Religion may have been a very important part of people’s lives in the past. Now it still is for some people, especially some demographic groups, but the weight of religion is less and less. Societies are becoming more secular and the impact of organized religion much less relevant.
In 2019, for example, the sum of Spaniards who declared themselves atheists or agnostics was already higher than that of those who were practicing Catholics. This data may seem, at first, not very relevant to brands. At the end of the day, it is a matter of privacy and a somewhat swampy terrain in which to enter as a brand.
However, it is not. That people are more or less religious is not what is crucial in this story, but what it implies in terms of social changes and the relationship of consumers with their environment. Because religion does not only imply belief in certain dogmas, but also a social act. And although the citizens have eliminated dogmas and beliefs, they still want linked social acts.
Where are they finding them? In part, they are doing it with brands . Brands have become providers of cults and rituals, something that was once the domain of religions. New brands create connections that sustain spiritually. In the US market, where the secularization of society is starting now (in Europe it is a process that has been underway for a long time), brands like Peloton have echoes, from their secular reality, of what their consumers previously sought in the Christian .
The power of online content In addition to brands, digital content is filling those gaps that religions are leaving. It is not that you are going to believe in the internet above all things, but rather that you go online to meet needs that were previously covered with religion.
For example, this is the case with the effect that religious rituals had on some people in terms of mental health. This is what a study has just shown on an American sample of Current Forward, which marks how the young and not so young (it is a study on Generation Z, but also on millennials) are turning to online content for questions of morality, purposes or the meaning of life.
The study asked young people why they were doing to fill the gap left by religion. That gap was linked to something that gives purpose and meaning, that helps to have a moral compass and to help others, that offers a certain mental well-being and that connects with the idea of a shared culture and tradition.
Respondents explained that these points are now found in music, entertainment and, in general, in digital content. 45% of Gen Z members are actually using them for what previous generations used religion for.
YouTube or Instagram are now the ones who help them improve their mental health, help others or find a purpose in life. In fact, 46% of Gen Z members and 44% of millennials are very clear that non-religious beliefs and non-religious practices can cover what religion has traditionally covered (and since the US, where the study has been done, it is less secular than Europe, it is quite probable that if that question were asked here the percentage would be much higher).
Connected to this, young consumers themselves have a closer relationship with brands. 59% of Z’s and 60% of millennials acknowledge that they have brands they “love.”