I was listening to the radio last week.
Apparently The Pope has come to the UK with a message.
The general theme seems to be that religion will give us a better society than secularity will.
Straight away that made me think.
That’s a market-growth message.
Is that a smart thing to be telling the people of the UK?
See market-growth is what you do in a market you dominate.
You grow the market so you get the biggest share of any growth.
But Catholicism doesn’t dominate the UK market.
Forget atheists (core non-users) and the pious (core users).
No point in talking to either of those groups.
They are locked-off and pretty much incapable of persuasion.
That leaves the rest of us.
Mainly we are all don’t care, never thought about it, only when I need it, agnostics.
People who were maybe Christened/Baptised/ whatever, then forgot about it.
Lapsed users.
In the UK, my guess would be the Catholic share is around 20%.
I’d guess C of E about 50%.
All other religions, 30%.
So, if The Pope sees his job as getting lapsed users to re-ignite their faith, he’ll only be getting 1 out of 5.
For every five people he encourages to rediscover their faith, four will rediscover something other than Catholicism.
Is this what he wanted?
I doubt it.
I thought the problem with his strategy is he’s looking on a global level, not a local one.
On a global level Catholicism may well be market leader.
For a start they must be the biggest religion in South America.
Brazil, Argentine, Uruguay, Paraguay, that’s got to be a billion people.
Plus Central America: Mexico, etc.
Plus The Philippines, Ireland, France, and obviously Italy.
So probably a quarter of the earth’s people were born and brought up Catholic.
Now for those people it obviously makes sense to have a market growth message.
Encouraging retrial amongst lapsed users.
A general message about religion being better than secularity makes sense here.
If you can get people back into religion, Catholicism will automatically be the one most will choose.
But how about the rest of the world?
In the USA, UK, and Northern Europe, Protestantism is market leader.
So a brand-share strategy would make more sense.
A strategy explaining how wonderful Catholicism is.
The frescoes of Uccello and Piero Della Francesca.
The paintings of Raphael and Da Vinci,
The sculptures of Michelangelo and Bernini.
The music, the architecture of The Renaissance.
Catholicism could have a very powerful emotional appeal.
But then how many people are actually likely to switch?
We can enjoy everything about the Catholic Church without being Catholic.
The Duomos of Tuscany, the Chiesas of Umbria, the Scuolas of Venice.
So they would have little chance of brand-switching in Protestant dominated markets.
And there would be next to no chance with a message like that in the rest of the world.
India, over a billion people but mainly Hindu.
The Middle East, Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia.
Another billion people, but mainly Moslem.
Thailand, which is Buddhist.
China and Russia, getting on for two billion people.
But both recovering from communist-enforced atheism.
So, looking at the possible market from the Pope’s angle, I’d guess it breaks down like this.
Building market share by converting people from other religions is a non-starter.
The return wouldn’t justify the massive resources necessary.
Many years ago, however, in an undeveloped market, this kind of thinking worked.
The ‘Conquistadore’ strategy of the 15th and 16th centuries and the brand-share strategy of the Spanish Inquisition.
But in terms of religion this is now a saturated market.
So The Pope’s new strategy makes much more sense.
It always makes sense to go for the low-hanging fruit, the easy win.
Because of Catholicism’s market dominance in so many regions, that means encouraging retrial amongst lapsed consumers.
If it works, and done properly it should, this will eventually lead to increased market share amongst those who actually practice a religion.
I think The Pope’s got it right.

In advertising terms at least, I’m a convert.

  • Of course he’s right, he’s infallible.

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    With all the flack RCHQ gets I think they should get all their skeletons out of the closet and make them golden. ‘Forgive and forget. Let’s move on together’.

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    i was always a big fan of Giotto (tho i’m not at all religious). anyway, i thought Stephen Fry was our new leader, i read it on a poster 😉

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    I had a funny feeling I was going to get a de-frocking after the Papal visit! (LOL)
    Oh well, here goes…

    John Paul 2 was an enigma.
    Benedict 26th is a theologian.
    I have had the great fortune to see both.

    I took two Russian Communists with me just for good measure.
    They actually wanted to go.
    En route we passed through silent demonstrators holding banners.
    One was from the Communist Party.
    My wife nodded, but didn’t agree with it.
    I had mixed emotions reading some of the signs.
    as Viv Walsh said in his book “The Oxygen Thief”
    “Hurt People, Hurt People”.
    I felt their heavy silent hearts.
    In Hyde park we stood for 5 hours waiting.
    During that time, various people from around the world came on stage.

    The Papal message was
    “Heart speaks unto Heart”
    They told us:
    Every sixth person in the world is a Catholic.
    The Catholic Church alone provides 25% of all global funding to fight Aids.
    I never knew that.
    I guess some of the people waving banners in the street didn’t know that either.
    I wish them all well.
    Every single one of them unconditionally.

    A black man then stepped on the stage. He just walked on unannounced and recited “The sermon on the mount as if it he had just written it, and then quietly walked off. Everyone was speechless. I guess that’s probably what it was like when it happened the first time.

    Then came a recovering Drug Addict who wasn’t a Catholic.
    He told us his story.
    Then came the Mizzen family.
    They told us their story.
    The whole thing was extremely moving.
    Then two impatient women started to row over who should be at the front of a barrier.
    They told us their story, even though nobody wanted to hear it.
    Then the gates flew open
    and in came Benedict 26th.
    He passed just 60 feet away from me in the old Pope Mobile.
    The Communists said it was spectacular.
    They both felt, as I did, an inexplicable presence as he entered Hyde Park.
    He barely moved at all.
    He barely spoke.
    He leads by the power of prayer.
    John Paul 2 lead by the power of action.

    I suppose that’s the Brand Essence.
    Like catching the passing scent of an impossibly expensive bottle of perfume.
    In times of struggle against forces of public evil, the silence must be broken without, whereas in times of struggle against internal foes the battleground takes place within.

    What is prayer, if not organic growth of the mind and spirit?
    And yes, you are right Dave, he was calling us all, whever we are, whatever faith we believe in,
    to pray together for the greater good of mankind, and some have already answered that prayer by doing great ads that change the lives of people who can never repay them.
    Who can say advertising is all bad?

    I’m sure the Dalai Llama is no less a man,
    because great brands always have something you can believe in.

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    Nadie espera que… la Inquisición española!

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    Kevin, that was poetic.. Grilla, that was Spanish.

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    Maybe the pope could offer £100 to new customers?

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    The Pope is an ‘eternal’ optimist.

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    Hi Mike,
    B26 would probably go for:-
    “Free Tickets to Heaven Redeemable by Death.*
    * Not a Self-Liquidating Offer.