Creating Your Church Brand
By Maurilio Amorim
More and more, I am approached by churches that want me to help them with brand positioning. Growing churches are realizing they need to be in charge of their perceived image in the minds of people in their community.
Your church brand can be defined as the space it occupies in the mind of the people you reach. It can be a local, regional, national or international brand position.
Often the average church allows its building to dictate brand positioning, whether it is a traditional building or a modern structure. But what do we do with thousands of congregations in buildings that do not reflect their current worship style or ministry focus? What do we do with the virtual church meeting in rented facilities at a school or movie theater?
Years ago, I stumbled into the area of branding while trying to answer such a question. My church met in a middle school. Our lack of physical presence in the community prompted me to become aggressive in telling the story of our church through a variety of media efforts, including sending hundreds of thousands of mailers to our neighbors every year. Even though these mailers were always different–different graphics, different themes–I worked hard to have a consistent message of hope, as well as the repetitive telling of our brand statement: Real hope for real people in the real world.
There is tremendous power in being able to communicate in a few words what you are all about. Some churches work hard to create environments where the unchurched can feel welcomed and comfortable in order to present them with the truth of the gospel. Other churches have a passion for great expository Bible teaching. Still others focus on powerful worship services. Being able to capture this essence concisely in a few words or a sentence is a very powerful way to tell your story. Its simplicity will facilitate the story to be told and retold by your congregation, as well by those who might have heard of you.
Once you’ve settled on a BRAND STATEMENT, use it everywhere–business cards, mailers, web site, banners, bulletins, t-shirts, videos, announcements
Before you begin looking around for a nifty saying that you plan to adopt as your brand statement, please consider the following.
Is this message congruent with our mission and vision statement? You must have a mission or a vision statement. If you don’t, go back to the drawing board and make sure you know where you’re going. Without this vital direction, any branding statement will sound good for a short time. Without a target, any hit might be considered a good one but what you really need is a bullseye.
Is this message something we can do now or will be able to do in the near future? Believe it or not, churches are often guilty of stealing someone else’s cutting-edge ideas and not being able to pull them off. Early in my career, I helped the pastor of a new church who
wanted to make some pretty bold claims about his congregation. “Great children’s programs, a hot band, ministry for the entire family” was the catch phrase. The truth was far different. The nursery had one crib and the children’s areas consisted of two rooms with a few old toys in a rented school. The stage was set up in the middle of a gymnasium without proper lighting and sound, and the only hot thing about the band was the lack of air conditioning in the gym. So please fight the urge to promise more than you can deliver. Take inventory, find the things you do well, and play them up in your communication.
There is tremendous power in being able to communicate in a few words what you are all about.
Recently a church pastor and an elder came to see me, wanting to do a billboard campaign. As we talked and I probed them about the church’s vision and ministry, it became obvious that they were on the wrong path. While I applauded them for their forward thinking and trying to reach out to the community, I asked them to go back to the church and use the money they were planning to spend on the billboard campaign to renovate their nursery and children’s areas. “Suppose they came to visit, what would you do with their children?” I asked them. If you are going to have company over, make sure you clean house first. It was good advice from my mother, and still applies, even to churches.
Does it resonate with the people in our community, city or region? Worse than not having a message to share is having a message that no one feels is relevant. I remember driving by a church not long ago and seeing a message on its sign in big, bold letters: “King James Only!” Well, I personally don’t have a problem with the King James version of the Bible, but if that is the most compelling reason to attend your church, you’ve got problems.
Say it over and over
Once you’ve settled on a brand statement, use it everywhere–business cards, mailers, web site, banners, bulletins, t-shirts, videos, announcements. You might get tired of it after a while, but some people will be discovering it for the first time. You cannot over-communicate your brand statement. Make sure its usage is consistent–use the same font and place it in the same layout format every time. These visual cues will help people to identify and process the message more effectively.
Creating a brand is not a difficult task, but creating brand equity is another story. You begin to build equity every time your brand message reaches its target audience and it stays with them. Often it’s a subtle process over many years of telling and retelling the same story. The most important thing is to begin the journey. Unless you begin to systematically and effectively develop your brand, your church will occupy the wrong space in people’s minds, or even worse, no space at all.
Maurilio Amorim is an author and president of the A Group in Brentwood, Tennessee, where he serves as business consultant to churches, ministries and Christian publishers