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    Strategic Church Branding (Secret #4)

    Church Branding Explained

    This is a 10 part teaching series that covers all of the chapters (all 10 secrets of extraordinary church growth) from the influential book, The Funnel, written by Ross Turner, CEO & Founder of Vibrant Agency. This book shows the proven methods for using digital marketing for churches. Using branding, team leadership, social media, website, and paid ads to help a church bring their message to their community.

    If you would like to learn more about Ross, or to contact us, please do so using the following:

    Ross Turner Instagram: @ross.turner.official

    Vibrant Agency Instagram: @vibrantagency

    Vibrant Agency Website:


    Secret 4: Strategic Branding for a Church

    We’ve got a church logo, so we’re good. Right?

    Before we dive even deeper into advertising, we need to talk about your branding. Church branding is a big deal. Possibly even bigger than you realize. It is the foundation of your church marketing. You need to be willing to do surgery on your church’s brand. You must to be willing to rip it apart, then piece it back together, reforming it into something better. Then do it again. And again. And keep doing it until it is perfect. Your church brand needs to be intentional, strategic, and fully understood. Its so much more than just a logo.

    As you read this article, please know that the word brandand logoare not the same thing. Your ministry logo is a part of your branding, but it is not an all-inclusive definition of your church’s 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 poststhese 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 because 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 logoevery media output from your church is establishing your brand.

    Believe it or not, your churchs branding affects peoples feelings 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 churchs name? Branding is sub-conscious, subtle, and sneaky. It is so much more of a feeling thing than a science thing, and thats 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 christian ministry branding can either be an asset or a liability. There is no middle ground.

    Choosing Your Church Branding Colors

    How do I know what colors to use in our church branding?

    More than any other parts of your ministry branding, choosing the right colors will make the biggest impact on peoples emotions. More than font type, more than the icon. It is vital that you choose your colors carefully, intentionally, and strategically. 

    Not long ago, we decided that we needed to redo the colors for our own company. We felt like we needed to be more intentional with communicating the right feelings to our audience, so our team sat down and discussed some possibilities regarding colors, and played with some different gradient color shades. After a lot of thought and creative meetings, we made the decision to simply stick with science. We chose a shade of orange that studies have shown communicate a sense of freshness and newness. It was already a proven color shade, so we went with it. This has turned out to be a great decision for us. We were completely pleased with the logo and how it translated onto our church website and church social media grid.

    For your church, you could choose to read articles and research the exact way that certain color shades affect the human brain, and do your own experimenting. Or you could go with what are already the trusted rules of thumb by industry standards. Here are some well-documented findings about color schemes and the feelings they evoke:

    Deep blue – trustworthiness, wisdom, and expertise

    Light blue – charity, purity, and wholesomeness

    Yellow – happiness, hope, and optimism

    Orange – new, fresh, and young

    Purple – royal, regal, and mature

    Deep green – organic, wealth, and success

    Black – elegance, power, and depth

    Tan – earthy, natural, and warmth

    While this list is a good starting place, dont use it as the sole deciding factor when choosing your color. Whats most important is evoking the right feeling for your specific audience. Every age group, community, and even city has unique traits that need to be considered when choosing your colors. As an example, if your churchs branding uses colors that are similar to a large local company, people will subconsciously transfer some of their feelings about that company to your brand. As silly as it sounds, you should also consider the colors of local and rival sports teams. Some people who just read that will think I am crazy for making that suggestion, but some of you will absolutely get it!

    Furthermore, pay attention to other churches in your area, and make sure to avoid using very similar colors and font type to them. Almost every church has a unique individual target person, and there are plenty of colors and branding options to go around, so do some research when making your decision.

    Also keep in mind that every church logo should ideally have one main color, and one complimentary color. I do not recommend having more than two colors in your official logo. Your mood board will have a palette of colors for all media output, but your logo should stick with just two. However, if you want to choose just one color for your logo, that could work as well. Choosing just one bold color would pair well with black or white and often be sufficient enough by itself. 

