When you think of a “brand”, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? For most people, a “church brand” is not at the top of their list. It’s usually a specific product like Starbucks coffee, a service like Uber rideshare, or a logo such as Nike’s swoosh or Apple’s apple.
But building a brand is much more than just creating a product, service, or logo. At its core, a brand evokes a person’s emotional, gut-level reaction towards any product, service, or organization.
Every church has their own brand. When people hear the name of your ministry, see your logo, visit your website, or engage with your church online or in person, how do they feel? The impression you have left on them is your brand.
Let’s learn why your church’s brand is important, how to discover your current branding, and what steps you can take to build a strong brand.
Simply put, your brand is how people view your church. Your church’s brand can help form a good first impression that draws people in and helps them relate to your vision and mission. Your branding also has an ongoing impact on how easily people recall your brand. In other words, having a better brand will improve your chances of achieving your church’s goals.
Companies focus on branding because it helps them build their reputation and increase their reach. With a strong enough brand, a company’s product or service can become synonymous with the type of product or service that it is.
Perhaps the best example of this is the iPhone. There are a lot of smartphones sold every day, but iPhones are the default smartphone in most peoples' minds because of the strength of Apple's brand. People trust Apple to build clever and innovative products that simplify tasks and improve their lives because of the strength of the brand they’ve developed.
Similarly, church denominations like the United Methodist Church and the Southern Baptist Convention have created strong and recognizable brands that easily identify their churches. For example, many churches have logos featuring a cross in their logo, but it is easy to recognize the United Methodist Church’s distinctive Cross-and-Flame logo.
The Southern Baptist Convention brand identity represents “a symbol of promise and dedication to bringing good news to the whole world” to their 50,000 churches and millions of members. Churches discovered that with a strong enough brand, they can attract more people and easily convey their mission and values.
Your church’s brand image is how people perceive your brand based on their experiences and interactions with your church, so you should explore your existing brand before attempting to create a new one from scratch.
Conducting a brand survey is the best place to start your path to discovery. Getting your community’s insights into how they perceive your church is a more accurate approach than speculating on your own, and could give you some church branding ideas as well!
Be sure to keep your survey as short as possible, as people tend to avoid long or drawn out questionnaires. There are many helpful digital services you can choose from to create your online survey. For example, if your website is on SnapPages™, you can take advantage of our powerful form builder to create a survey page that's integrated with your website and mobile app!.
Your survey should contain insightful questions aimed at understanding the perceptions of both your church members and your church staff.
Ask questions that will uncover your brand’s strengths and weaknesses. For example, does their impression of your church match your vision and mission? Are there areas where your brand is out of alignment with your core values? Who is your target audience? Are you effectively engaging one demographic more than others?
It’s also important to include open-ended questions to allow an opportunity for people to leave insightful comments or suggestions.
Here are some sample questions to consider including in your brand survey:
As your team begins to collect responses, look for trends and be open to the feedback your church has provided.
Before putting your church branding ideas into practice, it’s important to put thought into your branding strategy. A strong brand identity is a result of an intentional brand strategy, which is your plan to create a brand that truly represents your church.
A successful church brand is one that is easily recognized and remembered. To create a successful church brand, you must understand your target audience, list your goals, identify your unique attributes, and develop a plan for implementing your brand identity.
When creating your brand strategy, be authentic—showcase who your church is, not who your church would like to be. The brand survey you conducted will provide your team with a holistic understanding of your community that will help define your messaging, visual identity, logo, and design.
Church brand strategies require a clearly defined purpose. People embrace brands that are true to their values, just as they reject brands that are inauthentic. Your strategy should also include plans to showcase the actions your church is taking to fulfill their stated vision and mission, and to communicate that you’re being true to your values.
Taking these steps will help you build a memorable brand that attracts the right audience—the people who will feel at home and spiritually thrive at your church.
Your church’s brand identity will help determine how you engage your community, including what kind of content you create, your design inspiration, and much more. The three primary church branding pillars are built on visuals, messaging, and consistency.
Visual branding is your church’s visible representation of your identity, personality, and values. It is also one of your most powerful branding tools. Your visual brand should create a lasting impression, evoke emotional responses, and build a relationship with your church’s overarching brand. Whether making a sign for your children’s ministry or creating a web design, having an engaging and consistent visual brand will enhance your brand’s overall effectiveness.
Visually communicating your brand includes utilizing the following elements:
Seeing these same visual elements over and over again will help your church’s followers easily recognize your brand and identify themselves as proud members of a cohesive church community.
The written communication that connects your church’s brand with your audience is your brand messaging. These messages should be cohesive and build rapport with your community, connecting them to your church.
Here are several components that make up your church’s brand messaging:
A consistent brand is a strong brand. Coca-Cola, one of the strongest brands of all time, learned a hard lesson about the power of brand consistency. For 99 years, they had used the same logo and offered the same popular taste.
However, in 1985, Coca-Cola decided to rebrand themselves as “New Coke” in order to compete with Pepsi’s popular marketing campaign. For the next few months, they received over 8,000 phone complaints every day and were eventually forced to bring back “Coca-Cola Classic”.
This is an extreme case, but it demonstrates a universal branding truth that’s also applicable to churches: Inconsistent branding brings confusion and other negative emotions—the last thing you want your church to inspire.
Brand consistency helps people recognize and remember your brand. That’s why it’s essential to have a consistent church brand experience across all of your platforms, including your website, mobile app, live streaming, online giving, and even printed materials.
Creating a church brand guide provides clear explanations for each of your brand elements (logo, colors, imagery, and typography). It also establishes acceptable practices for anyone communicating on behalf of your church.
All of the hard work you’ve done to brand your church can easily be undermined if some staff members don’t know about your branding guidelines and when to follow them! Getting your church staff to agree to adhere to the guidelines will help avoid future confusion over the appropriate communication of your brand.
Below is an outline of topics for making an effective brand guide:
Crafting and managing your church’s brand will allow your church to create emotional connections with your audience. It makes your church quickly recognizable and helps people better understand your church’s identity and purpose.
Subsplash makes your church’s branding more effective by offering a unified platform that consistently represents your church’s brand across all channels, including your church website, custom mobile app, live streaming, media storage and delivery, online giving, and in-app messaging. You can upload your branding elements and publish them to all these channels with a single click of a button!
Connect with a Subsplash expert today to learn more about how The Ultimate Engagement Platform™ can help your church grow and increase engagement.