Friday, October 23, 2009

The Catholic Church and Marketing

Having worked in marketing in both the corporate and nonprofit worlds for a number of years, marketing is something I know a bit about.

A case study ready-made for a marketing text is the situation of the Catholic Church in Mexico. Understand that--even though various sources place the current percentage of Mexicans who are Catholic at around 80%--that number is shrinking faster than the membership in the Roman Polanski fan club.

Why? Growing affluence, the effect of active Protestant evangelization in the country, dissolution of traditional family structures, creeping American cultural influence.....many reasons. But all that isn't new. Over the decades there have been repeated attempts by various liberal governments--going back to the Mexican War of Independence from Spain--to crush the power of the Catholic Church. The Jesuits got expelled (So, join the club. Jesuits got kicked out of everywhere.) The government closed the convents. They expelled foreign priests. They expropriated church property for government use. Which brings us to today.

I have my own theory for why the Catholic Church is loosing popularity: firecrackers. Yes, things that go "boom" in the night. Thursday morning, AT FIVE O'CLOCK IN THE DAMNED MORNING....I checked the clock... I was rousted from a deep sleep by an enormous explosion. "The next Revolution has come to town?" I wondered. "Or is the army shooting protesters again (nasty habit)." No, of course not. My brain was addled by sleep. Just one of the many Catholic churches setting off fireworks to "honor"? a saint or a festival day. Not being a Biblical scholar myself, I'm a bit confused here. What chapter and verse says: "And thou shalt set off firecrackers in the midst of yon night"? One of the Commandments, perhaps: "Thou shalt anger thy neighbor, repeatedly."

Consider: Mexico is a poor country. The headlines are daily trumpeting the economic crisis. Folks are out of work. Businesses are closing. THERE SIMPLY ISN'T ENOUGH MONEY to make ends meet. But.......for some odd reason.....there's plenty of money--millions in the aggregate--to buy pyrotechnics for every church, every festival in Mexico. An economist would say, "take all that money, divert it to social welfare programs which benefit the people..." Aw shucks, that's just too common sense. This is Mexico!

And then goes another boom. These weren't like little sparklers, but rather more like blasting caps. The "reverb" lasted for many seconds after the explosion. And then another. And another. And it continued for 10 minutes (I checked the clock). And the end of the explosions, the church bells sounded: a cacophony. Imagine taking all your pots & pans outside and slamming them together. For 15 minutes. Okay, at this point the church has awakened all the parishoners (and heathens like me) for a mile around, announcing to them they need to wake up and come to the 6:00 mass.

Back to my marketing hat. Wouldn't you think that if your organization were loosing members apace, you'd do everything possible to gain their love? To earn their support? To get them back? Here's a suggestion: PISSING OFF EVERYONE IN A MILE RADIUS AT 5:00 IN THE BLOODY MORNING....that's a bad idea.