Latino Marketing Lessons From the Pope

What does a new pope have to do with Latino marketing, you might wonder. Well, when white smoke came out of the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican, it wasn’t simply the announcement of the new Pope Francis, Argentina’s Jorge Bergoglio. It also ignited multiple Latino reactions in social media that stirred the whole Latinosphere. And there are many lessons marketers can learn.

Twitter, the New Marketplace

When the Catholic Church decided to create the first ever papal Twitter handle (@Pontifex), there was a strong thinking behind it. Twitter seemed like the new place to reach the right audience, the new place to preach.

“It’s almost like the equivalent of the old marketplaces where Jesus went to engage people. That’s where we have to be, with all of its ambiguities and difficulties, because that’s where the people are,” says Monsignor Paul Tighe, secretary to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, cited by Bloomberg Businessweek.

Considering that the church has been losing ground with Latinos (both in the U.S. and Latin America), to bring in a new pope with a Latino origin seems wise. Considering all the positive word-of-mouth, that decision is starting to pay off. Trends like #HabemusPapam and #whitesmoke dominated millions of conversations around the election of the new pope. @Pontifex, even with only one tweet, has more than two million followers (and keeps growing).

In a world where people want to establish more human relationships with brands and celebrities, it’s definitely a smart move from leaders (in this case, the church) to promote a closer dialogue with their “fans.” @Pontifex is an account to watch. Will the pope increase his influence by preaching in the “new marketplace”?

The Colors of Latino Identity

Latinos have a complex identity that balances their country of origin – being part of a bigger Latino tribe but also being an active part of the American fiber. They are cultural chameleons who change their colors depending on the occasion, interests, and context. In this case – the election of a Latino pope – brought that tribe together: Latinos, no matter their country of origin, were all rallying behind the new pope.

At the same time, it put Argentines center-stage. We all (I have to include myself in this one) received tons of congratulations from our fellow tweeps from around the globe.

Of course, there was room for reliving old rivalries: Brazilians believe that God is Brazilian and Argentines believe that God is from Argentina. So whom should the new pope report to?

Check out this tweet, with a smart take on Latino pop culture. But first, allow me to give some cultural background here: Messiah alludes to Messi, the World-renowned soccer player; Dios is the Spanish word for God; and the number 10 alludes to another soccer deity, Maradona.


This shows how soccer is a religion of its own for Latinos. No surprise that everyone was asking if the new pope would root for either Boca or River (the most traditional “fútbol” clubs in Argentina). But Bergoglio ended up being a San Lorenzo fan instead, taking everyone by surprise – except for the San Lorenzo club, which decided to pay a special tribute by wearing jerseys with special Francis badges.

Another tribute was the trending hashtag #ChePapa (“Che” is Argentine slang for “you” and “Papa” means “pope”), an interesting Latino take on the pontiff’s origin.

On Heaven and on Earth

When it comes to Latinos living in the U.S., there’s a clear need for representation. And having someone who represents your interests in Heaven may definitely help your cause down here on Earth.

That Argentines or other Latinos came together as a tribe around the first Latino pope is not necessarily surprising. Francis is the first pontiff from Latin America (and the Americas) and the first from outside Europe in more than a millennium. But the most interesting thing is what’s been driving most of the social conversations: Latinos’ desire to play a starring role in the mainstream narrative.

As I wrote in a previous column, there’s a huge need for cultural inclusion. Latinos’ influence continues to grow both from a demographic and a digital standpoint, yet brands and entertainment companies fail to include Latinos. A great example is the recently released study by Horowitz Associates that shows that more than 50 percent of acculturated Latinos don’t feel represented on mainstream TV.

The church might have chosen the new pope based on his expertise and ability to lead the religious organization, but the fact that the elected pope is Latino adds a new component to the equation. Latinos feel taken into consideration and acknowledged.


If you want to win with Latinos, “preaching” in the new market is not enough. Today’s influential Latinos want a center-stage role. Are you ready?

Habemus Papam. Habemus Latinos.

Vatican image on home page via Shutterstock.

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