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Before we dive even deeper into advertising, we need to talk about your branding. Branding is a big deal. Possibly even bigger than you realize. It is the foundation of your marketing. You need to be willing to do surgery on your brand. You must to be willing to rip it apart, then piece it back together, reform- ing it into something better. Then do it again. And again. And keep doing it until it is perfect. Your brand needs to be intentional, strategic, and fully understood. It’s so much more than just a logo.
As you read this chapter, please know that the word “brand” and “logo” are not the same thing. Your logo is a part of your branding, but it is not an all-inclusive definition of your brand. Your brand, simply put, is your vibe. The feeling that one has when they experience your church, is your brand. That feeling is created by your logo, colors, font type, music, interior design, the clothing you wear, the voice in your social media posts… these are all an intentional creation of your vibe. This is either created with intentionality, or it is formed by default.
I have had the opportunity to help countless churches through the process of creating their marketing and branding. How much thought have you put into your brand? In a worst-case scenario, you have a logo that you have stuck with, simply be- cause it seems fine. A best-case scenario is when you have fully established a brand guidelines and best practices booklet, and have intentionally chosen your voice, style guides, and colors. You need to realize that your branding is so much deeper than your logo—every media output from your church is establishing your brand.
Believe it or not, your church’s branding affects people’s feel- ings about your church. People have a certain set of emotions when they interact with your brand, and they are rarely even aware of it. What do people feel when they hear your church’s name? Branding is sub-conscious, subtle, and sneaky. It is so much more of a feeling thing than a science thing, and that’s why it is one of the most dangerous parts of marketing. You forget about your branding. You get used to your branding. And once it is set, it is difficult to change. I encourage you to read this chapter with an open mind, and be willing to make the difficult changes if they are needed.
Your branding can either be an asset or a liability. There is no middle ground.
This scenario has played out hundreds of times with our team: we will be on a video consultation with a church about the rebranding process, and they start talking about their backstory and how they started the church and how they are really into the contemporary look…or rustic…or whatever. It’s almost al- ways the same. I don’t stop them, because I want to fully under- stand them and their style preferences. However, about halfway through the process they start to realize that the questions we are asking them are different than they expected.
Instead of asking the leadership team about their backstory, their favorite colors, and their design preferences, we have atotally different set of questions. We start asking about the people in their target audience. We ask about the city, the culture, and
the neighborhood. We want to know about the most popular restaurants in their area. We want to know what people do for fun in their area. We ask them to paint a picture of their specif- ic target demographic, what they are like, what they wear, what music they listen to. Anything and everything we can find out about their target audience, that’s what we want to know. We are less interested in telling the story of their church—we want the branding to connect with their community.
The biggest and most successful brands don’t have logos and colors that are focused inwardly. The best brands are creat-ed intentionally and specifically to evoke a desired feeling from their audience.
Have you noticed how pretty much all fast food restaurants use the same shade of red in their branding? Or how almost all charities and nonprofits use a similar shade of blue somewhere in their branding? Notice also how many luxury clothing and jewelry brands use serif fonts, like Rolex, Vogue, Dior, and Louis Vuitton. These brands are being strategic to evoke an emotion with their audience. Multi-million dollar corporations obsess over every element of their branding. McDonald’s wants you to feel hungry. Charities want to evoke a sense of purity and goodness. The owners of Rolex want you to associate a luxurious feeling with their watches. The list goes on.
We have already solidified the fact that you should be very specific about who your target audience is. I would go evenfurther to say that you should design your entire brand to at- tract one target individual. Wait, what? Yes, design your whole strategy as if it were geared to attract one specific person. You must be incredibly specific. You should build a pretend person who fits that exact target demographic, and imagine your entire brand to be built to attract this one, single person. For example, you could decide that your person is a 29-year-old male, who likes to eat at (insert your local restaurants), who likes outdoor sports like hiking, camping and fishing, and who works in sales. Obviously you would prayerfully put together your specific person that you sense God is leading you to reach. The more detailed you get, the better.
Once you have painted the picture of this target person, you can add elements into your branding that would attract him or her. It may feel like you are being too specific, and thatyour church will not be attractive to the masses. But you will just have to trust me on this, being specific to one target doesnot subtract, it adds. In the same way that the store Whole Foods is built for a specific type of person, but is vastly popu- lar amongst a wide range of individuals, so it will be for your church’s branding. Although you have one specific person type in mind, there will be thousands of people who perfectly reso- nate with your branding. To reach more, focus on fewer.
One of the practical tools we use when creating branding
is called a mood board. After we define a target demographic, we then put together a collage of images, fonts, words, abstract graphic elements, color bars, and unique shapes. See the example below.
The goal of a mood board is to use a wide range of artis- tic elements to create a feeling, or vibe, that would holistically be appealing to your target individual. It is all about feeling. After everyone agrees that the mood board evokes the right feeling, it is then used as the basis for all future branding and media. Would your logo perfectly fit as an additional image on that mood board, or would it clash? Would that sermon series artwork design fit in the mood board, or not? What changes could you make to your lobby and campus to better fit your mood board? The goal of your branding is to be attractive to your target audience, instead of just expressing your own story. When it is done strategically, your branding will be an outreach tool.
You might be wondering, what if our own church wouldn’t even fit on our mood board? Don’t we want to be authentic with our branding? The answer is yes, you definitely want your branding to be authentic. Recently I had a church tell me that they wanted to attract millennials to their church, and they wanted to make their branding incredibly modern and sleek. The mood board that they wanted felt like a young, rock and roll style church. But this look didn’t match what this church was really like on Sundays. If they went with this style of branding, people would come and feel like they must be in the wrong place, because the branding did not match who the church really was.
You obviously don’t want to portray an image that is not who you really are. Be aware that any advice in this chapter canbe taken to an extreme and become ineffective. The purpose of this section is to change your perspective and motive when it comes to branding, but if you look at your mood board, and you feel that it is way too far from who you are, the problem may be that you have chosen the wrong target audience. You have to be both authentic, and intentionally attractive at the same time.
Sometimes you need to define a target audience that is closer to who you naturally are.
But always remember, your branding is not about you, it is about the people you are trying to reach.