Religion’s impact on consumer behaviour – QUT study
Companies should consult religious leaders before releasing new products and services to avoid lack of adoption among religious groups, a Queensland University of Technology PhD marketing candidate suggests.
Thamer Baazeem from QUT’s school of advertising, marketing and public relations, investigated the effect of intense religious feelings on consumer intentions towards new “religiously questionable” products using two methods of study.
“This research indicates even in this era of globalisation, religion should still be considered an important factor when introducing a new product,” Baazeem says.
“Religious scholars often take positions for or against new products citing religious values and norms and their rulings often influence the process of adoption of these new products. However, after a time the power of these rulings tends to diminish as the product grows in popularity.”
Baazeem decided to study religion’s influence on consumer behaviour following his native Saudi Arabia banning mobile phones when they were first launched with in-built cameras.
Study one: religiosity and risk
The first part of the study measured the level of religiosity of 947 Muslim participants from Saudi Arabia, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US and then presented them with two fictional scenarios about new products that could pose religious questions.
The fictional products mentioned in the studies were:
- A social media site called ‘Friend Maker’ which introduced males and females online to make friends in-person, and
- a mixed-gender dance school called ‘The Life’.
The study measured the relationship between participants’ ‘degree of religiosity’ and how adoption of these products may increase their ‘psychological risk’ (uncertainty about doing the right thing), and their ‘social risk’ (how they thought others may perceive them).
“The results showed that having high religious belief affected psychological risk more than social risk,” Baazeem says. “In other words, those with intensely felt religious views were more worried about whether they were doing the right thing in adopting the product than what other people would think about them if they did.”
Study two: religious warnings and popularity
The second part of the study investigated the impact of 2860 participants’ attitudes to the fictional products considering religious scholars’ warnings and popularity levels.
Religious warnings were found to impact even those people with ‘extrinsic religiosity’ (those who care about what others think, but don’t consider advice from religious scholars).
Religious feeling and risk perception had the weakest relationship when products were popular and religious scholars had not given warnings about them.