PHOENIX — Protestants in the United States are about as loyal to their brand of toothpaste as their denomination, according to one research firm.
A new poll by Ellison Research asked churchgoers who attend worship services at least once a month the denomination of the church they most often attend. Instead of broad terms like Baptist or Methodist, the survey asked for specific denominational brands, like "Southern Baptist" or "Free Will Baptist." Researchers then asked respondents what role that denomination would play if they had to find a new church.
Just 16 percent of Protestants surveyed said they are exclusively loyal to one denomination, while half (51 percent) preferred one denomination but would be open to another. By comparison, 22 percent of Protestants said they would use only one brand of toothpaste and 42 percent indicated a preference for one brand while being open to others.
Similar levels of brand loyalty exist for bathroom tissue (19 percent would consider only one brand and 40 percent had a preferred brand), pain reliever (16 percent and 42 percent, respectively) and soft drinks (14 percent and 56 percent).
Ron Sellers, president of Ellison Research, said religious denominations face what most companies face in trying to develop brand loyalty — consumers with many different options who may not perceive strong differences among them.
Six in 10 active Catholics said they would attend only one denomination, but researchers said the gap between Protestants and Catholics on the issue might be due less to brand loyalty than the number of choices. Unlike Catholics, Protestants in the United States can choose from many denominational groups similar in doctrine and practice.
People who worship at non-denominational churches show higher loyalty to remaining non-denominational than other Protestants show to their mother church. Twenty-nine percent of current non-denominational worshipers said they would attend only a non-denominational church, while 32 percent said they had a preference but would consider joining a church affiliated with a denomination.
Evangelicals were a little more sectarian than Protestants in general. Nineteen percent said they would consider only one denomination, 50 percent have a preference but wouldn't rule out a different choice, and 11 percent said they don't really pay attention to the denomination when they consider what church to attend.
Ellison said denominational leaders "face many of the same challenges as do the leaders of brands such as Coke, Chevrolet, or Home Depot" in attracting worshipers.