Religiosity and Brand Commitment: a Multicultural Perspective


Aric Rindfleisch, James E. Burroughs, and Nancy Wong (2005) ,"Religiosity and Brand Commitment: a Multicultural Perspective", in AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 6, eds. Yong-Uon Ha and Youjae Yi, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 153-154.

Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 6, 2005      Pages 153-154


Aric Rindfleisch, University of Wisconsin-Madison, U.S.A.

James E. Burroughs, University of Virginia, U.S.A.

Nancy Wong, Georgia Institute of Technology, U.S.A.


Research Issues

Firms regularly seek to cultivate a base of committed brand users. To help firms achieve brand commitment, marketing scholars have developed a number of useful concepts, including brand equity (Keller 1993), brand personality (Aaker 1997), brand relationships (Fournier 1998), and brand community (McAlexander, Schouten, and Koeing 2002), among others.

Although the development of these brand-focused concepts has played an important role in marketing theory and practice, we believe that marketers should not lose sight of potential non-brand-based influencers of brand commitment. Specifically, we propose that certain individuals may be more likely to become committed to branded products and services than others. This notion has received recent support in a study by Coulter, Price, and Feik (2003), who found that consumers vary in their involvement with branded products based on their cultural experiences. Similarly, we suggest that cultural influence in the form of religiosity (i.e., the importance placed on religion in one’s life) may also affect the degree to which individuals become committed to the brands they buy and use.

We focus on religiosity for three reasons. First, religiosity is a central life value that is often developed at an early age and plays an important role in establishing consumption prescriptions and proscriptions (Delener 1994). Second, the role of religiosity is under-recognized in contemporary marketing research, as only a handful of studies of religion have been conducted in the marketing literature over the past 25 years. Third, religiosity is a multi-faceted construct (Stark and Glock 1968). We believe that some of these facets may eschew, while other facets might encourage, brand commitment.

Based on a review of a broad swath of religiosity research across a broad base of disciplines including psychology (e.g., Gorsuch and Miller 1999), sociology (Cardwell 1969), marketing (e.g., LaBarbera 1987), and religious studies (e.g., Stark and Glock 1968), we have uncovered two competing perspectives of the relationship between religiosity and brand commitment.

Religiosity as a Transcendent Experience: The search for and attainment of transcendent experiences is a fundamental aspect of religiosity (Stark and Glock 1968). Regardless of their specific manifestation, these sacred and transcendent experiences are typically viewed as an escape from the everyday world and its profane and secular nature (Gorsuch and Miller 1999). As noted by Belk, Wallendorf, and Sherry (1989), material objects such as branded products are often viewed as embodiments of the profane. Thus, individuals focused on the transcendent aspects of religiosity may be expected to exhibit weak commitment to branded products as a means of divesting in the profane as they search for the sacred.

Religiosity as an Expression of Commitment: Beyond the search for the transcendent, highly religious individuals also typically exhibit a strong sense of commitment to their belief system. As noted by Stark and Glock (1968), "the heart of religion is commitment" (p. 1). Because of this strong sense of commitment, highly religious individuals are often viewed as being dogmatic and closed-minded (Delener 1994; Stark and Glock 1968). Regardless of its framing, the expression of religious commitment appears to extend beyond religion itself, as these individuals also appear to be quite committed to other types of beliefs and behaviors, including, perhaps the brands they buy and use. In other words, religiousness may be indicative of a broader life orientation. Thus far, the relationship between religious commitment and brand commitment has remained unexplored. However, a few scholars have observed connections between these two domains. For example, Djupe (2002) characterizes religious commitment as a form of brand loyalty. Thus, individuals focused on religion as a form of commitment should exhibit a strong level of commitment to brands as well.


We assessed these two competing hypotheses via a mall intercept of 300 Singaporeans. We selected Singapore as the setting for this study because it is one of the few places in the world where the populace contains a sizable percentage of adherents to three of the world’s leading religious traditions (i.e., Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism).

Our survey contained two different measures of brand commitment (i.e., brand loyalty and self-brand connection), two different measures of religiosity (i.e., spirituality and fundamentalism), and a set of control variables. We assessed brand commitment for two product categories: (1) cell phones, and (2) wristwatches. All measures displayed strong reliability and validity.


