Cardinal George’s Branding Lesson

9 Jan , 2012  

Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George recently provided a vivid lesson in the power of branding.

Several weeks ago, organizers changed the route and start time of Chicago’s gay pride parade. Cardinal George was concerned that the new schedule would result in the parade interfering with the morning worship service at a neighborhood church.

On Christmas, a local television station aired an interview with the Cardinal during which he said, “You know, you don’t want the gay liberation movement to morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism….”

As you might imagine, the Cardinal’s comparison of the gay rights movement to the Ku Klux Klan went over rather poorly.

He recent apologized for his remarks, though people in Chicago are still protesting.,0,6796152.story

The lesson in all of this is clear: understand the power of brands and be careful how you use them. Cardinal George is a smart individual, and I’m fairly confident he didn’t mean to offend people by mentioning the Ku Klux Klan; he was just making a point. But the Ku Klux Klan is a powerful and strikingly negative brand. By bringing the KKK brand into the discussion, the entire tone changed. The brand transformed the situation.

Brands have enormous power. Some brands are positive and some are negative. Be careful how you use them.

One Response

  1. Amit Kapur says:

    I wonder if branding has an even more apparent power, especially since it brings out the notion of religion vs. personal choice. In essence, issues that are more dear to people, or issues that people can personally identify with, become even more sensitive, and thus, any marketer must be even more weary of the power of branding. Sometimes, the issue being discussed is larger than the company itself.

Leave a Reply


Conversation Across the Site

  • David Rose { This sounds very very difficult. You put alot of energy into it and obviosly care. I would suggest you focus on the room and let... }
  • M E Lesniak { I think you picked the wrong hill to stand on. You work at one of the most expensive degree factories in the country and I’m... }
  • Stephen Calkins { Forgiveness based on income? What if it is a wealthy family that figured borrowing cheaply was a good deal, but there is massive wealth? What... }
  • Todd Holscher { Transparency in pricing is a very good idea. Students will still susceptible to the influence of marketing and advertising by colleges, but it’s the right... }
  • Emita Hill { Vast sums of money. Alternatively provide more support to state schools so they can lower tuition and maybe to privates strictly for scholarships. }
  • David Rose { Tim, I dont think your views are balanced. You obviously are being paid by these loans. The money has been given to your university and... }
  • Read more Comments »

Collaborate with Tim

Tim helps companies around the world build great brands. To schedule a program or event click here. To learn more about Tim’s books, click here.