Branding Isn’t a Dirty Word

Branding Isn’t a Dirty Word

What is your church’s brand actually communicating?

Kirk Hadden | May 26, 2020 | branding Church Branding Church Marketing Church Plant marketing marketing web

Why Ministries Have Trouble Reaching People

We love pastors. If you’re a pastor — or a Kingdom leader of any kind — we know you have a vision, a message to communicate, and a deep love for Jesus and His people.

We also know that you want to present the Gospel clearly. And once they’ve heard, you want to guide them into life-changing discipleship. 

You and your team have probably lovingly crafted the church-going experience for people. You’ve drafted a statement of faith and thought deeply about your worship style. You’ve developed—or are developing—fun and engaging children’s and youth ministries. 

You might even have a website and a logo.

But for a lot of churches, the key difficulty is getting people to walk through the door. This probably has nothing to do with the church itself. In fact, most of the congregations we work with are places that would make people say, “I didn’t know church could be like that!”

But that’s precisely the problem: their perception of church based on their past experiences has led them to the conclusion that church has nothing for them. Whether they know your church or not, they already have opinions about you. 

That’s a branding problem. 

Getting Your Brand in Focus

I enjoy photography and have a great camera. Cameras have come a long way — there’s an amazing amount of science built into a relatively small device. 

In its lens alone, there are sixteen precisely crafted elements. Each is necessary to process random photons, guiding them to a precise point on the sensor. If one of those elements is missing or damaged, the camera won’t produce a clear picture.

Lens patent drawing

Not only that, but different wavelengths of light also refract in lenses at different rates. Photographers have to adjust for all of that, too. We’ll leverage special coatings and low-dispersion lenses that keep an image from developing strangely colored fringes. 

High-quality cameras — along with proper photographic technique — help me overcome the obstacles to present something I saw clearly and accurately.

Clearly presenting a message to another person, so he or she can accurately “see” it the way you do … 

That’s called branding.

But the church tends to leave our communication to chance. Instead of being intentional, we toss it out there and hope for the best. We put up generic billboards, blast people with social media messages, or simply order a bunch of t-shirts for people to wear. We often hope that something, anything, will grab someone’s attention.

Is that the best way to handle the most important message ever entrusted to humans?

Branding: What Church Communicators Forget

In every communication, there’s a messenger and an audience. Churches understand that. As Christians, we have a compelling message, and we want those who need it to hear it.

But we forget that between the messenger and the audience, there are several obstacles, or refractions, that can distort the message based on an audience’s preconceptions and past experiences. 

Toss in the word “church,” and suddenly you’re dealing with a whole host of distortions. Likely, the reason a person you’re trying to reach won’t come to your church is that they have a problem with the word “church” itself. 

There are 2000 years of history pre-loaded into that person’s brain, whether or not they’re aware of it. Perhaps they think church is:

  • Boring
  • Full of hypocrites
  • Rigid
  • Backward
  • Hurtful
  • Irrelevant
  • Anti-science
  • Too political
  • Too whatever

So, when you start talking about church, doesn’t it make sense to take care how you do it?

That does not mean we change the Gospel by sugar-coating it, reducing it, or undermining it. It just means that every word, every image, every aesthetic choice associated with your church needs to be intentional.

And, frankly, if there’s any organization in the history of the world that needs to be intentional about how it communicates, it’s the Church.

How the Ministry Branding Process Begins

One of the reasons many people in ministry resist the idea of “branding” is simply this: Organizations have used the branding process to manipulate each of us in our past. We were convinced we knew someone or something through excellent marketing, only to find out the whole game was rigged to mislead us.

As Christians, lying about who we are is the last thing we want to do. Your brand should never promise something it cannot deliver, and there is no righteous reason to do so.

But what if your logo, the colors you used, and the words you chose to describe yourself didn’t lie about your ministry or the Gospel. What if it became a doorway for those who would love your church to get to know the real you? 

For ArtSpeak clients, the branding process begins with prayer and empathy

First, prayerfully consider who God’s called you to be as a ministry and write it down. Ask Him to show you your:

  • Mission
  • Vision
  • Core values
  • The key phrases that have shaped you
  • The testimonies reveal your calling to you

Then, empathize with those people you’re called to reach. Ask yourself, what:

  • Are their stories?
  • Is their life like?
  • Do they hope for?
  • Are there fears?
  • Keeps them from accepting God’s best for their lives?
  • Do they like (and what don’t they like)?

With these questions answered, you can ask more significant questions about how you can talk to those people specifically. 

Then, you use all the creativity at your disposal to present them with the Good News.

Branding Can Be Holy

Yes, “branding” can sound like an unspiritual word.

But we believe if God is in it, intentional communication — also known as “branding” — can be holy. Doesn’t this sound like something we should be doing as the body of Christ:

  • Getting to know the people in our community
  • Finding out how they want to be treated
  • Learning what words make them feel loved
  • Discovering how we can best serve
  • Letting them know through language, art, and creativity that we’re available for them

It’s time to break down the barriers that keep people out of good churches. Over the next several weeks, we’re going to download our entire branding process to you. We’ll show you how we’ve helped churches grow (or launch) through effective branding and communication.

We’ll intersperse it with some tactical ideas about how to better use social media. And we’ll share some stories about how different ministries have been able to overcome communication barriers with their audiences.

If your church is ready to open the doors to those you’re meant to serve, try downloading our Branding Questionnaire. It will help you to discover what you want to say … and who you want to reach.

Download the branding questionnaire here.