Monday, January 9, 2012

another papal pronouncement

what a headline! pope: other denominations not true church
Pope Benedict XVI has reasserted the universal primacy of the Roman Catholic Church, approving a document released Tuesday that says Orthodox churches were defective and that other Christian denominations were not true churches.Benedict approved a document from his old offices at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that restates church teaching on relations with other Christians. It was the second time in a week the pope has corrected what he says are erroneous interpretations of the Second Vatican Council, the 1962-65 meetings that modernized the church.On Saturday, Benedict revisited another key aspect of Vatican II by reviving the old Latin Mass . Traditional Catholics cheered the move, but more liberal ones called it a step back from Vatican II.Benedict, who attended Vatican II as a young theologian, has long complained about what he considers the erroneous interpretation of the council by liberals, saying it was not a break from the past but rather a renewal of church tradition.msnbc article

this got the ire of many, many friends both real and virtual. one went as far as the actually cuss the pope for this pronouncement.

at a recent dinner before the fabcast, this topic came out. then they turned to me, the "devout" catholic, for comments. with all their fangs showing (hihihi), i can only muster a lame "what else do you expect the pope to say?"

on hindsight, though, well, that IS what i'd still want to say. what else should the pope, the leader of the catholic faith, defender, protector, say about such matters? i say this without agreeing to the the statement. i only agree that the pope is supposed to make this pronouncement.

the marketing rationale

if you will look at the catholic faith as some sort of brand/product (again, suspension of disbelief needed), you can liken the faithful to its loyal users. an old, reliable brand that has stood for the same things over the millenia. (much more than coke or apple!) and its base of users rely on it for exactly the same things.

now the catholic church is besieged by a lot of 'competition': other denominations, other faiths. and it is well aware that there is a continuous erosion of its 'users' as they convert. classic marketing dilemma: if it is a question of relevance, does the brand tinker with its basic premise/positioning to remain relevant and stem this hemorrhage? or will it rather remain faithful to its essence and be 'loyal' to its current users, though the numbers are getting fewer?

the bigger pay-off (stemming the tide and actually probably attracting new users) will come from a re-positioning. It is also more expensive (bigger investment). And a lot risker because of the probability of alienating the current loyal base.

the more conservative (and less expensive way) is to maintain the positioning and remain faithful to some 'core values".

if you think of Vatican II as some sort of reaction to be more relevant, the question is, did it work? the current pope seems to think it didnt. we dont have the figures but perhaps, the catholic faithful from 1960's hasn't grown as much. hence, the repositioning failed.

so we see a pope now looking at the current base of loyal users/faithful. and he is intent on keeping them by going back to the 'earlier' positioning of a more fundamental, conservative catholic church. he would rather appeal to this base, and keep them from converting. and give up trying to be 'more relevant' in these times.

hence, the return to the latin version of the holy eucharist. and lately, the strong rejection of gay marriage. he is just being consistent. and he is just saying what his loyal base expects him to say.

now, let me discuss this thing about 'true' church.

marketing's objective is to create 'a perceptual monopoly'. perceptual because it exists only in the mind of the consumer. as a marketer, i want my brand to be the ONLY one which can answer my consumer's needs and wants. the ONLY one. i justify that with all sorts of benefits and features. but i essentially communicate that my brand is the ONLY brand, there can be no other. is this real? of course not, especially for commodities. hey, water is water is water, right? but perrier? evian? you know what i mean.

id be a foolish marketer if i start out by saying that all water is the same. consider this statement: hey! all water is the same, but please buy my brand because .... sounds weird, right? why establish parity in the first place? you should establish differentiation and/or superiority!

which is why the pope simply had to say that the catholic church is the 'true church'. he had to differentiate. he had to claim 'superiority'. he had to claim that. if not, why even be faithful to the catholic church? if he said that all denominations are equal in the path to God and righteousness, why stick to the catholic faith?

the faithful, the loyal user base needs to hear, time and again, that they are on the 'right' path, or on the 'right side'. their allegiance needs to be reinforced. so..

again, on a marketing perspective, he is just saying what is expected of him.

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