Getting Religious About Customer Psychology

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Does your brand have a devoted following?

Getting Religious About Customer Psychology
Getting Religious About Customer Psychology

Martin Lindstrom, author of Buyology, outlines 10 pillars of religion that influence faithful followers:

1.    Sense of belonging

2.    Clear vision

3.    Power over enemies

4.    Sensory appeal

5.    Storytelling

6.    Grandeur

7.    Evangelism

8.    Symbols

9.    Mystery

10. Rituals

The brands that successfully convert new followers and keep members faithful for years are those that tap into these basic human needs and pillars. Consider, for example, American Express. For 50 years the financial services organization has referred to its patrons as “members” rather than “customers.” It's also built an iconic brand by offering distinctive privileges, experiences, and services based on members' brand loyalty and participation. The goal is to make them feel privileged, superior, and part of an exclusive way of life for the chosen few. It works. Its membership rewards program grew exponentially within weeks of its initial launch and continues to be among the most successful loyalty programs today.

Apple is another “brand” religion. In fact, with a Q1 2014 record quarter of $57 billion in gross revenue, it's fair to say that has Apple has become one of the great religions of the consumer world. Like religion Apple has created symbols of belonging with its white ear buds, sleek iPads, and laptops with its radiant star-like Apple symbol. The brand presents a clear vision of how its products align with many of life's desires: freedom, power, connections, status, individualism.

Evangelism comes naturally among millions of Apple users. Just ask MacBook Pro or iPhone owners what they think of their product. Chances are, you'll find yourself in a long, enthusiastic conversation praising Apple and how it makes life better. Apple has also created unique rituals for its religion, such as its Genius Bar, its casual, personal style of selling, and its lack of cash registers and counters that would create barriers between customers and the preachers (i.e. sales staff). 

Building your brand's religion is simpler than it might seem. The first step is to move beyond orthodox marketing activities and towards those that connect with customers' souls—mainly, by tapping those strong psychological needs that validate our existence and promises of joy.

Consider the following:

  • How can you create a divine unity among your members?
  • What symbols and rituals set your brand apart from competing faiths in your space? 
  • What are your promises that keep customers' faithful for years and inspire them to bring lost sheep into your fold?

Although you can't offer eternal life or lasting joy with much credibility, you can offer promises aligned with the unconscious and conscious desires that drive most behavior. How religiously you do this is what will set your brand up for success in your life and your hereafter.

Jeanette McMurtry, principal of e4marketing, is an authority on psychology-based marketing, speaking at business events worldwide. She is a Back by Popular Demand trainer, speaker, and course instructor for the DMA.
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