    A great process for choosing your colors is to step back and take a wide view of your mood board. Intentionally or not, there will probably be some colors that really stick out in this collage of images. I suggest choosing your primary and your secondary colors directly from your mood board. Find the primary color that evokes the right emotion for your specific target audience, and use the exact color tone for your logo.

    While your ministry logo color scheme is important, the colors you choose go beyond just what is in your logo. Your mood board will usually have five to eight colors that are allowed in your non-logo branding collateral. For example, your church website should use the colors of your church’s branding in the design elements. Your interior paint colors should also fit in your church branding, and even the filtering on the photos in your Instagram feed should be intentional and on-brand. 

    Choose wisely, because colors matter.


    Focus on How You Talk.

    Does the way we talk and write affect our church’s branding?

    Remember, your church’s branding is all about your vibe. It is the feeling that your brand evokes, but this feeling is not just created with colors, font type, and designs. It is also created with your voice. 

    When I talk about your voice, Im talking about the language you use. Both in the written and the spoken word. Do you have a formal voice? Should you use slang and casual language? How do you use humor? These are all church communication styles that help to create the way people perceive you. In order to be intentional with your branding, you should be intentional with your voicing. 

    Think of it this way. If there was a photo posted on Instagram by Charles Stanleys church, and an identical image posted on the Instagram account of Andy Stanleys church, their captions would probably be very different. Each of these churches has its own style and vibe. They have different target audiences, different leadership styles, and very different brands. You could almost recognize the differences in their brands simply by their voices. This is another great example of how church branding is not just visual, but so many other details must be taken into account.

    Your voice should be intentional. Lets look at Starbucks as an example and examine how they talk on their social media posts to create a specific vibe. With every post of a perfect latte, they use captions that are short, playful, and classy. This reinforces a brand experience with Starbucks that is both contemporary and sophisticated at the same time. An Instagram post in December shows a beautiful butterscotch latte sitting on a table that overlooks a blizzard outside. The caption simply says Cozy as can be. #SmokedButterscotchLatte.The caption is short and casual sounding, and the image conveys a sense of warmth and comfort. All of their posts convey these same fun yet classy vibes, which is what their customers start to sense about the brand as a whole. You need to think about your target audience, and speak in a way that is attractive to them. 

    Your church communication style should even be specified in your brand guidelines book, which we will talk about in the next section. As your church grows, you are going to have more and more people on your media team. If you dont specifically define your voice, then every time a social post is written, or an email blast is sent out, it will all sound different. You need to define it and communicate it to your team. Even the titles of your message series or your events should take your church branding voice into consideration.

    If your church is targeting an older, more established demographic, then have your voice be elegant, traditional, and gentle. If your church is targeting college aged students, then your voice should be minimal, witty, and somewhat playfully sarcastic. For a church that targets young families, use a voice that is nurturing and gentle. If you target young professionals, use a more professional voice. Every demographic and audience has unique and subtle differences in how they communicate. Learn it, speak it, and adapt to it.

    Decide how you talk, and make it intentional.

    Pro Tip – Follow a lot of the companies, athletes, and musicians that are popular with your target audience. Many of the ways that people communicate are taken from social media content published by influencers online. If you follow them and pay attention to their voice, you will start to naturally adapt.

    church branding company

    Official Church Brand Guidelines Book

    Do we really need to have all of this written out? Won’t people just catch our vibe?

    As a leader, it can be really frustrating when the people on your team cant read your mind, right? I mean, why dont they know exactly what I want them to do, all the time, and do it exactly the way I want it done? Obviously I am joking, but the truth is, sometimes we make assumptions like this without even realizing it.

    The people on your marketing team want to follow the branding of the church. They want to know your voice and style. But they will be left feeling insecure and unsure without having clearly defined standards to follow. I used to think that creatives should be left to do whatever they want, but after years of overseeing graphic designers and social media marketers, I have learned that creative people appreciate specific guidelines. Their creativity actually flourishes within the boundaries of clear direction. 

