Why Your Church Needs a Brand

  237 views

Church Juice provides congregations with free resources, articles, and opportunities for training and consulting on church communications. Church Juice is a ministry of Back to God Ministries International, the media mission of the CRCNA.

HOW PIRATES INVENTED BRANDING

In the 18th century, pirates knew they would be more successful if they could capture a ship without a fight. This was best accomplished by intimidating merchant vessels to surrender. Some pirates did that with primitive branding.

A famous example of this is the pirates’ use of the skull and crossbones flag. This dark symbol was essentially the pirate logo. It struck fear into the hearts of anyone on the high seas. This same icon had previously been associated with the bubonic plague, so it was already closely associated with the idea of death and horror.

One specific pirate went above and beyond with his personal branding. His name was Edward Teach, but he is better known as Blackbeard. Teach wore heavy clothes to make himself look bigger. He grew his namesake beard to darken his face. He even stuck lit matches under his hat to act as his personal fog machine. All of these elements were done deliberately to menace his adversaries and build a legendary persona.

In her TED Talk on rebel designers, design critic Alice Rawsthorn explains how Blackbeard is one of the best historic examples of building a globally known brand. Even in an era before modern marketing, Blackbeard and other pirates understood the importance of good branding.

WHAT IS BRANDING?

A brand is more than a name, or logo, or slogan. A brand is a unique identity. It’s how your audience views your organization or company. It’s a story your audience tells themselves about who you are. Everything you do to influence that outside perception is branding.

We tend to think of branding in terms of the corporate world, but it’s just as important in the church. Your church’s brand is the collective reputation of those familiar with you. Your brand is the general idea or impression people get when they see your logo, hear your name, or enter your building.

Some churches have a stronger brand than others. You may have preconceived notions when I mention Elevation Church or Westboro Baptist Church. The alternative to not having a brand is not being known at all. By electing to ignore branding, you’re making it OK for people to ignore you.

Branding boils down to one question: what does your church want to be known for?

HOW CAN BRANDING BENEFIT THE CHURCH?

OK, you get it — branding is important. Now what? Does my church have a brand? Should branding matter to my church? Good questions.

If you have to ask whether or not your church has a brand, the answer is probably no. Cultivating a strong brand presence takes time and intentional guidance. It’s not something you back into accidentally. It’s something you need to grow gradually.

Ultimately, this comes down to who you want to reach. Are you trying to become a force for good in your community? Does your community even know who you are? Should they care?

Branding helps you to establish a clear identity with your audience. This is not always something you can control, but it is something your church can influence—for better or worse. A good brand isn’t something you can fake. Your brand is all about who your church’s authentic self.

If you want your church to matter to people, maintaining your church’s brand should matter to you.

HOW DO WE CREATE A BRAND?

Now that you understand a little more about the history of branding and how it impacts your church, how do you create a brand? Where do brands come from? Can you order one from Amazon?

Building a respectable church brand takes time and patience, but here are a few tips to get you started in the right direction.

  • Hold a meeting with your church leadership to discuss branding
  • Identify what target audience you’re trying to reach with the brand
  • Create a brand style guide to make sure the brand is consistent
  • Do an in-depth brand audit to check the state of your church’s brand
  • Conduct a brand survey to gauge what your audience thinks of you
  • Look at some other examples of churches with good brands
  • If needed, do a brand refresh or complete overhaul
  • Live out the brand in everything you do and say

None of this should be rushed or done without considering what’s best for your audience. They should be the ultimate decision-maker for your church brand. Your church doesn’t exist without people and neither does your church brand.

The goal of your church brand should be to lower barriers to getting your target audience to engage with your church. Be sure every brand element — from your name to your logo — accomplishes that one objective. Make your brand consistent and authentic and the rest will follow.

Read More

Never miss a post! You can get the latest church communications resources from Church Juice right in your inbox! Click here to subscribe.

Posted in:

The Network hosts user-submitted content.
Posts don't necessarily imply CRCNA endorsement, but must comply with our community guidelines.

