Q Los Angeles 2013
Arts + Entertainment
Science + Tech
Brand Loyalty vs. Brand Idolatry
We’re in the businesses of branding. Branding is all about communication, and clearly defining what makes a company, product, or experience distinct and memorable from others. Companies who strive to serve customers faithfully ask in return for brand loyalty over their competitors. Is that so bad?
We’ve seen the value of brand loyalty with brands like Apple and Starbucks, but what happens when that loyalty turns into idolatry? That’s where margins and sustainable growth are most achievable. But from a Christian perspective, that’s the exact opposite of what we want to see happen in people’s lives. God is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5) and wants no others in front of Him. After all, it is His first commandment.
Yet everyday we insert tangible gods in place of an invisible One. We easily look at the story of the Israelites in the desert making golden calves, as they’ve just been miraculously rescued, and we think, “What a bunch of idiots! How could they be so blind? I would have faith out the wahzoo if I were them.” Really? Are we that different?
While there’s nothing wrong with capitalism or building a profitable business, should a business strive to become a product or service that is worshipped by its customers?
You may think worship is a strong word, but think about what brands consume your thinking or that you find yourself marching behind. Is it the latest Apple iPhone or iPad? Is it the new black BMW 700 series with graphite self-warming seats? Is it the tantalizing allure of the Starbucks green lady?
Social media has revolutionized the idea of brand loyalty, particularly through the use of Facebook. Our lives seem deeply invested in that brand. We’ve known some to take “Facebook Fasts” even. But from a strategy perspective, if you’ve developed a brand so compelling that your consumers require intentional self-discipline to take time away from it, you’ve succeeded in a huge way.
So, knowing that brands have the ability to become idols begs the question, “who’s responsible?” Is it our job as individuals to study our own hearts and not idolize the products and services we identify with? Or is it a corporation’s responsibility to make sure that they aren’t promoting their brand to be idolized? How does a company push to provide a healthy amount of value without becoming an idol? We tend to think that it’s a personal responsibility of individuals to clear their hearts of idols… Or, are we just cigarette makers blaming people for smoking too much while trying to get them to buy as many cigarettes as possible?
How do you live in a way that allows room for your faith, and not the brands you consume, to define your lifestyle?
Who is responsible for the idols in our marketplace? Should the nature of marketing be altered or is it the individual's responsibility to guard their own lives?
Great questions. I'm about to lead a branding conversation in the morning with a company. I'm helping them communicate their mission and product in a more succinct and effective way. My goal in branding them is to help them communicate their diverse products in a focused way that enables them to have traction in people's minds. I certainly don't want to make people worship their company, but I do want them to have a clear and compelling "frame" for their products. I will be thinking a lot about this.
You cant be all knowing and all loving and still be petty and jealous. Also, If there is a god, I doubt he is jealous of apple...
Great, thought-provoking piece.
Ultimately, it is my responsibility to not idolize a brand name. However, if I'm a very satisfied Apple customer, I'm not worshiping Apple to continue to buy and/or use Apple products. If I continue to get more "bang-for-the-buck" from any particular brand name product, I'm actually being a wise steward of my God-given resources to stay with said product/brand name.
Penso que nosso coração é uma fábrica de ídolos. E mesmo que o marketing se preocupe em não passar a ideia de que aquele produto é o que precisamos para sermos felizes, nossa alma assim o fará.
E como não acredito na mudança estrategional do marketing, ficamos nós à deriva de uma sociedade idólatra que assim o faz, ainda que inconscientemente, de acordo com sua natureza caída.
Eis nossa luta!
Daniel's comment translated:
I think our heart is an idol factory. And even if the marketing does not bother to give the idea that the product is what we need to be happy, our souls will.
And since I do not believe in changing [estrategional] marketing, we got the drift of an idolatrous society that does so, albeit unconsciously, according to his fallen nature.
This is our fight!
Kyle J. Schroeder
Participated in a study this evening entitled Portraits of Christ.
Where I was warmly and lovingly reminded that Jesus is the most worthy object of our imagination. (Hebrews 12:2) Jesus is the most worthy recipient of our adoration.
Matthew 2:11 and that Jesus is the most worthy model or our emulation.
1 John 2:6
I wish I wished for Mystery above mystique.
