Brands: The Opiate of the Nonreligious Masses?
Are brands the “new religion”? Practitioners and scholars have been intrigued by the possibility, but strong theory and empirical evidence supporting the existence of a relationship between brands and religion is scarce. In what follows, we argue and demonstrate that religiosity is indeed related to “brand reliance,” i.e., the degree to which consumers prefer branded goods over unbranded goods or goods without a well-known national brand.
We theorize that brands and religiosity may serve as substitutes for one another because both allow individuals to express their feelings of self-worth. We provide support for this substitution hypothesis with U.S. state-level data (field study) as well as individual-level data where religiosity is experimentally primed (study 1) or measured as a chronic individual difference (study 2). Importantly, studies 1 and 2 demonstrate that the relationship between religiosity and brand reliance only exists in product categories in which brands enable consumers to express themselves (e.g., clothes). Moreover, studies 3 and 4 demonstrate that the expression of self-worth is an important factor underlying the negative relationship.