How about Pope Benedict XVI's bold and brash end run on the Anglican Church and the archbishop of Canterbury? In case you missed it, the Pope just made a special offer to Anglicans who had grown disaffected with that church's decidedly liberal stance on female priests and openly gay bishops by extending membership in the one, true Church (as the nuns used to like to say).
From a brand extension perspective, the Pope made a very cagey move. Church membership is rapidly eroding, especially in First World countries. So, deciding that the best defense is a good offense, Pope Benedict tries to take market share away from a weaker sibling: the Anglican church. Talk about Machiavellian!
This was front page news in the U.S. However, RepMan Freelance Correspondent Carl "Union Jack" Foster says it barely caused a ripple across the pond. "In a country where the Head of the Church of England is also the Head of State, Britain is a decidedly non-religious place. Coverage of the Pope's move has been reported but it isn't riding high. Look at the homepages of the major newspaper websites and you won't find the story. I presume stories about swine flu vaccinations, postal strikes and celebrity fashion slips are more newsworthy because they got more clicks."
Blasé Brits aside, I find the Pope's move disturbing from a number of image and reputation standpoints:
– By inviting the far right wing conservative branch of the Anglican Church to join the RCC, he has, de facto, moved the latter's philosophy even further right.
– By becoming ever more conservative, the Church is being anything but 'Catholic' and, rather, re-positioning itself in a neo-conservative box that will surely hamper future recruiting efforts for priests, nuns and, of course, congregants.
Brand building depends upon authenticity and transparency. The Church's original mission embraced piety, humility and an openness to all views and perspectives. Clearly, something went awry along the way. In fact, I think Sarah Silverman's recent suggestion that the Pope sell the Vatican and end world hunger with the proceeds makes more sense than the Anglican brand extension (Note: This video contains R-rated material).
Having laid siege to disaffected Anglicans, what religion is next in Pope Benedict's brand extension campaign? Today Anglicans. Tomorrow the world!