Is Catholicism a brand?

Is Catholicism a brand?

Don’t take me as heretical with this question. I ask it because the power of any brand is measured by the amount of personal identification an adherent has to that brand. With this definition, it is only fair to talk about religions in terms of branding.

People identify with religions and sects. “I am a Quaker, I am a Buddhist, I am a Muslim… Hindu, Sikh, Protestant, Catholic…” While all are religions, they are brands too. But, historically, the religious brands have sought to influence the adherents rather than adapt to changes in those adherents in an attempt to remain vital and important.

If religion can be a brand, where does Catholicism stand?

Are there exceptions to this? Absolutely. The rise of the protest movement centuries ago gave birth to Protestantism. Even Henry the VIII sought changes in doctrine that sent the Church of England (Anglicanism) scurrying away from Catholicism and separating itself from Martin Luther’s new doctrines. Buddhism has many sects that respond to local norms. Tibetan Buddhism is different from Zen for example.

But in so many ways, Catholicism has adapted to change more than other Christian sects. It might be difficult to see, considering the conservative doctrine often associated with this Church. But it’s true. In many ways, the Catholic Church has trod the fine line between traditional values and modern pressures. Think of Vatican ll. The very conservative church embraced an ecumenical tide and even halted Mass in Latin. Changes like that reflect a changing congregation.

Proof that Catholicism is adapting to change.

Just today, Pope Francis set up a special commission to study whether women should be allowed to become deacons in the Catholic Church. Deacons, for those who are not Catholic, are just a step away from priesthood. They are able to officiate at weddings, etc. The only real limit to their official Catholic status is that they cannot perform Mass.

Pope Francis is a modern Pope with strong adherence to Catholic values. He speaks out clearly on issues of compassion, poverty and service. Sometimes his bold reassurance of these values is interpreted as political. But if you take his role seriously as the Vicar of Christ (a Catholic title), then he can ignore political statements at his own peril.

So what about female priests? My guess is that we will see the ordination of females as priests within my lifetime. The general population of Catholics and new converts to the faith embrace an equality of the sexes. The Church is simply reflecting this change and is in the long process of recognizing that a male-only clergy is not crucial to its fundamental beliefs. As a matter of fact, it might be in opposition to it.

So is Catholicism a brand? We will wait and see.

Facebook Politics. Keep it private.

Facebook Politics are NEVER persuasive

Facebook Politics
Trump or Clinton or Sanders?

Facebook politics (posts about political identification) seem to be more and more commonplace today. I’m not so different from you. I have deeply felt political loyalties. However, if you are like me at all, you just cringe to see opposing views posted on Facebook by your friends. However, I don’t cringe when my friends post messages that agree with my bent. What’s going on here?

Its easy to dismiss this personal hypocrisy and blame it on the idea that we all Facebook Politicslike it when others agree with us.

I think that is true, for the most part. But it feels to me that we get our nose out of joint most often when our social media acquaintances post confident opinions on religion or politics.

Other topics don’t seem to bother me too much. I read them but they never ruffle my feathers. Facebook Politics and Facebook religion… well those are different beers altogether.

Facebook is an interesting and timely example of personal branding

For many of us, our Facebook page is the banner of our private brands. We use it to tell the world where we have visited, what we have eaten, what we have seen, who we love and.. what we believe (insert politics or religion here).

I’m no different. A search of my Facebook page reveals posts from my business’s blog, trips I have enjoyed with my wife, restaurant meals that were (sometimes) memorable, pictures of my family and grandchildren and very little more. I try not to post things that express my views on religion and try (sometimes I fail) to ignore political posts.

Facebook PoliticsWhy? Is it because I look at Facebook as a branding tool? Is it because I find posts from others on these topics occasionally offensive? I wish it were so simple.

The truth is that I avoid posts that talk about politicians, politics and religion because I am a student of persuasion. It’s part and parcel of what I do for a living. As a brand strategist, my goal is to position brands in a way that they become persuasive to prospects (and at the same time reassuring to customers).

Facebook politics as a focus seems futile to me. I know how difficult it is to change someone’s mind and I use every tool available to me as a professional brand guy to make the effort successful. I utilize research, competitive and market analyses, switching triggers and a projectable research based understanding of beliefs.

I know that the best way to change a behavior is to align a brand message with an existing belief held by the target audience you want to influence. When done with aplomb, you are not changing behavior insomuch a realigning a behavior with the self-definition of the target audience.

This process works because we are all prisoners of our belief systems. What we BELIEVE to be true (note that it does not have to be true, just believed) always controls our behaviors because it creates the needs and wants that control all of our actions.

Brand is self-identification

Coke is a major player in consumer packaged goods
Are you a Coke?

