Strategy & Marketing

Six Lies About Logos

So many of our clients have questions about logos, that I asked Dawn Nicole Baldwin, our lead strategist at Cooke Media Group, for some principles about logo design and execution. Get out your pencil and make some notes, because this is good:

Okay, “lies” might be a bit extreme, but it’s true they’re often misunderstood or misperceptions.

When done right, brand identities can be an instant way to communicate the vision, values, and what someone can expect at your church or ministry. They can break down barriers, pave the way to connect new people, and focus your culture. When done wrong, it can reflect an inaccurate image, create divisions, or even be misleading.

So without further ado, let’s cover six of  the most common misperceptions ministries have about brand identities.

Lie #1 : Identities Don’t Matter Much

Brands, logos, and marketing are basically all just fluff anyway, right? Wrong. We live in a visual culture and how we communicate matters. People form impressions about who we are and what we do based on how we communicate. Having an identity that accurately reflects the heart, vision, and culture of your church can go a long way in reaching people and overcoming misperceptions.

But before you start sketching up ideas, be clear about what you want to communicate, and who you’re communicating to.

Your identity is a channel for connecting people to your vision and needs to be viewed with a strategic lens.

It’s less about which color or font you like best, but what these things say to the people you’re trying to reach.

Lie #2 : It’s Critical to be Literal

I mean, how will anyone know this is a church if we don’t include a cross, dove, and a picture of the building? And of course we can’t forget adding a globe to reflect our heart for missions… Stop it. Just stop it. Your church is more than your building.

The best marks are the ones that allow room for you to fill it with meaning and point people back to the vision.

Embrace simplicity and create conversations, remembering the identity will always be delivered in context. If the logo is on your business card, chances are you’re handing it to someone. The sign on your building? People are on the campus. Your website? There are lots of opportunities to tell the rest of the story. The Nike swoosh is one of the most recognized identities on the planet and it’s not a picture of a pair of shoes.

Lie #3 : Copying is Okay

If we just copy what another church created, it’s not a big deal, right? What they’re doing seems to be working, so it’ll probably work for us, too, right?

Don’t get me wrong—it’s okay to be inspired by others. But when inspiration stops short and becomes imitation, you’re robbing your church of the unique identity God intended for your ministry. Invest the time to make the ideas that inspired you your own.

Lie #4 : The More the Merrier

Some churches may think an identity isn’t important at all, and then there are others infected with logo-itis. It almost feels like Oprah showed up one day and stared handing them out. “YOU get a logo, and YOU get a logo…”

Unfortunately, when every ministry has its own identity, it splinters the collective identity of the church.

Worse yet, we’re setting these ministries up to compete with each other for the congregation’s attention. When everyone has their own look, feel, and voice within the same church, it runs the risk of brand schizophrenia.

There’s enough already trying to compete for people’s attention—the last thing we want to do is compete with ourselves.

A simple rule of thumb that’s worked for many churches is to draw a clean line in the sand: If a ministry has its own weekend worship service, it’s okay to have its own logo because they’re serving a distinct audience with distinct needs. (For example, Children & Students = Yes. Ministries such as Men’s, Women’s, and Redheaded Knitters Named Marge = No.)

Just remember to include your church’s primary logo on any mailings or communication tools these ministries use so everyone is clear your student ministry is still part of the church and not an island unto themselves.

Lie #5 : Rollouts Can Be Random

It’s painful to think about, but there are ministries large and small that have invested a ton of time, energy, and resources into creating a new identity but then completely dropped the ball when it came to introducing their bouncing new baby brand to the world.

One pastor thought if he just started casually mentioning the new name during his weekend messages, people would somehow subconsciously get used to it and be more open to the change. Another very large church thought it’d be okay to just start using the new logo on envelopes containing year-end giving statements before the new website (or anything else) was ready because, “It was just sitting there not being being used.” The congregation had no idea a change was even on the horizon in both cases.

When something as visible as your identity changes, there’s a powerful opportunity to cast vision and celebrate stories.

Don’t let it slip by. Take time to think about when the best time might be to roll out your new identity, how it might align with other opportunities, and above all, tell people WHY it matters.

Lie #6 : A New Brand Will Fix It

This happens a lot—Attendance is flat or has started to decline, the church wants to do a better job of reaching younger (or different) people than they’re currently reaching, the people in the pews aren’t as friendly as they should be, or perceptions need to be shifted to emphasize a focus on serving.

The solution? Maybe creating a new identity that feels more hip, diverse, friendly, outward-focused, or fill-in-the-blank will magically fix these problems and change who they are on the inside as well. Ah, if it were only that simple.

