In the religious world, branding often focuses on a single personality. After all, people watch Joyce Meyer to hear Joyce Meyer. The commercials are nice, the music is good at her meetings, and the interviews are interesting, but without question, without Joyce, there wouldn’t be a program. The positive side is that personality driven branding really connects with an audience.
People won’t want a relationship with an organization, a TV program, or a building. They want to relate to another person. There’s a reason Oprah calls her show, “Oprah” and not “Afternoon Chat” or something else.
However, that also opens up serious, potential abuse. The personality driven equation opens to door to ego, greed, financial irresponsibility, and more – and as we’ve seen in recent years with TV ministries especially, it is a two-edged sword.
We’ve recently been through a transition period when it comes to major religious ministries. Over the last number of years we’ve seen big churches and media ministries change hands – Billy to Franklin Graham, Oral to Richard Roberts, John to Joel Osteen, Robert Schuller Sr, to Robert A. Schuller, Jerry to Jonathan Falwell, and on and on.
So the question becomes, who do we brand? The person, or the organization? There was a very interesting comment about that question from the fashion industry in Time magazine. Speaking of the public face of brands in the fashion industry, Kate Betts said:
“Gucci Group CEO Robert Polet has long insisted that the brands are the stars now, and his strategy of hiring lesser-known designers, including a few of (Tom) Ford’s former design assistants, seems to have paid off: sales at Gucci have soared to $2.1 billion. “Brands can survive without the namesake designer if you have a team and staff who understand the DNA of the brand,” says Dana Telsey of The New York City–based retail-research firm Telsey Advisory Group. “Most of these brands that are global now could never have gotten to where they are with just one person anyway.”
Interesting, but still not conclusive when it comes to faith-based media. In the religious and non-profit world, a preacher, speaker, teacher, or author is the driving force, and for the most part, without that driver, you’re out of business. It’s interesting that “Love Worth Finding” – the television ministry of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis continues to produce a weekly program featuring Adrian Rogers – who’s been dead for a number of years now. The theory of the Love Worth Finding team is that we read books by dead authors, so why shouldn’t we watch their TV programs as well? Since I’m a “I Love Lucy” fan, the logic is hard to argue.
So for the most part, I continue to brand personalities when it comes to media. Certainly Kate Betts is right in some media cases – when a team really knows the DNA of a brand, you can make that transition successfully.
But the truth is, TV (especially) is a personality driven medium. People relate to people. And for the short term, that’s not going to change.