Faith

Mysterious Power of Religion in Advertising

Amazon commercial begs the question: Why isn't faith used in more ads?

Although many companies shy away from religious messages or suggestions in advertising, Amazon released a heartening commercial last week showing the friendship between a priest and an imam.

The men appear to be longtime friends, sharing conversation, laughter, and time with one another. Ultimately, there is a commonality between the two (they both have sore knees), and they each purchase the same solution through Amazon (knee pads). They both kneel in prayer in their separate places of worship with newfound comfort. The advertisement is an encouraging reminder that friendship and humanity are possible between those with different religious beliefs.

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According to a Gallup poll taken on Christmas Eve in 2015, 75 percent of Americans identify with a Christian faith. Pew Research Center estimated in the same month and year that approximately 1.8 percent of Americans are Jewish, 1 percent are Muslim, and 0.7 percent are Hindu. So nearly 80 percent of Americans consider faith to be part of their lives.

A number of movies and TV series over the last five years alone have been biblically based. Why, then, does religion not play more of a role in national advertising?

For massive companies, there is a concern about discrimination and alienation by advertising to specific faiths — but consider the success of Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby, who are closed on Sundays and hold to traditional Christian principles.

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For as many as have professed to be offended by this public declaration and adherence to religious convictions, there is an even greater loyalty and appreciation from consumers who admire their stance. Religious communities share endorsements of and devotion to trusted merchants. As a whole, they are a powerful, loyal audience.

Traditionally, advertising communicates a need to be fulfilled by a product or service. It is human nature to desire what is seen or described, and to feel unfulfilled until that newfound desire is met or — more specifically — until that product or service is purchased. Emotion drives decision-making — and conventional advertising uses a somewhat negative emotion of dissatisfaction to drive business.

Sometimes, though, there’s a twist on traditional marketing that taps into the positive emotion of human joy. The 1971 Coca-Cola commercial “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” evoked a sense of unity through humanity. Emotions are transferable, and naturally, an affirming affection is as powerful as — or more powerful than — an adverse one.

Related: As Year of Mercy Ends, God’s Love Lingers

So if personal spiritual beliefs provide so many people with love, awe, and peace, tapping into the best and most compelling of human emotions, why such hesitation to acknowledge those beliefs in the world of advertising? Is faith so intimate or divisive it cannot be represented without fear of provocation from nonbelievers or those who disagree? Or is religion instead so sacred it should not be minimized in the effort to hawk merchandise?

Regardless of differences in spirituality, humans share time on earth together. They experience and relate to one another through the challenges and accomplishments in life. There is unity because of this bond — the bond of humankind. Marketing that acknowledges and celebrates this basic understanding between one another is powerful, memorable, and accomplishes more than just advertising — it inspires hope.

Katie Nations is a wife of 15 years and a working mother of three young children. She lives in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 

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