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SS 67 – Learn About The Faith Driven Consumer with Chris Stone

Episode: 67

Guest: Chris Stone

iTunes: Stream Episode

Chris Stone appears on the Solomon Success show with Jason Hartman to talk about the faith driven consumer and faithnomics. Chris Stone is the founder of the company Faith Driven Consumer and his team does extensive research and surveys in the Christian market and also help American brands meet Christian needs. On the show, Chris and Jason talk about free speech, Christian movies, and more.

 

Key Takeaways:
2:00 – There are 41 million adult Christians spending roughly $2 trillion a year.
5:30 – Did Chick-fil-A make the right move? Is their religious stance hurting their business?
10:15 – Is Hollywood profiting off of Christianity?
15:45 – Hollywood has gone from producing for the masses to producing for market segments.
20:10 – Is it wrong to profit off of Christians?
25:40 – Freedom of speech in the US may no longer be free for Christians.
29:25 – There should be an open discussion among people and then have the market place decided whether it’s right or wrong.

 

Tweetables:
“We have determined that you can embrace multiple groups by paying to special attention to each in their own way.”

“The Christian community spends $2 trillion dollars a year. $2 trillion is in of itself the 8th largest economy in the world.”

“As faith driven consumers, we’re a lot slower to the market place party than the LGBT community.”

 

Mentioned In This Episode:
FaithDrivenConsumer.com

 

Transcript

Jason Hartman:
It’s my pleasure to welcome Chris Stone to the show. He is founder of Faith Driven Consumer and a blogger at Faithnomics and we’re going to talk about the economy of faith really. So, let’s dive into it. Chris, welcome, how are you?

Chris Stone:
Doing very well, Jason. Thank you for having me on your show today.

Jason:
The pleasure is all mine. This is a very interesting topic, definitely a niche one, but there’s a big market place out there I guess for consumers who buy based on their faith, isn’t there?

Chris:
Certainly. We’ve measured the community at 41 million adults, 17% of the US adult population spending a very significant $2 trillion dollars a year, so a very meaningful subset of the overall American market place.

Jason:
That’s in the American market place and of course around the world it’s even bigger than that and when you say faith, what faith are you measuring and why?

Chris:
Well, the group that we are particularly measuring is a subset of the American Christian market place. Again, we share the size, so it’s significant minority group in the US. When we consider it, we were looking at unifying factors and while there are many, many faiths and America, when you look at non-Christian faiths as a percentage of the whole, there are meaningful, but they’re relatively small. So, that was how we identified the group, just as simply as that subset of Christian. Those whose faith is large enough part of their life that it is has a significant impact on their daily decisions.

Jason:
Give us an example of some of these decisions. I mean, I just can’t imagine that this plays that big of a role into maybe one personal habits. Give us an example if you would. Maybe it’s a lot bigger than I think, I guess.

Chris:
Well, actually we’ve measured it and it is a significant factor in where people shop, what they buy, what they watch. Many people, you know, there’s a, in the economy, there is a theory called the triple bottom line. It was really driven from a green or ecological point of view. It’s people, planet, and profit. So, there is a significant basis of people buying for where they have affinity in for brands that culturally align with them or compatible with them. Christians are no different. We look at it as people, our version of planet and that triple bottom line is more of the human ecology or our culture and profit. Every company that does business does so as a for-profit entity with the intention of making a profit and it’s important what they do. If I am ecologically minded, I want to see how much post consumer content recycle materials are doing or how they’re impacting the environment.

As a Christian, I would look at it very much on the profit that you’re earning from my business. What are you doing with that? Are you doing things that are compatible with my world view. So, I think it’s a really significant part. A matter fact, we find that about 75% of all Americas are driven to do business at least impacted on some way based upon the world view or the lens in which they see the world around them. So, it’s not just in Christian issue, it’s more of a universal issue and we’re measuring through that lens of a faith driven consumer and their biblical world view.

Jason:
Very interesting. So, obviously Chick-fil-A has been in the news a lot and I think they’ve been very unfairly criticized, but I wonder, you know, when you look at it from the brand side, from the business side of the equation, is the faithnomics, if you will, hurting or helping them in the overall scheme of things?