Usually, this self-identification is general—it forms a philosophy of our lives that gives us personal meaning and eliminates internal conflicts between what we do and what we believe.

Human beings naturally seek refuge in agreement and are repulsed by conflict. When you engage in a behavior that seems alien to your belief systems I can pretty much guarantee that you will eventually cease that behavior. We may be emotionally attached to Coca-Cola but we are not a COKE.

Religion and Politics are a different story. Depending on your bent, you ARE a Christian, Muslim, Atheist Buddhist, Hindu, or Jain. You ARE a Republican, Democrat, Independent, Socialist or Libertarian.

These are the fiber of your belief systems. Rarely are they challenged (as adults) without a catastrophic event.

What this means is that we form attachments to these ideas WITHOUT cognitive introspection. They are emotional beliefs not rational ones.

I know from commercial experience that ALL purchase decisions are emotional choices. They are not cognitive. We may believe we have rational reasons for the things we buy but they most often are rationalizations of an emotional choice. We back-fill the rational to defend the emotional precisely because we can’t abide internal conflicts.

An exercise in futility

Hillary Clinton LogoSo I ask you the question I ask myself, why post your religious views or political polemics on Facebook? Is Facebook politics worthy of your time and effort?

Nothing you say could possibly change someone’s mind because rational arguments, from either side of an issue, will not change anyone a jot. It is an exercise in futility.

A mentor of mine once told me that communication without purpose is at its best unconstructive and at its worst destructive. I think that has never sounded more true to me than hearing about Bernie, Donald or Hillary on Facebook.

We all are where we are and all we risk is offending those who do no agree with our own beliefs with a ZERO chance of changing someone’s mind. I actually believe that it makes others more entrenched in their beliefs. It’s human nature after all.

The Brand of America. Religion vs. Science.

Okay, this ought to incite all sorts of backfire. What is the brand of America?  In other words, what do Americans hold as most important about their brand identification and what do those we wish to influence believe the US brand to be?

I’m not talking about politics here. US citizens and the world as a whole are used to changes in political party domination. It is inherent in a political system that holds free elections that the political landscape will change. I’m talking about what it means to be an American — despite political changes.

As an American, born and raised, I always thought of my country’s brand as forward thinking, an advanced standard of living and a focus on a future that was promising because of advancements in technological improvements. In my lifetime that spans the television era, I saw small black & white television sets with three available channels change into a world where 70-inch flat screen TVs are far from extraordinary. I have seen the phone in my hand have more computing power than the room-sized mainframe that dominated the early years of my fathers work— when 5K of memory was state of the art.

The Brand of America

Medicine has improved. Homes have become larger. Technology has exploded and science has become the driving force in innovation. We embraced science in my day and the scientific method of developing a hypothesis and then challenging that idea through testing and retesting was taught and accepted. Science was a truth that we all agreed on.

Now, I was raised a Methodist and, like everyone in my church, we read and studied the bible and the book of Genesis. My pastor taught the book as a parable. You know, a story to speak to the belief in God. I never saw science as its enemy and never needed to make a choice between Darwinism (and science) and creationism. The former was empirical and the latter was a faith in the ineffable. The coexisted without problem.

Today, the brand of American, as I embraced it, is slipping away. Science is viewed as heretical and belief in faith-based stories is increasing its grasp. But only to a point.

The Brand of AmericaWe practice evolution on a daily basis (think about hybrid plants), but the basic scientific axiom is considered heretical by the most conservative thinkers. Could a presidential candidate who actually spoke about evolution as a science be elected today? Can a generation of students who are taught creationism as a science actually grow to compete in the world of scientific development? Is not the foundation for all science based upon physics, biology and chemistry? Should we replace MIT, Carnegie Mellon and Stanford with Bible College? At the end of the day, we need to define American Exceptionalism as Christian (even though the constitution bans the mixing of church and state) or secular.

If you are an admirer of the US Constitution, you must see that the founding fathers sought to be assured that our nation would never fall victim to the despotism of faith-based evangelicals. It is uncomfortable for a man like myself that values the human spirit to make such a logical argument in the face of such virulence of certainty by the so-called faithful. But there it is. I guess I am a constitutionalist and wish my American brand to be that also.

What is your brand of America? I would love to hear about it. Saying it is the word of God is not constitutional in the complete sense as our constitution guarantees the freedom of belief to Muslims, Rastafarians, Buddhists, Hindus, Christians and Zoroastrians. Our constitution says their claim on the word of God is as right as yours and that none of it should influence the law of the land. If you think you own the only word of God and that everyone else is just heresy — including science – then you might prefer the homogeneity of despotism. I, for one, think our brand has always been about heterodoxy. Go ahead and look it up. I had to.