Let's Discuss…

We love your comments! Thanks for your help upholding the Community Guidelines to make this an encouraging and respectful community for everyone.
Participant

As a pastor with 20 years experience in identity development & brand management, I want to ask: isn’t the CRC a working brand? If not, what makes it unworkable for congregational identity, both in large and small communities? Our denomination places a lot of importance on how much we can do together as a denomination, with a corresponding policy on ministry shares to make this happen! If the CRC asked the questions Church Juice poses, it might benefit all our congregations.

Community Builder

Thanks Micheal. As a communicator, I love this post about branding and believe that it is important for church leaders to consider.  As director of communications and marketing for the CRCNA, I also love your question.  I'm responsible for "managing the brand" of the CRCNA.  There are some parts of that that I can control. For example, I can work with CRCNA ministries to make sure that they are producing quality materials and are connecting back to our overall denominational identity. I can also create specific materials that highlight the values and identity items that we want "Christian Reformed" to be associated with.  The problem I face, however, is that far and away the greatest brand element that the CRCNA has is our local churches.  Most people will first be exposed to the word "Christian Reformed Church" through a local congregation in their community, or through neighbors who attend that church.  I would LOVE if every church displayed our CRC logo prominently and kept the words "Christian Reformed" in their name.  Unfortunately, that isn't always the case.  Many congregations are choosing a more generic name (e.g X community church) as a way to appeal more broadly to people in their community.  This meets their individual congregational needs for branding, but makes my job more difficult. We now have CRC members who have no idea that they are part of a denomination. This is a topic that might be worthy of its own Network post one day (e.g. what creative idea do you have for how to promote our denominational identity even if we have taken "Christian Reformed" out of our name?).  In the meantime, I thank yor for your question.  I also wanted to say that even if you are still X Christian Reformed Church, it is useful to consider these branding questions.  The denominational brand will help to explain a bit about you, but the layout of your website, the images you choose to share on social media, the content of your newsletter, etc will all communicate the unique characteristics of your local congregation.  Figuring out your brand identity will help you make those decisions.

Hi Kristen,

Stepping back from the individual congregational level a moment, would you say that it was helpful for denominational branding to drop any frontline mention of CR in the newly-named World Renew and Resonate?  I would assume (perhaps incorrectly?) that your job would have placed you in position to have significant input into the renaming process.  Can we really expect individual congregations to follow a different path than that which is modeled by the denomination?

Participant

Thanks, Kristen. I’ve been working with a template for business cards, PPT, etc. that attempts to keep pace with the visual language of CRC communications (especially the website), and it seems to be holding together – so far, at least. Here’s a link, if you’re interested.

I do think that Eric (comment below) brings up a good point – if the CRC denominational agencies believe an independent brand is better received by their target audience, individual congregations cannot be expected to remain under a denominational visual identity. Much of the research that I’ve done and read regarding our name alone deals solely with the word “Reformed.” Practically, it’s a word that few people use today, and when used it evokes a negative history or even condemning, judgmental viewpoint. Many CRC members simply don’t want to have the educational discussion with persons who have little time for a history or theological lesson. Chalk one up for the times we live in.

On the other hand, a strong, positive, cohesive, and adaptable visual brand could increase in value if it was managed well throughout our congregations and ministries. Hence, asking the questions from Church Juice at a denominational level might be worthwhile.

Thanks for your work.

Community Builder

The branding looks great, Michael. Nice job.  If you haven't already seen these, you can check out our CRCNA brand standards at crcna.org/brand.

I hope that my earlier comment didn't sound like I was judging churches for their decision to drop "Christian Reformed" from their name. I can understand why they do it.  I was working at World Renew when they went through their name change and I know a lot of thought and prayer went into it. I believe it was the right decision for them (as it probably is for some congregations) . I'm just saying that it makes it harder for me to develop the brand of the CRCNA when it isn't well embraced by all our ministries and congregations. 

As for the other elements of our brand...for example, figuring out "what does it mean to be Christian Reformed to people today"...that is something that is an ever-evolving part of my work. It is also part of our ministry plan (Our Journey 2020). Some of the questions on the denominational survey asked about this, so I'm excited to see what those results will be.

Participant

Thanks for the info on the standards manual (and for the compliment)! I had no idea that CRC published a standards manual, so this is welcome information. It’s always a battle to manage a visual identity; keep up the good work.