Chris:
Well, many companies have engaged in significant market segmentation. They have special teams in their marketing department that may reach out to Hispanics or the LGBT community or those who are environmental minded as an example. So, we’re simply adding through the fiathnomics lens which kind of the brand’s lens here. How to reach out to this particular community and form a stable affinity or relationship, if you will, the market is responding very well to that, they’re expressing a lot of interest in those consumers, because everyone is trying to gain market share and they’re doing so by creating affinity with certain groups, ours just being one.

We’re not asking any of these brands, like let’s take a major national retailer like Walmart or you mentioned Chick-fil-A, just two diverse brands that represent the entire market place. So, we’re simply saying, make us part of America’s rainbow diversity or market mix and brands are finding that message to be very intriguing, because everybody is looking to improve their business.

Jason:
What did advice do you have for a brand, a company, who wants to make this part of their brand identity or their marketing mix?

Chris:
Well, we provide a lot of resources to help them build that affinity and so you can come to someone like us and say, show us how to reach this market, but like any market segment, the important aspect is to learn what’s important to the group. What’s that community value? What are they looking for in a relationship? The majority of faith driven consumers that we have surveyed and we’ve done extensive research on it indicate that they are actively looking for brands that reach out to them specifically and say, you’re welcome here as they’re doing for other groups and what the simple secret to that is to learn what people care about and then provide. A wise man once told me, “People buy from those they know and those they like.” So, get to know me and as a result, I’ll grow to like you.

Jason:
I want to ask you about maybe anymore additional examples on the consumer side or the brand and company side as to how their behaving, but I just want to ask you first, you know, what questions do you usually get about this? It’s such a niche area. It’s really quite interesting.

Chris:
Well, what people asked us originally were who were these people and do they really exist and we have established through considerable primary research part of our organization as a research firm. We have quantified and qualified this group of people. At this point I would say we’re the national expert on Christian consumers, so the existence of the group is fairly well known and accepted and companies are rapidly understanding the economic power of this and what they’re simply asking is what matters to this communities, what matters to those consumers, and we’re able to, from that research, tell them. There are certain activities that faith driven consumers find pleasing and there’s certain that calls them pause and our job is to help people to find those. We have determined that you can embrace multiple groups by paying to special attention to each in their own way.

So, this is something that American brands can embrace without abandoning any other group. There will be areas where those groups have cross purposes and those areas we recommend the brand just take a more neutral position. On the other hand, a brand might particularly say, well, I’m going to favor one group over the other here in this area and that’s a business decision that they have to make. We’re simply saying are we welcoming your brand and where there’s that claim of distinction we’re looking for proof of performance. So, how can they actively engage faith driven consumers is the activity that we’re looking for.

Jason:
Chris, talk to us about the issue of Hollywood and the media in general. Is Hollywood profiting off Christianity? I tend to think that with its general leftist leaning, they tend to make Christians look bad in movies and television shows. You know, they’re either the dumb red neck or some kind of radial person. What’s your take on Hollywood?

Chris:
Well, we work fairly extensively in Hollywood. There is significant understanding of the value of the Christian market place. Variety, the Hollywood trade publication has an annual conference called their Purpose conference. I spoke at it last June. It is focused on the faith and family market. I spoke with the president of marketing of one of the major film makers/distributors recently and his indication was your market has been important and now it’s the market.

Jason:
What would he say it’s the market? That’s interesting. So, in other words, he’s saying it’s increasing in value for them.

Chris:
It’s increasing in value.

Jason:
What do you attribute that to?

Chris:
Well, I think they figured it out that there are a lot of people and there is a hunger for movies. What they have not figured out yet at least at the large studio level of how to make the movie so that it resonates with the faith driven consumer community. 2014 was dubbed the year of the Bible movie. It started with Noah as a Biblical story and it concluded with Exodus. Great idea to produce those two movies. The Execution from the stand point of a faith driven consumer was not well received, but there were on the other side many smaller films that did very well.

