The Church has always understood the power of branding.
As you know, a great brand name expresses in a nutshell the DNA of a range of products, services and experiences.
The Catholic Church requires the Pope to give up his real name and adopt a new one, which can be a useful indicator of the style of his future papacy.
The choice of Francis I is enlightening in this respect. I think we all know the story of Francis of Assisi. He opposed the power of the Church. He lived to help the poor. He understood that desperation could lead to evil, illustrated by the tale of the ravenous man-eating wolf that became peaceful and loving when – in a pact brokered by St Francis – the townsfolk agreed to feed it.
Francis was also the emissary sent by Emperor Frederick II to negotiate with the Sultan and reach an agreement that would put an end to the Crusades.
Various sources in the media have called the choice of Francis by the new Pope as “stunning”, “poetic” and “precedent shattering”; a symbol of “poverty, humility, simplicity and the rebuilding of the Catholic Church”. Already, Francis has proved adept at public relations. But the choice of name also inspires a deeper optimism.
We live in an era marked by the stark realization that a rampant, barely regulated global financial market led us down the road to disaster – just as it did before the crash of 1929 and the Great Depression that followed. Humility, love of our fellow men and a new emphasis on helping those less fortunate than ourselves are desirable brand values right now.
And I don’t need to remind you that we are in the midst of a new era of Crusades. The US in Afghanistan, the French in Africa, the global war on terrorism…this is no less of a bi-partisan confrontation than it was nine centuries ago.
Those of us who have always believed in the determinism of the brand feel confident about the future achievements of a Pope named Francis I.