Re-Branding Mainstream Churches – Does it help?

You’ve probably noticed that the Methodists, Evangelical Lutherans, and the Episcopal denominations have all launched major advertising campaigns with some others to follow.  I wrote the book on branding in the religious and non-profit space, but I have to admit, this is a real chicken and egg thing.  While I’m all for organizations telling their story more effectively, you have to have a unique story to tell in the first place.  In other words,
what has changed about these mainline organizations that have been dramatically losing membership over the last decades?  After all this money spent on advertising, will new members show up and see something different?   Apple’s advertising works because it simply tells the story of great products.  But do these and other mainline denominations really have a new brand / story / vision (whichever word you are most comfortable with)?  The advertising has changed, but has the experience in the pew?  Are they just re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic?

Any mainliners out there who can comment?  What do you think?

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  1. Ultimately advertising campaigns have little to do with branding.  What matters is the actual experience that customers have with the product or service.  The brand only exists in the mind of the customer or the potential customer.  Advertising may influence someone to take a drink, but the brand begins to be built on that first sip.

    Word-of-Mouth is the new mass media.

  2. Going off your Titanic metaphor, i think they’re doing more than re-arranging deck chairs, less than avoiding the iceberg.  Maybe something like "they’re forming bucket brigades to try and keep the water levels down".

    People aren’t going on the United Methodist’s website to find out that the people are judgemental and hypocritical, they’re meeting the people that fit that perception.   

    In my area (Des Moines, IA) there are a number of churches that are currently redefining, reredefining, and trying everything they can to have a wider appeal.  Churches are putting up new signs, updating websites, and getting new hip message graphics.  All of these things are good, but the inner experience at the majority of the churches remains unchanged. 

  3. Good word Chris.

    We have noticed that they have spent millions on new campaigns.  Did anyone notice if they have spent millions on new remodels, technology, programs, outreaches, staff, etc?

    The commercial hooks you, but the experience keeps you.  That will be the difference here. 

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