Creative LeadershipStrategy & Marketing

Branding Is Not A Religion

Since I wrote my book “Branding Faith” a number of years ago and then updated it to “Unique: Telling Your Story in the Age of Brands and Social Media” to address how branding applies to religious and nonprofit organizations, I’ve been amazed at the number of branding companies that have popped up specifically to work with churches. Many of these companies are very good and doing excellent work. But I’m also finding that for many, “branding” has become a religion. I got a call from a major Christian ministry the other day who said, “We’ve just spent $400,000 on a branding study, have a 250 page branding manual, and have no idea what to do with it.”

That’s so wrong on so many levels. Branding should be a tool that helps you share you story more effectively. It influences your perception and helps cut through the clutter of multiple messages to tell your story. What it shouldn’t become is a one size fits all solution. Plus, no branding study, brand statement, or logo design will overcome bad preaching at a church, or poor performance at a nonprofit.  

Your story is bound up the unique quality of your content, your DNA, and the confidence that comes from acting in your strengths.

A great branding study will help you discover your strengths, your unique story, an help you express it well. But if your organization is dysfunctional or if the leadership is failing, spending money to enhance your brand is only putting a new coat of paint on a car with no engine.

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  1. Great branding comes when you have effective DNA. Establish yourself as an influence, then your brand will follow. 

  2. As a designer, I have to say it is way out of control. Most church leaders toss the word around like it is nothing. It is used in almost every context of the church which makes communication difficult. Churches seem to now understand that its importance, but don’t yet understand it, or how it should be applied it after the process is finished.

  3. I want to know who paid the 400 G’s for that study because I have a “Quantified Branding Stratification” product that I would love to pitch them on!

    Branding plain and simple is what others say about you because of what you do. Save the study, instead take care of Widows, Orphans, and the Alien and your “brand” will explode so much greater than a twentysomething controlling your twitter account. 

    What needs to be done around your community? Do that, be successful, and then send me the money you saved on a study. 

  4. I think most churches miss it when it comes to branding and marketing. They are so focused on events and marketing them. Branding and marketing is creating a perception of who they are. Our church has 3 – 4 major events per year and yes we market those events, but in between we are branding and marketing who we are, what we are and what we do. Our billboard in town is always changing so people have taken notice. But the perception we are creating is that what ever we are marketing is exactly what we are inside our doors. Delivering on the perception created will help establish the brand. To many churches are into false advertising. You see one thing advertised outside and get something totally different offered inside.

  5. I like to think of branding as the consistent expression of your your identity at all your organizations touch points. That a church doesn’t know what do do with a branding document may say something about them as much as it does the organization that provided it.

  6. Phil, you should do a companion guide to “Branding Faith” — a book based on case studies of churches and ministries.  This new volume would showcase a few good examples of groups that “got it” and have reaped the benefits but it would primarily be a collection of everyone else — a ton of examples of groups that hired consultants, paid good money, changed their logo and tag line… but never really comprehended what a brand is or how to champion it.

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