I think many people would learn of their idolatry and addiction if Chick-Fila went out of business. If you've ever been to "The World of Coke" in Atlanta, id say that's a good example of a company celebrating it's brand in a pretty evangelistic way. Apple of course is an addiction as it's been mentioned above... I know more than a few Disney freaks. I suppose you can be a fan of all sorts of stuff. Movies, music, waterfalls, big rocks, rivers. Some folks are going to fill their lives with more than a few brands; maybe it's just an huge category of stuff. Maybe they're addicted to all technology or maybe it's information. You worship with your wallet right? Your mind is on your money? Your heart is where your spending most your mulla, most your time? - My question is what if that organization asking for brand loyalty is your well branded church? What if churches are doing such a savvy cool job of ultra-branding, that we've attracted a crowd to us -rather than the gospel? Worship leaders and super speakers and lights and flashy graphics aren't of the devil or nuthin. In fact I like not being bored. But... I know we're responsible in making sure we're not asking for merely brand loyalty! Corporations on the other hand... I ain't so worried about. It's kinda what they do. As Christians we're asked to guard our hearts, so while we're considering what brands we support with our dollars and if that's unhealthy or not, we might wanna do a bit of a soul check on why we're at our church and make sure those reasons are of God. It'd be a shame to discover you were worshiping your pastor rather than Jesus wouldn't it?
I am a manager at Apple. I am not speaking on behalf of Apple. I see every day the way people react to the products my company makes. We have very happy customers, a lot of them. I think that there are a lot of benefits to using Apple products as opposed to the competition and that there is value that accompanies those benefits. As was previously intimated, buying superior products that work well and last longer is really practicing good stewardship. I also believe that a company is doing exactly what it is supposed to do when it builds products or services that outperform its competition. Building loyal customers and a sustainable competitive advantage is a goal all businesses strive for. It is not the fault of a company if people are idolizing its products, services, or leaders. The fault for this idolatry could be laid at the feet of those of us who know the One who fills that void in our souls. If we were truly doing our job of helping others fill their spiritual needs then perhaps there wouldn't be an issue of brand idolatry.
Interesting article - I appreciate Nathan McGill's comments. "We worship with our wallets." So true. Do we think about the businesses we support with our money? About the damage it may be doing to certain peoples and the places they live? About the wars our government may be fighting on behalf of businesses and "our people" in other countries so we can have easier access to materials or cheap labor? Is God the God of America or of all nations? We act as if He's here to serve America and our comforts vs. us serving Him in the ways and means of how we live our lives.
In reference to church branding... It's scary to think how many of us think we're worshiping Jehovah, but are truly participating in Baal worship. Are we there to worship faithfully in a community of believers, or are we there because it's entertaining?
In reference to "bang for your buck"...the Christian life is not about efficiency or productivity. It's about faithfulness. Patience is a fruit of the Spirit for crying out loud. (The fruit of the Spirit is not happiness, efficiency, productivity, healthy 401ks, etc). I think much of the church has, unfortunately, taken too many cues from Corporate America, trying to "develop leaders."
This could go on and on, but at the end of the day we have to ask is our witness:
1. self-proclaiming we are Christians and we believe "this" and "this" and "not this," or
2. letting our witness be displayed through how we try to imitate Christ (caring for the poor - which means giving our money away, dying to self, etc).
I don't want to dismiss the discussion of branding creating idolatry in us, but I will say that we are probably overly-fortunate people blogging about this idea because we have been incredibly blessed to have the option to create idols through the monetary choices we make. Many do not have that luxury.
There's coming a day we'll all have to stand and give an account for the things we've done in this life. If we would keep that thought in clear focus, it will inform our daily relational and financial habits.
I think you have to constantly put to test the quality of brands as to not fall into the idolatry mode.
BTW, I ditched Facebook two years ago and I don't miss it.
Christian non-profits particularly can create brand pits that we fall into. Are we really attractted to the mission of an organization or are we worshipping at the alter of self piety and/or leader worship. Consider this the next time you discuss a radio or TV program that you enjoy - can you name the program or do you call it by the leader's name?
Personal brand pit - Are I willing to fly half way around the world to witness to India but do no outreach in my own community... idol of coolness associated with travel to exotic places?
Not against brands - just sayin....
Great article - great heart check. Thank you.
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