Heaven is for Real as an example, God’s Not Dead as an example, Son of God yet another example. Next year, Ben-Hur will be coming out. Paramount learned from their lesson with Noah and is producing Ben-Hur with a great team. Mark Burnett and his wife Roma Downey are going to be lending that and we have great expectations for that movie. Exodus and Noah were driven by their directors in a manner that really didn’t resonate with faith driven consumers, but to give you an idea, we did research specifically on the movie Exodus and of all Americans, not just Christian Americans, 75% of the America public said I would like to see the movie Exodus, the portrayal of Moses leading the Jews out of slavery if it’s accurate.

The same question if it was, if it differed from the Biblical text, would I want to go see that movie and it was 68% negative. So, if you were a Hollywood film maker and you found a subject to 75% of Americans had a positive indication and interesting in seeing, I think that you would see that to be very profitable. After all, while it is art, it is commercial art and the purpose of it is to make money. The problem with Fox’s production of Exodus this year with Ridley Scott being the director is that they missed the faith driven consumer. Actually, the whole country’s criteria there in that movie is done very poorly and primarily because Ridley Scott re-wrote the story to suit his own view and America did not respond very well. The last numbers that I saw, they had made domestically less than half of what they had spent and the movie is about run its course in the theater.

Jason:
Is the Hollywood group doing just as profiteers? Is there any real belief behind it? I mean, obviously that’s an impossible question to answer, but I’ll let you take a shot at it if you’re willing.

Chris:
Well, certainly there are many people of faith, Christian faith in Hollywood that work on every day movies, but they have a strong interest in bringing movies to the Christian community. There is an extremely high level of pent up demand in the Christian market place for entertainment that resonates, so these people are actively producing movies and there are doing so with good intent. To say there’s a blanket of dark, evil sinister whatever in Hollywood is an over statement. I had lunch with a producer recently on the lot at Sony and we had a great time of Christian brotherhood and we prayed before we ate and had an open dialogue about Christian faith and we were all comfortable doing that. There are in the middle of Hollywood studio.

So, it is possible and as they’re trying to meet the needs of African Americas and Hispanics and LGBT market, they are going from a strictly mass format, producing for the masses, to recognizing that there are market segments and they are trying to reach each of those. It’s a learning curve and they’ll have to master that. People like ourselves are there to provide counsel. Sometimes they’re willing to listen and sometimes they’re not, but that’s no different than anybody else.

Jason:
Do you track at all the other markets? I mean, you alluded to this in the beginning when I asked you about it, but you focus on the Christian market, because more easy to identify where that faith based spending is and so forth, but take for example the Muslim market, do you look at that at all? I’m sure you’ve look at it to some extent, but maybe not studied it in depth. Any thoughts or insights?

Chris:
Numerically speaking when you identify the Jewish population or a Muslim population, while it’s a very important part of our national heritage, while it’s a very important group, numerically it’s very small and in our study we’ve decided to just focus on a particular group and at that 17% range, faith driven consumers are similar in size to the Hispanic market. A little bit bigger than the African America market. So, it’s something that marketers can, as we say, it’s large enough to matter, it’s small enough to manage. You can form a relationship with the group, because it’s homogeneous enough, it’s similar enough to where you can reach out to with common message, but it’s large enough where it actually makes a big impact and American brands business.

Jason:
Do you counsel brands and companies on how they should do this? I mean, are you saying they can cross that bridge and appeal to both markets? I mean, if they do that aren’t they just watering the whole message down or aren’t they just not really trying to appeal to either if they’re trying to appeal to both or should they sort of take a firmer position? What’s your counsel to them on that kind of thing?

Chris:
That’s going to be a business decision. Initially as a consumer advocate, as a faith driven consumer personally, my goal is to meet the needs, the wants, and the desires of that market segment. However when we went about that process we realized that someone needed to build a bridge to bridge the gap between faith driven consumers and American brands, because faith driven consumers and Christianity in general had been pushed out of the culture to a significant level. So, most brands that we’ve encountered, while they have a strong interest, did not have a strong internal ability to build that.

