Father Schaefer and the Bad*ss Brand: When a Bold Brand Doesn’t Work

“Bad*ss Your Brand” by Pia Silva has a ton of great strategy for small businesses. Silva does point out though that it’s hard to pull off a bold, edgy brand. There’s more than one way a bold brand can fail.

The prime example that comes to mind is the personal brand of Father Schaefer*. Coming from a military background and just off of a military tour, Father Schaefer gave sermons that were direct and discipline oriented. Our parish wasn’t used to this new tone. A theme that seemed to show up in almost every sermon was the need to come on time to church. You can imagine how well this went over with the congregation. Each week people would stream in late, and wait to get a browbeating at the start of every sermon. It wasn’t that we (ok my family was in this group) didn’t want to come on time, it is just easier said than done!

I felt so bad about it, I apologized to Father Schaefer on the way out of church one Sunday. I was surprised by the meek and kind response I received. I was later impressed by Father Schaefer’s service when he  regularly visited our home. He didn’t question my decision to stay home from church to keep my newborn away from germs. He just continued to visit for a couple months until politely saying I might like to start back to church.

During this time, the rest of the church was getting more on edge by sermons they couldn’t live up to. One teenager burst into tears because her family came late and she perceived Father to be staring at her. Sooner than later Father was transferred to another position.

This is example of where a big bold personality didn’t fit in a small parish. But you can also look at it as the misapplication of bold personal brand.

The funny twist to the story is that Father Schaefer achieved some degree of fame shortly later. His stance on guns won him some praise on a local radio show. Though a priest, he had warded off a burglar from his rectory by pulling out a gun, which he shot!

You can imagine how much his personality appealed to fellow Marines. His big bold personal brand didn’t fit our little parish but it was just perfect for Marines overseas.

A couple of takeaway lessons from this story are that a big bold brand DOESN’T work if: 1) your larger organization doesn’t understand and won’t support it, 2) people only see your hardcore brand and not the (caring/honest/attentive)  person behind it, or 3) you are appealing to the wrong audience with your brand.

I’m sure Father Schaefer is happy serving in his new hospital position, and I’d guess the Marines he previously served miss him. I know I do.

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent


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