    That being said, everyone on your media team should be given a PDF or printed book that contains your official church brand guidelines. You should review this book with your team, and give them the opportunity to ask for clarification on any of it. Take the time to train them and talk them through these guidelines. Providing your team with this resource allows you to use it as the gold standard on all media content for your church or christian ministry. 

    Your official church brand guidelines book should be a document that contains a complete and clear definition of your church’s brand. Everything from your colors and your style, all the way to your voice. It is generally a ten to twenty page PDF with all of the details that a designer or content creator would need in order to create media for your church and stay on brand. The beginning of the book should start by clearly defining your target audience and your specific target individual. Explain this person in detail, and help your team understand the reason for targeting this sample person. The next section will contain your mood board, which your media team will reference for all of their designs. The following section should provide an expanded explanation of your official logo, in all of its different versions. Clearly define your primary, secondary, and icon versions of your logo, as well as the various font types and exact colors of your design. Your church logo should never be used outside of the approved formats in this official church brand guidelines book.

    Another very important section of your church brand guidelines book is a full description of your approved fonts. All publications on print and screen should follow your clearly defined style guides. You want there to be two to four font types that are used exclusively in your media. You should define the font type for all headings and subheadings. This includes details like tracking, thickness, and color. It is common for corporations to define the space between letters, and also to define the space above and below lines of text. The type of font that you use in normal paragraphs should also be specified, including spacing and thickness. Be sure to clarify when and how to use italic fonts and bold fonts. The more detailed you can get, the better.

    Even after you have defined your target audience, shown your mood board, discussed font style and the detailed breakdown of your logo, you still have much more to communicate in your brand guidelines book. The next section should be all about photography. You need to specify the style of photos you want to use, and you also need to clarify the specific color filters that your brand calls for. This is a bit more abstract and difficult to define, but it is very important for the people on your visual media team to understand what the style is. Give examples of what kinds of shots you like to use, and give examples of what you dont like. Try not to assume that people will know what you are looking for; over directing is always better than not giving enough direction.

    ministry branding agency

    Your church should have specific color filters that you use on your social media photos, print material, and service screens. These color filters can change seasonally, or you can keep them consistent all year round. A great example of this is the popular grocery store Sprouts. You can follow Sprouts on Instagram and see what an excellent job they do with pulling the right colors out of every photo in their social feed. If you scroll down the grid on their Instagram account, you will see that during specific seasons they focus their feed on certain colors. And they change the color every season. As I look at their feed now, they are focusing on the color orange. Every photo has clearly been put into Lightroom and the colors have been tweaked to pull out the orange tones. As you scroll down the feed, it is really cool to see how the colors change from season to season. It takes a lot of planning and work to be this intentional with color in your media, but these little details make a great first impression.

    In addition to defining the filters used on each photo, you should also define the types of photos you use. Do you prefer abstract shots, or straight on smiling face photos? Action shots, or candid shots? Your brand guidelines book should dedicate one full page with eight to ten example photos that evoke the right feeling for your intended branding. Your team can use that as a basis to understand what kind of media to create. 

    The last part of your church brand guidelines book should be dedicated to defining your voice. Your unique speaking style and tone. This is the most difficult to define, as it is the most ambiguous of all the branding elements. This section should start with a short description of the tone and style of your voice, and the reasoning behind it. Next you provide sample snippets of headlines and captions that most clearly capture your tone. If you could provide at least ten great examples, it will really help your media team to grasp the vibe. After that, you should provide contrasting examples of paragraphs that do not have your tone. This will allow people to fully understand the way your voice sounds, and the way it does not. 

    Voice, color, mood, fontsthese things dont just happen on their own. They are choices that your team will makeso be sure that youre clearly defining your vision.

    People aren’t mind readers. Create the guidelines they need.

    Pro Tip – If you would like an example of a completed brand guidelines book for a church, I can send you one that our team at Vibrant Agency created. Just email me at and either I or one of our team members will personally email you a PDF so you can see it for yourself.

    The Goal of Your Church Branding

    Our church’s branding is supposed to tell our story, right?