It’s true that a new brand identity can go a long way in recharging the batteries of a ministry, but ultimately changes need to happen on the inside as well for it to be effective. (And authentic)

Does this make sense? What misperceptions have you run in to?

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  1. Dawn,
    Is having more than one brand in your line of offering considered “brand schizophrenia”? I looked up the term and came up with a Forbes article that said GM’s offering of Chevrolet, Buick, and Pontiac is “brand schizophrenia”. I am speechless because i might be having that at AgapeKingdom dot org.

    1. Hi Caleb,

      What you’re describing is a “House of Brands” approach. This is when an organization serving different audiences with different kinds of products presents them under different brands. (Proctor & Gamble takes a similar approach)

      (I’m not familiar with the Forbes article you mentioned, but wonder if they may be implying that GM is straying too far from their core vs a literal interpretation)

      “Brand schizophrenia” can happen when a ministry that is essentially serving the same audience communicates to them in a variety of different “voices” which can be confusing. (Different looks/feels/styles)

      Hope this helps!

  2. WHAT TO DO BEFORE CREATING A LOGO – From the perspective of a company/organization leader:

    1. First, don’t start with the logo.

    2. Start with brand identity. Logo should reflect your branding. (Who you are? What’s the main thing you stand for? Why are you unique? Style? Etc.)

    3. Name! Create a GOOD name:
    – Consult professionals.
    – Don’t think you are too smart. (How many people are not pleased with the name their smart parents gave them?)
    – The name should: A) Represent you. B) Be unique. C) Is there an available domain name that matches your name?

    4. Don’t follow these methods:
    – No clipart images. (Not professional at all).
    – No stock logos. (Not unique. Plus, it’s a problem if you want to legally register it – You are buying a copy and don’t exclusively own the image).
    – No logo design contests. (Usually, amateur designers join in crowdsourcing contest. The process and relationship designer-client is missing. Who is the professional jury that decides – Please, don’t mention your wife or your bus driver friend?)
    – Don’t do it yourself. (Even though your mom still praises your kindergarden drawings on her fridge)
    – No mass voting. (Crowds wanted to make Christ king, then changed their mind and wanted to crucify him. Imagine what they can do to your logo?)

    5. On picking the right designer or design agency:
    – Not just a visual artist. (fine art artists, decorators, illustrators, page layout designers, and so on)
    – Not someone who designs YOUR idea.
    – But one who adds value on concept + communicates visually.
    – What should you look for in your designer?
    A) Portfolio. (You will get exactly the quality you see in his/her previous works).
    B) Clients. (Do significant clients trust their image in the hands of this designer?)
    C) Low prices? (The CEO of Jaguar, Dr. Ralf Speth said: “If you think good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design.” What you save on design, it will cost you in your image.)

    6. Decide (with the designer) what kind of logo serves you best:
    A) Lettermark – Initials. Examples; HP, IBM, CNN, BBC, NASA, HBO.
    B) Wordmark – Logotype. Examples; Coca Cola, SONY, Google, Subway, VISA.
    C) Pictorial – Symbol or icon. Examples; Apple, Microsoft, Twitter, Target, Android, Firefox.
    D) Abstract image. Examples; Pepsi, Adidas, BP, Nike.
    E) Mascot. Examples; KFC, Michelin, Planters, Chiquita, BIC, Mr. Peanut.
    F) Combination of image and text. Examples; Burger King, Doritos, Hard Rock Cafe.
    G) Emblem. Examples; Harley Davidson, PORSCHE, NFL, HARVARD, LAMBORGHINI.

    7. Once you marry the logo, you can’t divorce it. It’s there to stay. One of my friends used to tell me: “Open your eyes before the wedding day. After it, close them forever.” Works the same with the logo design. Think well before the final decision.

  3. What everyone needs to realize is one simple thing: Brand Happens. Your brand is being seen and interpreted whether you’re doing anything intentional or not. When people drive by your building…when they call and you answer the phone (or don’t)…when they see your comments on social media…when they see your bumper stickers on cars…when they visit your website…and a hundred other things.

    Your logo is an expression of your brand. A “me too” logo means you don’t stand out. A traditional logo means that’s how people will begin to develop their perceptions of you. A cluttered, indecipherable logo means you’re sending the message that you lack focus and maybe don’t really know what you’re doing.

    It’s like how your clothes impact perceptions. Show up dressed like a hipster and they’ll perceive you as a hipster. Show up dressed in a shiny silver suit and they’ll perceive you as a televangelist (the bad definition of that word).

    Brand Happens. The only question you need to answer is whether you want to have any say in HOW it happens.

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