Church marketing : the role of market orientation and brand image in church participation
2017-01-19T01:34:40Z (GMT) by
Since its conception, the concept of ‘market orientation’ has been largely regarded as an employee-perceived phenomenon due to its focus on employees as the unit of analysis. The examination of market orientation from customer perspective (‘perceived market orientation’) remains an under-researched topic, particularly within the non-profit sector. The present study seeks to address this research gap through an investigation of the role of ‘perceived market orientation’ in affecting ‘customer participation’ with churches as the research context. The use of churches as a research context has become increasingly common in studies of non-profit and services organisations. Although the implementation of marketing techniques in the church context has been extensive, there has been little examination of the effectiveness of these methods in encouraging church participation. Consequently, previous studies in this area have failed to contribute to a theoretical understanding of how marketing can be used to motivate participation. It is thus apparent that there is a need for more research in this area to examine the potential role of concepts such as ‘perceived market orientation’ and ‘brand image’ in affecting church participation. This research incorporated two stages of research design in the form of qualitative and quantitative techniques. The qualitative phase involved in-depth interviews with Church Goers (CGs) and Non Church Goers (NCGs). Insights gained from the interviews helped the present author to incorporate relevant constructs as predictors of church participation in the conceptual framework. The quantitative phase involved the distribution of self-administered questionnaires using convenience sampling technique. CG respondents were approached through Assemblies of God (AOG) church leaders in Melbourne metropolitan and suburban areas whereas NCG respondents were recruited through newspaper advertisement. A total of 564 usable questionnaires were obtained representing 42% of the total number of respondents approached in both groups. Exploratory Factor Analysis (EFA) and Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA) were employed to establish construct reliability and validity as well as measurement invariance. Subsequently, the Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) technique was employed to analyse the hypothesised relationships between key constructs in the conceptual framework. The results of the study indicate that ‘perceived market orientation’ plays an important role in affecting the church participation of both CG and NCG respondents. An examination of corollary hypotheses reveals that ‘interfunctional coordination’ performs the strongest effect on church participation. Further, ‘customer orientation’ was only found to be significantly associated with church participation in CG group whereas ‘competitor orientation’ was not found to be positively associated with church participation in either group of respondents. The ‘brand image’ construct in the present study was developed to examine the church’s ability in creating a unique brand identity (uniqueness), monitoring brand values (reputation), and managing brand communications (orchestration) from the perspectives of existing (CG) and prospective (NCG) members. The analysis found that ‘brand image’ is a unidimensional construct which is positively associated with ‘perceived market orientation’, ‘perceived benefits’, and ‘church participation’ in both sample groups. The study also examines the significance of ‘perceived benefits’ in affecting church participation. The construct was found to be significantly associated with church participation in both sample groups. Among the three dimensions of ‘perceived benefits’, the construct of ‘social benefits’ was found to perform the strongest effect on church participation in both sample groups. The present study offers significant practical implications for non-profit managers in general and church leaders in particular. Due to the significance of market orientation and brand image in encouraging customer participation, it is recommended that non-profit managers and church leaders embrace market orientation and brand orientation to reach out their target segments more effectively.