    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 lookor rusticor whatever. Its almost always the same. I dont stop them, because I want to fully understand 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 a totally 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 specific 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, thats what we want to know. We are less interested in telling the story of their churchwe want the branding to connect with their community.

    The biggest and most successful brands dont have logos and colors that are focused inwardly. The best brands are created 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. McDonalds 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 even further to say that you should design your entire brand to attract 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 that your church will not be attractive to the masses. But you will just have to trust me on this, being specific to one target does not subtract, it adds. In the same way that the store Whole Foods is built for a specific type of person, but is vastly popular amongst a wide range of individuals, so it will be for your churchs branding. Although you have one specific person type in mind, there will be thousands of people who perfectly resonate 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.

    church branding mood board

    The goal of a mood board is to use a wide range of artistic 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 church branding will be an outreach tool.

    You might be wondering, what if our own church wouldnt even fit on our mood board? Dont 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 church branding incredibly modern and sleek. The mood board that they wanted felt like a young, rock and roll style church. But this look didnt 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 dont want to portray an image that is not who you really are. Be aware that any advice in this article can be taken to an extreme and become ineffective. The purpose of this article is to change your perspective and motive when it comes to church 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 church’s branding is not about you, it is about the people you are trying to reach.

    Timeless Church Branding

    How can our church’s branding stand the test of time?

    As you read this article, there are current popular graphic design trends for font, effects, styles, and colors, but something to keep in mind: styles change over time. Blink twice and todays trends will look dated and old. I can guarantee you that design styles have changed even since the day this article was written. A big mistake that you can make with your church branding is to be too tied to todays current trends. However, this poses a unique challenge. How can you be relevant to todays culture without risking being dated tomorrow?

    In the church world, design trends last for about two to three years. After that, they start to look worn out, like LeBron Jameshairline (if you know, you know). Many churches want to be relevant and contemporary with their brand image, and depending on your target audience, that can be a very smart goal. Be careful, though, or you might use too many trendy style elements that are only going to be relevant for a few years. Once your church branding looks dated, you won’t be able to make minor tweaks and brand updates. You will have to start over. Sometimes that is ok. Starting over is a great way to refocus your goals and target audiences, but it can also be very expensive and difficult.

    The best way to prevent your branding from having a short shelf life is to make your logo simple. A simple logo is almost timeless. In our agency, when we go through the logo design process with churches, we start with three or four concepts that evoke the right emotions. Getting the feeling right is our top priority, so while these first concepts might not be polished enough to be an official logo, we give them consideration because the emotions are right. Furthermore, most of the beginning versions will only have words, and no icon. What we have found is that having the right font type and style is most important, so we focus on this first. After we choose the font and layout, then we add icons. After trying out a few more versions, we then eliminate and cut out as much as we can from the logo we like best. We simplify it as much as possible, without diminishing the design. When we do this, we can usually find many little details that were not adding any value and were just cluttering up the design. The end result is a logo that is clean, simple, and as timeless as we can get.

    Simplicity in church branding is rare to find. Especially when dealing with icons. For churches, the least number of doves flying out of steeples and spreading their wings over crosses, the better. And the sooner your church understands this, the better.

    If you have successfully designed a church or ministry logo that will endure the test of time, you will still have to update your branding, just less frequently. When ministry branding is done well from the inception, it will not need a rebrand. But it will need something called a brand refresh. A rebrand is when you start completely over. A brand refresh is when you take your current logo, and make subtle tweaks and adjustments to give it a more contemporary look. Its like a facelift for your branding. A good example of this is when Southwest Airlines changed their icon from an airplane above the word Southwestto the new logo that says Southwestwith a heart as the period. Another example is the restaurant chain Olive Garden, who previously had a photo-realistic style logo, which they changed to a graphical logo. These were not new branding creations, they were subtle modifications to adjust to current design standards. 

    Your church will also need to make these small changes to stay current, but this job is much less stressful when the original design is simple and easy to manipulate.

    Be simple. Be timeless.