We examined the relationship between religiosity and brand commitment using a series of multiple regression analyses. In each of these regressions, our two measures of religiosity were the independent variables, and age, gender, education, income, socially-desirable responding, product satisfaction, and mode of acquisition (self purchase or gift) were entered as control variables. Our dependent variables were brand loyalty (BL), and self-brand connection (SBC). Thus, we ran a total of four individual regressions (2 dependent variables x 2 product categories). Religious fundamentalism was positively and significantly related to both indicants of brand commitment for both cell phones (BL: b=.13, p<.10; SBC: b=.13, p<.10) and watches (BL: b=.23, p<.01; SBC: b=.17, p<.05). In contrast, religious spirituality was unrelated to any of the four measures of brand commitment. These results demonstrate that religiosity, in the form of fundamentalism, is positively associated with brand commitment.

In order to test the cultural robustness of our results, we conducted a series of regression analyses similar to the one just described among Buddhists, Christians, and Muslims, respectively. This analysis revealed that, among Christians, religious fundamentalism is positively related to both brand loyalty to cell phones (b=.33, p<.001) and self-brand connections to watches (b=.23, p<.10). Among Buddhists, religious fundamentalism is positively related to brand loyalty (b=.20,<.10) and self-brand connections to watches (b=.20,<.10). Religious fundamentalism exhibits no significant relationship to any of the four measures of brand commitment among Muslims.

Collectively, these results appear somewhat weaker than our overall findings. We believe this discrepancy is largely due to the greater degree of variation in religious fundamentalism when all three religions are combined (M=4.79, SD=1.49), compared to when they are treated separately (Buddhists: M=3.80, SD=1.28; Christians: M=4.56, SD=1.35; Muslims: M=6.01, SD=.81). This attenuation is particularly noticeable among Muslims, where the lowest level of fundamentalism among our 100 individual respondents is 4.00.

In sum, as shown by our research, involving hundreds of respondents across three religious traditions and two product categories, religiosity (in the form of fundamentalism) has an important influence upon brand commitment.


Aaker, Jennifer L. (1997), "Dimensions of Brand Personality," Journal of Marketing Research, 34 (August), 347-356.

Belk, Russell W., Melanie Wallendorf, and John F. Sherry, Jr. (1989), "The Sacred and the Profane in Consumer Behavior: Theodicy on the Odyssey," Journal of Consumer Research, 15 (March), 1-38.

Cardwell, Jerry D. (1969), "The Relationship Between Religious Commitment and Premarital Sexual Permissiveness: A Five Dimensional Analysis," Sociological Analysis, 30, 72-80.

Coulter, Robin A., Linda L. Price, and Lawrence Feick (2003), "Rethinking the Origins of Involvement and Brand Commitment: Insights from Postsocialist Central Europe," Journal of Consumer Research, 30 (September), 151-169.

Delener, Nejdet (1994), "Religious Contrasts in Consumer Decision Behaviour Patterns: Their Dimensions and Marketing Implications," European Journal of Marketing, 28 (5), 36-53.

Djupe, Paul A. (2002), "Religious Brand Loyalty and Political Loyalties," Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 41, 78-89.

Fournier, Susan (1998), "Consumers and their Brands: Developing Branding Theory in Consumer Research, Journal of Consumer Research, 24 (March), 343-373.

Gorsuch, Richard L. and William R. Miller (1999), "Assessing Spirituality," in Integrating Spirituality into Treatment, William R. Miller, ed. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 47-64.

Keller, Kevin Lane (1993), "Conceptualizing, Measuring, and Managing Customer-Based Brand Equity," Journal of Marketing, 57 (January), 1-22.

LaBarbera, Priscilla A. (1987), "Consumer Behavior and Born Again Christianity," in Research in Consumer Behavior, Vol. 2, Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, 193-222.

McAlexander, James H., John W. Schouten, and Harold F. Koeing (2002), "Building Brand Community," Journal of Marketing, 66 (January), 38-54.

Stark, Rodney and Charles Y. Glock (1968), American Piety: The Nature of Religious Commitment. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.



Aric Rindfleisch, University of Wisconsin-Madison, U.S.A.
James E. Burroughs, University of Virginia, U.S.A.
Nancy Wong, Georgia Institute of Technology, U.S.A.


AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 6 | 2005

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