Monday, September 27, 2010

Religion- The Brand You Never Chose

Religion- The Brand You Never Chose

For a student of Marketing Management there is no bunker that can save him from the marketing models which continue to confuse the students with their degree of relevancy in present times. One of such models is consumer decision making process which explains how we make our decision. Before studying the course we thought a decision is made by saying a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ but to our folly we found that is programmed too!

The major steps involved in decision making process are need recognition, information search, evaluation of alternatives, purchase and post purchase. Also, the experts have mentioned that a consumer is the end user of the product or the service offered.

Given such a backdrop I wondered how well would an infant fit into the consumer decision making process given his noninterference beyond need recognition. In such a case as an infant we were not just deprived of making the choice of a brand but a few ‘brands’ have become indispensable to our lives since beginning. One such brand is religion.

Religion, inarguably, is the most powerful brand across countries. It also strongly defines the cultural landscape of the region to which other brands adhere. This brand is recognized by the strongest logos, symbols, values, associations and occupies a vast space in the minds of the consumer.

The unique position through which the ‘brand’ interacts with a highly receptive new born allows it to be perceived as an essential. The communicators of the brand religion- the parents, immediate family- are by default the most trusted medium of communication. The benefit derived from brand religion may be different to various sects. While for some the benefit derived is ‘nirvana’ for others it could be ‘accumulation of wealth’ but for the young ones there is no personal benefit in any given situation. By the time one grows up to be able to understand the environment the ‘brand’ has already become an imperative part of that individual.

Coming back to consumer decision process, it is interesting to note that we have been ‘consuming’ religion as a brand without recognizing the need in the first place (forget evaluating alternatives!). Inspite of being irreverent to the decision making process we have transformed into staunch brand loyalists wherein we wishfully donate wealth on religious grounds without giving it a second thought, but when the question arrives of helping the needy we comfortably refuse.

Bloemer and Kasper mention attributes of a true brand loyalty as (a) biased, (b)behavioral response, (c)expressed over time, (d)by some decision-making unit, with respect to one or more alternate brands and (e)psychological process resulting in brand commitment. Current communal tension exemplifies the presence of above five attributes found in the practitioners of religion.

Understanding profoundly what makes religion establish a powerful connect could help marketers when formulating the marketing strategy for their brands. For example, ‘finding oneself’ is acknowledged across all forms of religions. Thus, the brands that inspire great action leading to individuality (Apple, Harley Davidson) have successfully managed to create a brand religion of their own.

In India, two other such brands that follow impregnable loyalty after religion are cricket and cinema. Yet as a brand religion cannot be categorized as top-of-mind of bottom of the mind, instead it is a ‘back of the mind’ brand which defies most marketing ‘fundas’ applied prevalent today. Interestingly using the same models marketers try to make their brands a religion. Those who are able to find such affiliation continue to live as ‘Classic’ brands and others thrive for the materialistic gains!

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