The Catholic Church as a Brand
Over the past few weeks, we’ve all been following the news about the Catholic Church and in particular the retirement (a first in 600 years) and appointment of a new Pope.
Change seems to be coming to an institution that is associated with resisting change and continued down a path of traditional teaching and communication. Communication was relegated to the select few and filtered down to the grass root followers through regular and normal outlets. In today’s world of on-demand information and no respect for formal channels this system of communication has left the church divided and in a defensive position suffering with lowered enrollment and a struggling image Brand.
It would appear at first glance the new Pope – Pope Francis, has recognized the communication/Brand issue.
He has a mission statement and he’s made it clear in all the newspapers – “Defend the poor and the disadvantaged” simple understandable and ownable. The first rule of Branding: find your “reason for being” now he must rally his troops to walk the talk.
Pope Francis, like his predecessor, also “tweets – he has only tweeted a few times however he has more than 2.3 million followers – @pontifex incredible. His entre into the sagging demographic of 18 to 45 year olds has been fast and furious – it doesn’t appear to matter if he understands the medium or not – his congregation want to be connected through social media and he’s caught their attention.
People identify themselves with the brands they keep – Has the Catholic Church and The Pope caught onto the concept? – is this the first real step into the future, it may appear so.
The Pope has also backed up his words – lesson two in Brand: The Brand must deliver on the Point of Difference or Vision.
His communication has been consistent and on message, plus his humility has come through as real and genuine. People are still talking about his preference to take the bus with the other Cardinals to his first official dinner, and his personal phone call to his newspaper carrier in his homeland to cancel his newspaper subscription, because he’d moved!
In many Brand awareness situations, the Brand is expected to generate (or support the generation of) revenue. In this case, the communication and the message has become more important – it will generate or certainly sustain the cash flow of the Church but the big win here for the church – connecting.
It looks like it’s going to succeed!