Business and Religion; A Risky Mixture?

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The fundamental business principles still apply despite a dynamically evolving technical generation. How often have we heard, “Don’t mix religion with business”?  It is advice freely expressed and usually followed across the full spectrum of business and industry for generations. But the mixture is not always detrimental to success. A strategic approach to targeting a specific religious segment of a market is not only common but legitimate, particularly when a product or service offering lends solutions to the targeted consumers faith based wants, needs and desires. But as a generalized marketing strategy, how much of your personal religious beliefs is prudent to your brand?

In today’s social marketing environment, marketers are encouraged to engage consumers and to cultivate long-term, individualized conversations that create brand loyalty. The goal is to connect to customers on an emotional, non-transactional level. Mixing your personal religious beliefs with your brand has the potential to negatively affect the business, particularly in smaller, more diverse markets where a business is dependent upon the whole of the market for survival. In this scenario, focusing on a religion as the sole drive of a brand’s identity can have a significantly negative impact on the bottom line. Businesses are derived from the concept that a product or service fill a need or provides a solution to a problem.

The required ingredient in successfully merging business and religion may very well be practicing the art of being subtle. While the president of Chick-fil-A’s public statement on his personal and company’s religious beliefs caused the potential alienation of an $850 billion dollar market segment, organizations like clothing retailer Forever 21 and fast food operator, In-N-Out Burger, both unobtrusively express their faith on the bottom of their bags and cups. Norm Miller, chairman of Interstate Batteries, openly talks about his faith and has several pages on their corporate website dedicated to his beliefs. Industry giant, Tyson Foods often mentions God in their corporate values but such interactions of faith and business rarely interfere with the marketer/consumer relationship.

In our increasingly diverse society, injecting personal religious beliefs too frequently or too forcefully into a business relationship is counter to professional behavior that requires that any business be respectful in a shared space with its customers. As we’ve seen in this election year, overt displays of personal views and opinions on religion, politics or social issues can be controversial, unwelcome and counterproductive to the goals and objectives of the business.