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Younger folks are rejecting religion, how it impacts your marketing efforts

(MARKETING) Is faith-based marketing still a go-to for a wide audience, considering that millennials are leaving religion in droves, if not, what is?

Religion empty pews

Once upon a time in the 1950s, it was snazzy, zappy, and a clear time to be a marketer. With the recent world events, at that time, along with the growing pursuit of the picturesque vision of “The American Dream,” working on how to target white Christian men was the handy focus group default.

Here are just a few examples of what ads were displayed to the public back then:

budweiser ad
A happy “All-American” family waiting for wifey to finish dinner after a long day at the office.

marlboro man
A typical tough white male enjoying a “good” smoke.

satans cigarrete
A warning of marijuana in how it will affect “religious morals” and “family values,” starting with the wife.

We all know at this point in our lives this fantasy world is no longer real (thank you, cultural progression). But how has this cultural change impacted marketers in targeting the widely known and the almost-as-large-as-baby-boomers-demographic, millennials?

One substantial aspects is chosen religions.

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pew research chart

New Pew Research Center uncovered shifting trends regarding attitudes toward religions across the generations.

For generations now, less and less people are participating in (or even believing in) organized religion. It has been a steady drop in behaviors, beliefs, and the importance of religion in younger people’s lives overall.

But marketers should take heed of this warning as they dig into demographic data – religion and spirituality are not always connected, nor are they the same thing all the time.

Within this age of nuances, it is important to note that you can choose to believe in something without wanting to follow “traditional” organized beliefs. Meaning, people are not cookie cutters with their beliefs anymore. Just check out any current drama series and you can start seeing the different aspects of a personality, and how people are just downright complex.

What does this have to do with marketers though? When being presented with this information the first response would be, it has become “too complex” or “less effective” right?

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Wrong.

Yes, it isn’t as simple as just placing the word “God” somewhere as one once did, and marketers cannot just set out their own religious beliefs, no matter how connected to them they feel. It requires more care and creativity. Less bluntness.

Remember to take into consideration how others who might not feel as connected would perceive the message.

Typically if you come off as “preachy,” save that for your religious meeting place, not the side of my can of soda, thank you. But if you are reminding one to be thankful for the things they have, who wouldn’t like to take a moment of gratitude to say, “you’re right, I am thankful for this”?

As being part of the millennial generation (and yes, I will admit inherent bias), religion can sometimes feel like a step backward when trying to move forward into more inclusivity. Not because religion is limiting for most people, but the display of judgment that is openly practiced by some followers just isn’t culturally accepted anymore.

No one wants to be criticized about their life, and that is the type of perception that some millennials have with organized religion.

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But looking past the differences of religion, the overall messages of love, compassion, and acceptance are the spiritual connections that are important today.

That is what, in this writer’s opinion, marketing needs to lean into for the future.

Staff Writer, Kaiden Gray has experience in product management, strategic planning for non-profits, and can get through a series in a week on Netflix. He has traveled to over 20 countries, and when he's not in between flights, he's busy learning about the mysteries of the universe.

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