Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Church of Starbucks

Check out this YouTube video that finds humor in the marketing strategies used by churches. Many churches use marketing strategies similar to those used by secular businesses, such as offering certain goods and services to first-time visitors or advertising through newspapers and the internet. This video hypothesizes an opposite direction of influence, i.e., that a secular business could look to a church for marketing ideas. Part of the humor in the video is that it takes this direction of influence to an extreme level. I suspect many of the jokes will make more sense viewers who have attended certain types of churches, but any viewer can use his/her imagination and still get a good laugh.

Though it might not be the intent of the video's creators, the video is ultimately saying something about secularization. As discussed in class, we have observed secularization at the (meso-) level of religious organizations. In fact, the marketing strategies can sometimes be so similar between churches and secular businesses that the churches do seem like a type of business. Or businesses can seem like a type of church.

In one sense, this should not be surprising because both churches and secular businesses, at least in the U.S., are supplying goods and services in competitive market environments. Yet, the key difference lies in the types of goods and services being offered. Religious groups specialize in the production of clubs goods, which means religious groups must confront challenges in production not faced by some other firms. Religious goods also have a certain type of "habit-forming" property because of the role of religious capital. One of the important aspects of a church's strategy in gaining new adherents is getting people "addicted" to the religious goods and services, either because they develop a "taste" for it or because the social component of consumption has increased. One funny thing about the Starbucks example in the video is that both of these components are at work with coffee. Coffee is addictive, and drinking coffee can be a very social activity.

1 comment:


    Hajj, Magic or Religion?

    I have witnessed Hajj so many times during my life, but I actually never thought of the issue the way I did when I was reading this report today. I've always read the article with a total belief in Hajj and the reason behind it. Despite that, today I tried to put my beliefs aside and tried to think in the perspective of this class. Why Makah and not any other place? Is the place itself supernatural? Is this magic or religion?

    The answer might be clear after knowing that those pilgrims do not go to Makah seeking a supernatural force; the place itself is not supernatural. The reason why they go, I believe, is exchanging with a supernatural being; Allah. By coming to hajj, those Muslims believe that they are having an extended and exclusive relationship with Allah. This is why this action is religion and not magic.


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