Five years back if you had asked me what I thought of the idea of branding the church I’d have scoffed. Branding to me was little more than marketing spin, something to be strenuously avoided by anyone interested in authentic community. Having been through a rebranding process at Baptist World Aid I’ve changed my mind. Here’s why.
First, branding is not about logos.
I always thought redesigning your brand was about getting a cool new logo. It’s not.
Second, branding is about defining who you are.
Branding is all about defining who you are. It’s saying, “when people look at us what are the key things we want them to see about us?” and being intentional about delivering on that. For a local church it means grappling with its core values.
And here’s where things become really interesting, for while churches share many common beliefs, the weight they place upon them, or their values, varies. All churches believe we should seek the truth and love our neighbour, but each would place greater emphasis on one over the other. By asking about our core values we are really asking, “what makes us tick as a congregation? Beyond what we believe, what do we really hold to most of all?”
Third, branding is being clear about your value to others.
Someone once said “The church is the only organisation in society that exists for the benefit of non-members’. I’m not sure that’s entirely true, but it is true that we exist to bring blessing to our world. Branding is making that concrete: what is the key value we offer to our community?
Branding is particularly helpful because it forces us to ask that question from the perspective of those we are seeking to serve. How would you articulate the value of your church to them in ways that would make sense to them, that would make them see your church as worthwhile for them?
Fourth, branding is about what makes you unique.
This is the area of branding I struggled with most. I want to talk about what we Christians share in common. It took me a while to discover branding doesn’t exclude that, but it asks me alongside that to ask, in the midst of all that we share, what is it my particular church offers that makes us different? I belong to a small church. We can’t offer multi-staffed, well resourced kids and youth programs. Someone looking for that is not likely to become part of our community. But we do offer something bigger churches cannot – a small group, family like feel, where as the theme song from the TV show Cheers said,
Where everybody knows your name,
and they’re always glad you came.[/quote]
And in our particular church we are a small faith community that actively, intentionally and openly explores difficult issues, more concerned with helping people make sense of life than with their holding to the party line.
Fifth, branding is about finding ways to let people know who we are and the value we offer them.
Someone once said to me that brand is defined by the customer. It’s what they think, feel and value about our company/organisation. And that means that if they know we exist we have a brand. The only issue is whether that brand is perceived as relevant to them or not. By paying attention to our brand we are trying to be very intentional about helping people see us and value us for who we really are.
Sixth, your brand is established by everything you do.
Logos, tag lines and marketing materials are simply ways of trying to express who we are and the value we offer. The reality is that this is established by everything we do s a church. Every interaction with our community, from the logo on our material, to the ways we interact with people says something about us.
This is why I am now a fan of branding our churches.It’s a truly missional exercise.