So, by default, we have become consultants to brands and advocates to the consumer and we’ve taken the role of that bridge builder, because we have an expertise, this is what a brand strategist is what I am professionally, so it’s a natural segue and as a member of the community, I have native language expertise in that community so we’re able to do that.

What we’re finding in talking to major American brands is that at a senior level they are engaging with us and they’re listening. These people obviously have better things to do if this wasn’t a value or interest to them. They’re taking the time to listen, because they see in a rapidly diversifying market place, that it is no longer mass merchandising and mass advertising as it was 20 or 30 years ago. It’s a segmented highly diverse market and they are having to respond to that and when they see what is a rapidly a merging and economically powerful segment like faith driven consumers, they choose to take notice. Many of them may in fact be faith driven consumers themselves, although most of them just have a practice business view point on it.

Jason:
How do you feel about, well, Hollywood again, but companies in general profiting off of this? I mean, isn’t that the Bible admonished against?

Chris:
Well, we look at it very simply. There are unmet needs on both sides of that equation. Faith driven consumers have differentiated, quantifiable needs in the market place and if we can help them meet those needs, that’s great. Let’s go back to that from a faith stand point, look at that triple bottom line. As a faith driven consumer, I have needs. I am a person, I have needs. I need those needs met. The business has a need for profit, if while engaging me it moves the culture, it improves the culture by injecting those faith driven values, then I as a faith driven consumer, I see that as a win.

So, let’s look at from a stewardship standpoint. Stewardship is something that anyone has been to church more than a few times understands the concept of stewardship and the concept of a tithe. The concept that everything that we have was given to us by God and he asked that we return a portion of that to Him. The question is, does God care about the 90% of what he gave us that we keep for ourselves? The answer is, unless you’re in direct ministry, is probably your greatest point of impact.

If I’m spending $2 trillion dollars as a market segment, I can have significant impact. If you look at it, $2 trillion dollars is in of itself the 8th largest economy in the world. That’s a significant leverage to use and if you look at other market segments and I’ll give you the classic probably example is the LGBT community. Numerically small at 3% of the population, economically large and they have leveraged that value to completely change our American culture by engaging American brands and getting them to embrace and welcome to them. From an economic standpoint it’s a great case study.

As faith driven consumers, we’re a lot slower to the market place party, if you would, than the LGBT community, but we’re rapidly understanding that to have an impact on the world around us, to have an influence on the American culture it really starts in the economy, in the market place. Hollywood is a big driver. Our friend’s in Washington think they drive the economic, but they are the tail of the dog and it’s a kind of a representation of what’s already happened. They’re not setting the tone. So, if you want to have an impact you do so through the market place and through Hollywood, because that’s where culture is set.

Jason:
Chris, do you find social media or government are inhibiting any activism on this side? It’s just amazing. Feels like you can’t say anything any more in society. I don’t know what happened to free speech, but it’s definitely been under attack. Are there any road blocks there?

Chris:
We have engaged in some activism primarily when someone who claims to be about equality or who claims about tolerance when their actions really indicate that they are in favor of protecting the right of a certain group while trampling the rights and silencing another group. We have seen people of faith recently lose their job because they expressed their faith. Currently that’s happening in Atlanta. The major of the city counsel just fired their fire chief. They terminated their fire chief because he expressed a deeply held religious conviction. Phil Robertson experienced that in December of last year when he was put on hiatus from his show.

We’ve taken a position publicly and said, hey, we’re not for discrimination, we’re for true tolerance, and true tolerance means that the values and the deeply held beliefs of the faith driven consumer should be allowed to be expressed. That’s part of the American discourse. While we have used social media to promote that, we have found on a couple of occasions that Twitter has blocked our address when it comes to light in the public press, they turn it back on. As a matter of fact, one night when they did that during our #IStandWithPhil campaign, every news program that night was talking about it and very, very quickly Twitter turned it back on.

Jason:
So, explain that for just a moment. IStandWithPhil program is about the Duck Dynasty guy, right?

Chris:
Yes, exactly. They shut us down.

