand, a church can face the same concerns when it comes to communicating to potential customers: what do they seek in my service?
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Stability? Trust? Availability? What channels should I use to reach them? In the sass, using press as a new channel for religious communication was considered as a questionable breakthrough as Evans (2003) describes. On one hand, the use of mass media proved to be successful in recruiting new believers, even ‘celebrity evangelists’ emerged. Critics however claimed it was man-made and too commercial. Technical development could not be stopped, and church growth was considered as being positively related to the broadcasting of church services on radio and television (McDaniel, 1989).
In this case, no special marketing message was needed, the ‘product’ itself was directly broadcast. Although churches opted for further marketing tools to ‘spread the word’ such as block ads, yellow pages and even sponsorship of sport teams, it is clear that the direct messages, such as PR and live events attracted the audience the most at the beginning. Today, in the era of Internet, Just within Christianity a great variety of denominations’ massages are available for internet users in seconds.
Advertising online is not Just cost effective, but also considered as easy to reach the most precisely defined target audiences through different websites and social media platforms. The term ‘online religion’ was born, referring to not only promoting churches online, but also calling believers to practice their religion online in forms of liturgy, prayers and meditation. In this century there is a great change in consumers’ behavior in terms of how they seek their daily “spiritual food”. They spend considerably more time online looking for information and can be less touched by TV or door-to-door canvassing. Soupy, 2002) The idea that repeatedly appears in the literature of marketing of religions is that in spite of all technical developments in order to transmit messages to attract or convert believers to a church, it is still the power of personal invitation that best helps recruiting new members to a church within any denomination. Referrals and direct mails are named by Webb et al. (1998) as the most important tools for the attracting and retaining of members, while Raising (2006) urges churches to make members eager to invite others – thus using the power of the community where new members might want to belong to later.
This is where church organized events such as arts fairs, concerts and sport events can still help attract new members today. Could the classic business methods be used for branding a denomination? If we think about branding: how can a brand be defined? The brands consists values, image, distinctive elements and also a style of communication. Considering a Christian congregation as a brand, we can find features that we can relate with each categories.
Christianity as most of the religions emphasis love as its core value, but their buildings, the churches with the symbol of the cross, liturgies and songs are those elements that make each denominations distinctive. In this sense, religions have been performing branding practices for centuries. Scullion (2004) details these branding elements, and he also explain market penetration and further potentials. Impersonating a brand is also present in religions, as Lee and Sensitive (2009) mention it, saying “the Christian world hosts a culture of celebrity’, referring to important figures.
Einstein (2007) adds, that the most valuable assets of a religious brand are the spokespeople and symbols. This idea is in line with today’s brands in corporate life, too: a strong brand and its endeavourers are the key factors to a company’s success. Customer loyalty is also a crucial question in the marketing of religions as membership of Christian churches has been declining since the sass according to Webb et al (1998). The authors also found that monthly and weekly newsletters and bulletins are effective retaining tools, as well as personal contact and Valuable content’ in terms of services that speak the same languages as today’s people.
Innkeeper (2008) emphasizes that it is rare that other denominations ‘churn consumers’, it is more typical that a person decide to Join to a denomination or refuse to belong to any of those. In case of people who switched from their childhood nomination to another one there are various factors played major role on the side of the new church, such as excellent preschools, sports programs, a charismatic preacher, convenient locations or even the space parking lots – another example of tools emphasizing the community and experience side of being religious and a member of a church.
Research questions and Objectives Based on the above three areas of marketing communication and branding the following questions are raised that will form the research question: 1 . How are marketing communication tools used by churches and what effect do they have on ‘consumers’ (I. . Christian believers’) to Join a church? What factors influence Christians to choose between denominations? Is it rather mass messages or personal referral that better attracts new members? Or is there a different tool going to emerge during the research that is relevant? 2. How does branding contribute to the perception of a church? . What marketing communication tools should a church use to best retain its believers? These areas to research can be summarized in the following research question: Can business-like marketing communications tools and branding be effective in recruiting and retaining Christian believers? Research objectives include gaining insights into the above questions through both the ‘consumer’s’ and the various religious denominations perspective, revealing the similarities and differences of the traditional product or service industries versus the examined Christian churches’ practice.
