Believing in Radio
Brand loyalty is a funny thing. People form allegiances to the brands they feel mirror their personal outlook and lifestyle, brands they believe will enhance and reinforce the persona they display to the rest of the world. If you’ve ever witnessed an argument between a PC fan and a MAC fan, you’ll know just how much passion a favourite brand can incite.
Loyal Apple Mac fans display an almost religious fervour, a point picked up several years ago by the philosopher and novelist Umberto Eco who termed the conflict ‘The Holy War: Mac vs. DOS’! If you’d like to see how far Eco went with this metaphorical linking of religious belief and product preference, click on the link at the bottom this page , if you’d like to know how the link between religious belief and product preference can benefit advertisers, then read on.
Few would disagree that when a product gets its branding just right, consumers will not only switch allegiances from old favourites, but will also act as maven-style brand advocates, converting friends and family alike. So, if well targeted brands have the ability to inspire such devotion, imagine the loyalty that actual ‘religious brands’ can inspire.
An Untapped Market
Often sidelined or ignored by advertisers, Christian radio stations garner incredibly loyal audiences, audiences that tend to restrict their radio engagement to the brands they know will consistently reflect their own ethics and life-view. In 2005, two independent US studies confirmed what Christian radio stations had been asserting for years, that advertisers should be embracing the large and often ignored Christian Radio audiences because they were unlikely to reach them via other radio formats – or indeed by other media.
Minimal Media Crossover
The Paragon Media Strategies research (US) revealed that 74% of Christian Radio listeners considered themselves strictly loyal to Christian Radio (whilst only 47% considered themselves loyal to a secular brand) . Around the same time, Interep posted their findings on Christian Radio audiences . Augie Ruckdeschel (Interep Research Analyst) stated that whilst they expected more of a crossover between formats, the results revealed that Christian Radio had “a more loyal exclusive audience…(that turns) to Contemporary Christian radio and not other radio stations as much as expected."
Ruckdeschel went on to say that Christian Radio audiences were also light consumers of other media. Interep's analysis showed that 43% of this audience did not subscribe to cable, 60% did not subscribe to satellite television and 31% were light users of television. When it came to new media, 34% also said that they had not used the internet within the past week. Of course, the US is renowned for having a large Christian population, but what about New Zealand?
New Zealand's Christian Audiences
In New Zealand's 2006 Census, just over 2 million people identified themselves as affiliated with Christianity and whilst this figure undoubtedly includes those who are only nominally Christian, we also know that 68% of Kiwis currently own a bible and that 60,000 copies of the book were sold in NZ outlets in 2007 . Whilst no Paragon-style study has yet been carried out here, there is one simple sign of just how media-loyal Kiwi Christians are and that is their willingness to put their hands in their pockets.
Thousands of Paying Listeners
Now celebrating 30 years of broadcasting, the Rhema Broadcasting Network is currently supported by over 70,000 financial contributors, members or subscribers. Rhema is now the biggest private, New Zealand owned network and a rarity in that it enjoys audiences who are actually putting their money where their ears are. Rhema’s own studies estimate that at any one time they have an average of 11,000 listeners nationwide. If the Paragon study is anything to go by, these listeners are unlikely to be hopping on to other non-religious stations – or indeed onto other media formats.
Yet some advertisers still need to be educated about the brand benefits and deeper audience engagement provided by including Christian Radio in their media schedules. Some may assume that you need to be a Christian brand or Christian-run company to advertise on a Christian station (you don’t). There may even be an underlying belief that a brand will ‘offend’ secular audiences by actively targeting Christians (it won’t – how many non-Christians do you know who tune in to Christian radio?)
Whatever the assumptions, the actuality is that by sidelining Christian Radio, advertisers are denying themselves the opportunity to engage with large numbers of loyal, targeted  audiences who just happen to base their media choices around their beliefs.
If you would like more information on advertising opportunities afforded by the Rhema Broadcasting Group, please contact your TRB Account Director.
 Click here to read the English translation of this now infamous article (originally written for the Italian news weekly Espresso, Sep 30, 1994).
 Click here to read a pdf preview of the 'Christian CHR Format Study 2005' carried out by Paragon Media Strategies in association with Goodratings Strategic Services and the Christian R&R Summit. To read the full study, please register with Paragon Media Strategies here (registration is free).
 Interep are America’s largest independent radio & internet representative firm. Click here to read their 'Report on Contemporary Christian Radio 2005'.
 Cited in the Bible Society Research 'Bible Engagement in New Zealand: Survey of Attitudes and Behavior 2007.'
 The Rhema Network includes Life FM (target audience 18-25 yrs) Radio Rhema (target audience 25–55 yrs) and Southern Star (target audience 50+ yrs).