Jason:
Okay, so what happened there? Twitter actually blocked your tweets? Is that what you’re saying? Under what pretense? Did they say it was homophobic or something? I mean, that’s insane! Like, they let all kinds of people say anything. Gangsters and terrorists use Twitter, but the IStandWithPhil campaign is considered more evil than that?

Chris:
If I go to England right now, for that matter of fact, go to Canada, and I stand on the street corner and I read from the new testament, 1 Corinthians chapter 6, and I get down about verse 9 where I start naming off sins that are an abomination to the lord and I get to that part that in the string of sins that refers to homosexuality, I have now committed hate speech and I can be arrested and fined. In the United States that’s not the case yet, but if you are the fire chief in Atlanta, you can be fired for doing just that, because he wrote a book 160 pages long for his men’s Bible studies at his church about a page and a half of it, according to media accounts, deal with the subject of homosexuality as a sin and the major and the city counsel said, that this is not in alignment with their beliefs.

Councilman Juan of the Atlanta city counsel and I quote pretty much verbatim, “If you work for the city and your beliefs do not align with ours, then you must leave those beliefs at the door.” That is purely and simply censorship and control of thought and speech. That’s not the America that I believe. That’s not the American many others do and it’s simply because he expressed his religious beliefs. Now, I may not agree with everything that someone says, but I recognize they have the freedom, constitutionally and culturally to say it and then I can engage in an open discourse. My position may move, their position move, but America is about free speech and when you control speech to the level that the counsel in Atlanta is trying to do, it’s reminiscent of totalitarian government and I think people lost sight of what America is about. There’s so much political correctness that it’s really getting, is gotten out of hand.

Jason:
Yeah, I think it was Voltaire that said something along the lines of, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend you to the death for your right to say it.” It’s just unbelievable that people are stoning people to death and cutting their heads off get a pass, but a Christian makes a remark, I mean, just says something, and they’re vilified as if they’re the most evil in the world. They run a private company, never discriminate against anybody and state their beliefs, you know, there are protestors outside of their store. This is insanely imbalanced.

Chris:
It’s part of the progressive methodology. I actually heard Bill Maher on his show one night saying that, this is his words paraphrased, “We can not allow anyone to appose our progressive agenda.” You know, can not allow it. It is a religion to some people and in pursuit of that, they will do anything including silencing the opposition. We on the other hand believe that while all ideas and all beliefs are not good and while not all are right, you know, we’re open to allowing free discussion and letting the market place decide. I’ll say what I believe, you say what you believe, and then we’ll let the market place decide. So, we are really about true tolerance and true inclusion and that’s what we’re standing up for at Faith Driven Consumer.

Jason:
Well, the interesting is, I’ll just ask you for your comment on this, but many years ago I did an article about what I call the monologue media and the dialogue media. With that, the old media being the monologue media whether it’s book publishing, Hollywood movies, television, all of that world, newspaper, of course they have an oped page, but big deal. That’s nothing in the scheme of things. It’s a monologue, it’s a one way flow, and that media has been controlled by the left mostly for decades, of course, and then the dialogue media crops up just in recent history and that’s the blogsphere and it’s talk radio where people can call in and debate things and it’s more deeply debated than a sound bite on television and that media, oddly, is more Libertarian or to the right. It’s just interesting that the left never seems to make any significant headway in the dialogue media. I wonder why.

Chris:
Well, I don’t know particularly, but you are accurate. The dialogue media tends to go right and the monologue seems to go to the left. Maybe that’s because what we have found is that the left really doesn’t care what you have to say, they only want to tell you what they think. As an example, we have had countless people who have signed a recent petition to put up to get the chief in Atlanta reinstated.

Jason:
Give out your website if you would Chris and tell people where they can find out more about this.

Chris:
Well, you can find us at FaithDrivenConsumer.com. If you work for an American brand, if you’re a marketer, we have, as you indicated, a blog and we have a section of that website called Faithnomics that’s written from a brand’s perspective of people who want to learn about this community and how to engage them. If you’re a consumer, you can find brand reviews, movie reviews, and other valuable resources at FaithDrivenConsumer.com.