The Catholic Church isn’t exactly what you’d call a forward-thinking organization when it comes to marketing, but this past weekend in Brazil still-new Pope Francis provided a template for connecting with the audience that marketers would be wise to pay attention to.
Pope Francis has engaged the audience in rapid and fairly electrifying fashion – three million people camped out on Brazil’s Copacabana Beach this weekend to attend his Mass. It looked like the world’s biggest beach party – flags waving, people dancing. And if you think your organization is resistant to new ideas, Hello? We’re talking about the Catholic Church!
The Pope is not changing the core of the Church. He’s just changing the way it connects with the people. And he’s connecting. Here are four lessons (I’m not going to call them commandments – you can’t make me) marketing pros can learn from the Pontiff:
Have a clear view of your organization.
Pope Francis acknowledged what so many people outside the Church already believed – that the Church is the source of the Church’s problems. This clarity of understanding from within is the first step towards fixing problems (in the Church’s case). In the case of your organization, understanding why you exist, and what you’re good at (as well as what you aren’t good at) positions you to maximize your opportunities. This could be the CEO’s job, but it is a marketing function and very often falls to marketing to define. This is branding.
The pontiff is who he is. He is not standing on ceremony. He is not being boxed in by tradition. He is the rare person who ascends to the top job and is not intimidated into changing his personality or style. Known before ascending to Pope as a Cardinal who lived simply and was devoted to the poor, he has continued that. In Rio de Janiero, he visited slums, walked into the midst of crowds and met privately with juvenile offenders. Marketers need to be true to the personality of the organization they serve. It begins with following the first bullet – having a clear view of the organization, and then must extend out to all audiences. An organization should present “its best self” to the world in every communication. Not an imitation of the competition, and not what you think people want to hear. The best version of your organization is your brand personality.
Pope Francis told his congregation in Rio that the Church has been focused on the wrong things, delving into intellectual discussions when the people needed a simple message of peace, love and hope. For marketers, this is a reminder to give the audience what it’s looking for, and to keep the message simple, memorable and repeatable. Rather than focusing on features, focus on benefits. Rather than jargon-filled mission statements, define what you stand for in two or three words.
Go out and “make a mess.”
This is what Pope Francis told Argentine Catholics to go home and make a “mess.” Don’t accept the status quo. Drive change. Be bold. The remark has people calling Francis “The Renegade Pope.” As a marketer, you know your job is to stand out from the pack, to differentiate. But so many marketing departments are constrained by fear. They do things a certain way because they always have, or because that’s what the competition is doing. But Apple didn’t do that under Steve Jobs, did it? Jobs once said he wanted to put a “ding in the universe.” I think we can agree that he did, and he did it because he wasn’t afraid to mix it up. So be bold, and go make a mess.
As Pope Francis said goodbye to officials at Rio’s main airport Sunday evening, Brazil’s president told the Pope that he had “enchanted all of Brazil.”
Are you enchanting your customers?