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5 Marketing Lessons We Can Learn From Humanae Vitae

Today, July 25, marks 50 years of Humanae Vitae, the Church document about sexuality, love, and conception.

Most people just know it as the "birth control" encyclical, but either way, no one can deny the impact its made on both religious and secular society.

I'm not going to go into the specifics of the document because there are much more qualified people to do that, and it has been done many times. You can read the document in full here, for reference.

What I want to evaluate is what we can learn about Catholic marketing from this letter 50 years later:


1. Be thorough. One of my favorite things about Humanae Vitae is how thorough Pope Paul VI is, especially in the section on pastoral directives. He breaks down how this teaching will affect everyone and how it should be taught to and explained by every sector of society - scientists, doctors, priests, couples, etc. This is an excellent marketing strategy - know your audience and address them specifically. Talking to moms? Explain about how your product or service will affect their productivity. Writing for teachers? Relate your topic to experiences in the classroom. Pope Paul VI does this brilliantly in Humanae Vitae.

2. Be authentic. One of the biggest criticisms of Natural Family Planning (NFP) from those who utilize it is that the struggles are often downplayed. It is advertised in a romantic light: Photos that accompany NFP articles online feature enraptured couples gazing into one another's eyes in grassy, sunlit fields with zero cares in the world. Plus, I haven't seen a single one that had more than two children in the photos. In fact, by just looking at the photos, NFP and birth control ads can often look very similar. The reality? NFP requires communication, frustration, and sacrifice. And it isn't Catholic birth control - having more than two kids is perfectly okay, and even better than okay. When marketing the Catholic faith, whether a papal document or a blog post, we have to make sure we present both sides of the issue. The worst thing we could do as evangelists is make someone believe that following our faith is easy. That just leads to discouragement and frustration, and probably abandonment of the faith. Rather, we have to take care to express the beauty in the frustration, and the value of fighting through our own desires without sugar coating that struggle.

3. Surprise your audience and get them talking. In 1968, when Humanae Vitae was released, people were expecting the Church to finally catch up to the times, and for the document to formally come out and agree that birth control was perfectly licit for Catholic couples to use. #gotcha Surprise is actually a very good marketing tactic, however. Want to get a buzz going? Create a headline that's the opposite of what you're really talking about, like this one from Aleteia a few weeks ago, "Why You Shouldn't Be Doing So Much Church Stuff." I clicked on it, ready to be offended, and loved it so much I shared it on my Facebook page and got a few interesting conversations started. This article "Marriage Isn't For You