Projecting the Catholic Brand

Spiritus also supplies retailers with this Jesus action figure at the 17th annual trade show of the Catholic Marketing Network last week (Aug. 6-9) in Somerset, N.J. RNS photo by David Gibson.

Spiritus supplies retailers with this Jesus action figure at the 17th annual trade show of the Catholic Marketing Network (August 2013) in Somerset, N.J. RNS photo by David Gibson.

Growing up 50 years ago in a Catholic household, I recall regular visits to the Catholic store whenever we celebrated a baptism, communion, confirmation, or birthday. Recently my wife observed that most of the Catholic stores we knew are gone, you must turn to the Internet to purchase medals, rosaries, scapulars and prayer books.

Apparently this trend in Catholic marketing may be reversing even as the nature of Catholic devotional objects evolves.

According to the Religion News Service:

Centuries ago, Roman Catholics helped kick-start the market for religious articles with their insatiable demand for rosaries, icons, prayer cards and all manner of devotional objects and spiritual souvenirs.

But in recent decades, evangelical Protestants have dominated the art of religious retailing, building a national network of bookstores and stamping the Christian message on almost any item that an American consumer might want, from perfume to golf balls to flip-flops.

Now, Catholic entrepreneurs are looking to catch up [...]  [T]here was a sense that the Catholic sector has a new opportunity to expand — if businesses can update their approach and broaden their inventory beyond the usual catalog of sacred objects.

There was also a clear effort and willingness to move beyond viewing Catholic merchandise as purely devotional and instead to offer items that piggyback on the consumer culture in order to project the Catholic brand.

Hence the proliferation of Catholic-themed children’s games, license plate frames, coffee mugs, papal key chains and a host of other products that were higher on whimsy than tradition — a bit of “Catholic kitsch,” perhaps, to answer the “Jesus junk” that some use to describe many CBA items.

Click here to view a photo slideshow of the Catholic trade show

Click here to find a Catholic bookstore near you

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