Exploring the Differential Effects of Religious and Spiritual Cues in Online Advertising: A Study of U.S. Christians and the Nonreligious during COVID-19

Carrie La Ferle, Sidharth Muralidharan, Osnat Roth-Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

During times of distress, people tend to seek religious or spiritual guidance as a coping mechanism. COVID-19 brought much uncertainty into the lives of people across the world, providing a unique window into the various constructs and individual preferences related to religion and spirituality. While previous findings focus on the importance of religious cues and religiosity in advertising, scholars have not paid much attention to spirituality. A growing number of Americans do not identify with any religion, and studies about the nonreligious, especially atheists and agnostics, are relatively scant. Therefore, the aim of the current study, grounded in congruity theory and cue utilization theory, was to align ad orientation (religious versus spiritual) with individual life orientation (religious versus nonreligious) to explore the impact of these relationships on advertising effectiveness. Findings show that Christians had strong and favorable attitudes toward both the religious and spiritual ads but stronger intention to learn more about the brand only after exposure to the religious ad. In contrast, nonreligious participants had significantly more favorable attitudes and higher intention after exposure to the spiritual ad (versus religious ad). These findings contribute to an initial theoretical understanding of these two groups, with important implications for advertisers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-106
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Advertising
Volume51
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2022

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