Apple Logo Is an Agnostic's Crucifix, Star of David: Study

Heavenly Apple

As it's stated in the book of Jobs: Thou shalt not worship false iPhones.

Or so goes the thinking in a new study from Duke University, which concludes: "The brand name logo on a laptop or a shirt pocket may do the same thing for some people that a pendant of a crucifix or Star of David does for others." In fact, the more religious a person is, the less brand expression appears to matter.

Researchers at Duke ran several experiments to determine this disconnection between brand importance and religiosity. In one, the team analyzed geographic areas for the number of Apple, Macy's, and Gap stores per million people. These statistics were compared with brand-discount stores. "Then they compared these rough measures of brand reliance against the number of congregations per thousand and self-reported attendance in church or synagogue, controlling for income, education and urbanization differences," the report says. "In every analysis, they found a negative relationship between brand reliance and religiosity."

In another experiment, a group of students were asked to write an essay on "what your religion means to you personally." A second set of students wrote essays on an unrelated topic. Both groups then underwent an imaginary shopping trip, where they were asked to choose between a series of products. A similar online experiment was conducted with hundreds of participants, divided between those who reported being religious and those who did not. In both cases, "those that were highly religious [or primed to think about religion] cared less about national brands ... religion reduces brand reliance by apparently satisfying the need to express self-worth."

While this perhaps finally solves the mystery of why Christopher Hitchens and Nietzsche were such label whores, it also provides insight into how certain brands—namely Apple—develop cult-like followings. Similar to Duke's report, brand expert Martin Lindstrom conducted a 3 year, 7 million dollar study comparing brain scans of the religious to those with high brand loyalty. Lindstrom discovered that the scans of people loyal to Apple matched the scans of devoted Christians.

All praise the almighty Steve!

"Brands are a signal of self-worth," said Gavan Fitzsimons, professor of marketing and psychology at Duke. "We're signaling to others that we care about ourselves and that we feel good about ourselves and that we matter in this world. It's more than 'I'm hip or cool'...I'm a worthwhile person, and I matter, and you should respect me and think that I'm a good person, because I've got the D&G on my glasses."

And an Apple on my iPhone.

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  • David Conrad

    I hope the studies were done with more care than they are described in this article. First, there seem to be three separate studies. Second, the first study claims to have controlled for income, but socio-economic status would easily explain the effects they found, so I wonder if they really controlled for it adequately.

    But the worst of all is the third study in which they scanned the brains of loyal Apple fans. We are told nothing about the religious beliefs of the people they studied. If they really performed a multi-year, multi-million dollar study they would have had ample opportunity to inquire into their religious beliefs, but we are left with only the implication that these Apple loyalists were irreligious because of the earlier study that found a negative correlation between religiosity and brand loyalty.

    Even if that correlation exists, this would be a prime example of the ecological fallacy: Just because brand loyalists tend not to be religious, overall, that tells us nothing about the religiosity of the people whose brains they scanned. It is entirely possible that their brains matched those of devoted Christians because they are in fact devoted Christians.

  • Levon Tostig


    I've seen countless Windows users pray before their PCs and servers! The prayers usually goes something like this:

    "Dear God, please don't let my data/pictures/MP3s/videos/work be gone!"
    "NO, GOD, NO! Not ANOTHER blue screen of death!"
    "Oh God, not VISTA!"

    Let us not forget the holiest of Windows days: Microsoft Patch Tuesday. The day of "rest" for users, but hard work for tech support.

    Perhaps, being a Windows user is less like being a follower of a religion (or Apple) -- free to come and go as one pleases -- and more like living in a totalitarian state - bound by EULAs, license counts, upgrade cycles, compatible hardware, group policies and Outlook mailbox size restrictions.

    Sent from my iPad

  • kathykate

    Atheist, brand averting consumer here. But that doesn't stop the angels up above from singing when, driving kid to college, eyelids heavy, down the dreaded, horrid interstate to nowhere, when straight ahead the clouds part, the exit appears, and a Dunkin' Donuts looms on the horizon. Thank you capitalism.

  • John Mack

    Idolatry in the form of Alma Mater or a sports team has been around along time. Humans are idolatrous.

    If anyone wants to give me a full size golden cow I'll take it!

  • John Mack

    Ha, I completely avoid religion and refuse to wear brand logos. I but tech that works well and is easy to use.

    BUT maybe there's an opportunity for fashion cynics to pretend to be Reborn and create a subtle Jesus brand only for "real Christians." Maybe a logo based on JC or another non-cross symbol.

  • Michael Murphy

    Horse crap in my opinion. How about this.... stuff from Apple works. It's cool to have stuff that works! If anybody has an extra $7M to blow on a study, I can help them out.

  • umd

    Let's not bring any religious colour or an icon into a fantastic machine. iPray to Apple!

  • Peca

    I disagree with Gavan Fitzsimons. It´s about familiarity: THE FEELING OF BELONGING. This is what brands are about.

    Religion, brands, 1,000,000 studies worth "BILLIONS"?...whatever! Americans LOVE to revolve around themes, studies, trends...this is what moves a big part of the American economy. THINGS THAT ARE NOT THERE! Things that, sadly, most people love and follow on a daily basis.

    Just look at this article´s title: "Apple Logo Is an Agnostic's Crucifix, Star of David: Study" I think we, as consumers and as marketing professionals, should look deeper and make a serious effort in order to find the true origin and meaning of things and not rely on what things seem to brands, in order to sell more and in order to create "brand evangelists".

    Steve Jobs is just another hard working entreprenur, that´s it!

    No need to get in to the Christian part - feeding of this article.

  • Joseph Steel

    It's called institutionalization, and if you want a simple explanation of how it works, in the movie The Shawshank Redemption, Morgan Freeman does it beautifully in his description of what being imprisoned is all about.

    Thing is, being a Christian is not the same thing as being ... IN ... Christianity -- the first is an inward belief choice, the second is an outward follow choice. A person doesn't need to be in Christianity to be a Christian believer (i.e. this person's belief does not need to be in context to a "Christian" religion/brand).

    In the case of the Apple brand, or any brand for that matter (religious or otherwise), personal motivation is at the root of outward expression. And this little insight was documented over three thousand years ago.

    But I guess someone's motive/religion (look at me, I'm with the Church of Research) needed a seven million dollar confirmation.

  • Corbet Curfman

    I think this is less about worship, faith and an understanding of how the world works. This is about community identification and a place of belonging. While people might become infatuated with a brand, they are not looking to Steve Jobs for the answers to life. It might be the "true believers" in brands are not asking the big life questions at all. They are mainly are looking for connection points and others to identify with. At that point the brand is simply a carrier for that connection (a reason to talk to one another) while the relationship building begins with human interaction.

  • Scott Byorum

    People try to find meaning for their lives. Some find it in religion, some find it in brands, and some find it in human connection. I'll take the latter. Religion is branded, too. One person's Islam is another person's Christianity is another person's Hinduism, etc, etc. Each claims to be the best.

  • Michael Brown

    And it took $7mil to discover this?

    Idolatry for certain. Our lives are full of it.

  • Henry Richardson

    Does this mean brands are elevated to the status of religions or are religions brought as low as brands?