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Meg Tirrell/Medill News Service

The popular cheap-chic clothing store Forever 21 stamps "John 3:16" on the bottom of its bags.

Religion in business: Invoking the Almighty or just the almighty dollar?

by Rachel Zahorsky , Jessica Desvarieux and Meg Tirrell
May 31, 2007

Adding a dose of faith to business may seem like a sin to many companies, but some are successfully marrying religion and marketing. 

These companies, including Starbucks Corp. and retailer Forever 21 Inc., supersize spirituality by displaying Bible scripture on soda cups and shopping bags, quoting prominent religious figures on merchandise, or sponsoring events devoted to religious outpouring.

But not all patrons are happy to have their shopping experience touched by a religious one, so some campaigns have met complaints from both religious and non-religious customers.  

“It’s a very unusual approach, and most marketers steer clear of religion,” said Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. 

“But, there’s also a desperate bid for businesses to differentiate themselves; religion provides one way to do that,” he explained.  “I think the challenge is to pull it off credibly.”