Magazine article Marketing

Religion: Catholicism's Comeback?

Magazine article Marketing

Religion: Catholicism's Comeback?

Article excerpt

Pope Francis has taken the helm of an insitution in crisis and under intense scrutiny, writes Kim Benjamin.

Few would argue that any organisation needs more marketing and branding help than the Roman Catholic church, and Pope Francis, the new pontiff and successor to Pope Benedict XVI, certainly has his work cut out for him.

To say that the general perception of the church is not positive is an understatement. During Pope Benedict's reign, its reputation was rocked by sexual-abuse cover-ups, financial corruption and, more recently, allegations of a gay sex scandal.

The church is also looking to reverse a steep decline in the number of practising Catholics, particularly in Europe and the US, as well as overcome the views of those who believe that the Vatican is out of date and irrelevant to today's society. The church is, however, reporting growth in attendance levels in certain areas, including Africa, China and South America.

Like many big brands, the Catholic church has lost its formerly deft touch, with its focus, values and personality becoming less than clear Many have viewed the election of Pope Francis, therefore, as an opportunity for a new leader to alter people's perceptions and earn back their trust. How the church handles any further allegations, and whether it can boost attendance, will have a big part to play in its future.

How can the new pontiff bring Catholicism into the 21st century and make the faith more relevant to the majority? We asked George Pitcher, an Anglican priest and co-founder of communications consultancy Luther Pendragon, and Steve Dixon, founder of brand consultancy Brandthing and previously executive creative director at agency Propaganda, which devised campaigns for the Church of England.

CATHOLICISM STATS

1.2bn - Number of Catholics in the world

8.8m - Number of confirmations in 2010

Source: Vatican Statistical Yearbook of the Church (latest edition)

DIAGNOSIS - Two experts on how the Roman Catholic church can restore trust and grow under the new Pope

GEORGE PITCHER - Anglican priest, co-founder, Luther Pendragon and former Public Affairs Secretary to the Archbishop of Canterbury

The Catholic church's 1.2bn adherents aren't customers, clients or stakeholders in any manageable sense, and eternal verities aren't subject to makeovers. …

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