Due to the nature of the examined ‘industry, research methodology that lacks biases has to be chosen carefully. The method of the primary research has to meet the demands of enabling the examined population to express qualitative data that helps to find key learning about the research question on the demand side. Methodology and research design In order to find out what marketing elements attract customers to different congregations and to explore any possible relations between different factors found, I am going to implement both secondary and primary research.
The data is then to be analyses and a conclusion regarding the research question is to be made in the dissertation. As part of the secondary research, a wide array of relevant literature is to be processed, with special attention to specific marketing communication tools and examples to showcase the supporting or contradicting notions to the research question. Following that and based on the emerging findings, in-depth interviews are going to be conducted. This kind of qualitative research was chosen as this method enables a deeper understanding of the ideas, concerns, reflections, and experiences of the interviewed individuals.
The topic can also be considered as very complex and sensitive, therefore the informal environment and a reasonably long time given to explain thoughts can prompt participants to answer questions. The method selection is also due to the fact that there is a lack of information in the literature as he term ‘religious marketplace’ is Just lately emerged and there are still many concepts uncovered. Finally, faith’ or ‘belief, which is the marketed product is not constant, but intangible and varying and can depend on various factors, including personal perceptions and experiences.
For these reasons, I found inadequate the initial idea of conducting a quantitative research with questionnaires as there would not be enough potential to gain deeper information. As the population for the research 10 individuals were chosen, 2-2 representing the following churches: Catholic, Lutheran, Pentecostal, Adventist and Anglican. This sample is not giving a representative result. However, in case of qualitative research by in-depth-interviews, it is not the main objective, but to gain quality information and insights. Barman and Bell, 2011) Each interview will last 30-40 minutes depending on the amount of unexpected questions that would emerge. The interview environment is to be informal, preferably in a home or neutral environment (coffee house, lounge) to further enhance communication and sharing thoughts with the interviewer. I will use a purposive inviolability sampling method (Trochaic, 2006), as I have already fined the sample -Christian costumers aged 18-100-. Within this I apply Non- proportional quota sampling as I mentioned before.
I target 2-2 interviewee from each categorized denomination. The interviews will be semi-structured. Exact interview questions are to be prepared based on the processed literature, with open- ended questions in majority in order to help valuable insights form. Being semi- structured, the interview may produce questions that can reveal areas that have not been studied by now or even concepts that will be included as separate sub-topics of each research area. These findings will be crucial to fully understand the consumer’s perspective, as well as give a base for further fields of study.
Limitations of the study include interviewed individuals not willing to answer questions that they feel are too sensitive, and any biased answers that derive from lack of knowledge, faded memory or sense of shame or other feelings that influence the individuals. Also, concentrating solely on the listed denominations only may result in marketing tools being left out from the study, but as the selected denominations are the most popular Christian elision branches, this concern is not significant.
During the interviews, notes will be taken that after the interview will be processed to be able to highlight similarities, differences and valuable patterns that will serve as the base of the Findings section of the dissertation. Any further limitations that arise will be mentioned and considered in terms of validity of the findings of the dissertation. The interview questions and the summary of the data will be available in the attachments section. A reflection on potential difficulties and suggested solutions
Potential difficulties throughout the research process and possible solutions: Insufficient amount of literature on religion marketing. This has been a valid concern in 1992, when Cutler (1992) mentions that only 35 articles have been published on religion and marketing in the previous 30 years. Since then, with the development and availability of quality research Journal articles and books it is not an issue anymore. On the other hand, it is the other extremity: finding valuable information online has to be proceeded by quality check of the source, author, relevancy of the iterate, and making sure only up-to-date information is used.
Biased interview results: due to the above mentioned factors, this concern is to be prepared for and handled appropriately if encountered. Time and resource constraints: any external factors that hinder the collection, process and evaluation of secondary and primary research. To avoid and proactively handle this, a time frame, task plan and regular consultations are to be implemented and status updates are to be sent to the tutors. Any further difficulties will immediately be communicated to the tutor, in order to find a suitable solution together.