Branding is Not a Bad Word

Recently, I made the case that “marketing” is not a bad word. In the context of churches, marketing is about making a straight path for the gospel. Well, brand isn’t a bad word either. Many church leaders don’t think branding matters for their church, but it does. How you live out your church’s brand should help people see the gospel clearly and easily, not muddy the waters, or create unnecessary barriers. Let’s look at some smart ways to implement your church’s brand and at some things you should avoid.

What is brand anyway?

When we think of the word “brand,” products and logos often leap to mind. We instantly think about the Golden Arches, the Nike swoosh, and the Apple…well, apple. Logos, taglines, and “look and feel” are all part of a brand, but at its essence brand is about a promised experience. When you go through a McDonald’s drive-thru or fire up your Mac, you expect to have specific and consistent experiences. Fancy marketing and logos didn’t train you to respond to these brands the way you do. Positive brand associations are created when you rely on a product, company, or service time and again and they consistently deliver and delight you (whether or not you want to admit it). A good brand is authentic and delivers exactly what you expect. You may pay more for an Apple iPhone or MacBook, but you know that it’ll “just work” as soon as you start using the product. Of course, your church isn’t peddling hamburgers or smartphones, but rather, offering fellowship and hope in Jesus Christ. The principle of a positive brand, however, remains the same.

Good branding is authentic

Your church’s brand must authentically reflect who you are as a particular body of Christians. How do you uniquely reflect God's presence, live out his word, love his people, and reflect his culture? It’s God’s presence, his word, his loving people, and their corporate culture that make up this essential experience. Strong church brand expressions send clear messages to the community, tell credible stories about who the church is, and connect with visitors emotionally and spiritually. While branding does offer some opportunity to share what your church would like people to think about it, it’s more important that your brand accurately reflect what people actually think about your church. At my own church, for example, our modest branding uses simple colors and a subtle logo, and relies more heavily on actual images of our congregation in worship and service to communicate our values of welcome and participation. Your logo, tagline, and the look and feel of your branding should reflect your church’s authentic experience and affirm your church’s brand promise to a visitor each time they visit.

Strong brands are consistent

Consistent theme, color palettes, fonts, and logos help visually capture the authentic culture and worship experience in your church. A simple, well-designed logo can help your church get noticed and hint at what you’re all about. Color palettes draw the eye and express mood. Consistent use of palettes and fonts also reinforce connections between the various parts of your church, giving unity, for example, to different ministries like Children's and Youth.

ReFrame Media, the publisher of Church Juice, produces a family of six different programs. Each of these sub-brands has its own look and feel and features distinct content for a particular audience, yet complementary fonts and color palettes unify the programs around ReFrame’s mission to invite media users to encounter and know Jesus. In addition, every program reflects ReFrame’s values of inclusiveness, positivity, and even scrappiness in voice and tone. Similarly, ReFrame Media’s own branding closely aligns with that of its parent organization, Back to God Ministries International. You can use consistent, complementary brand elements to connect the different ministries and activities of your church.

Don’t overthink it

Brand is a fairly simple concept, but unfortunately, many brand managers over-complicate it. If you find yourself overthinking your church’s branding, consider that less is more and simple is better. In matters of design, consistent brand elements work better; however, your consistency need not be slavish.

Brand isn’t a bad word and your church can make good use of branding principles to ensure that your logo, tagline, and visual elements evoke an authentic experience and promise. Used consistently, and without overthinking it, your church’s brand can mark out a straight path to the gospel.

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