Stop Making These 5 Church Branding Mistakes

What is your church’s brand? Most assume their “brand” involves only their logo, tagline, or color scheme. Put the logo on a graphic or t-shirt and now it is “branded,” right? That works if you think company branding is the same as branding cattle. The strongest companies realize their brand is about who they are, what they do, and what their customers think.  

Nike, for example, has clearly defined their brand. You get a certain feeling when you walk into a Nike store, see Nike packaging, or watch a Nike commercial. Those feelings are intentional.

Nike knows exactly who they are, what they do, and what they want their ideal customers to think about the company. Nike has clearly defined their brand, and it’s foundational to everything they do.

A poor understanding of branding hinders the work of your church. If people are unclear about who you are and what you do, they won’t engage. And a lack of engagement prevents your church from reaching more people and bringing them to Jesus.

If you want to clarify your brand, make sure your church doesn’t make these five mistakes:

Mistake #1: Assume your logo is the extent of your brand

A logo is part of the brand, but it isn’t the whole thing. A good logo establishes an identity. For example, when people see a red and white bullseye, they think Target. When they see a golden M, they think McDonald’s. Those are visual cues that remind us of a bigger brand.

What does this mean for your church?

A good logo is important, but it’s not the end. Your logo is a component of your overall identity. Just like a personal identity, your brand identity comes from knowing who you are, what God has called you to do, and how you will do it. This means your brand will look a little different from the church down the street or the church you follow on Twitter. That’s okay. You are called to discover and develop the unique brand of your church in your community.

Mistake #2: Don’t ask what people say about your church

What people say about your church is a direct reflection of what they think about the brand of your church. This may not be the reality of your brand, but it’s what people assume is the reality. Look at the major cable companies. Many of them have a reputation for poor customer service. Is that what corporate leadership wants associated with their brand? No, but based on past experiences, it’s what customers think the brand is.

What does this look like in your church?

When you go to lunch or coffee, ask the server if they know any good churches in the area. If they don’t mention your church, ask specifically about your church with a question like, “I’ve heard some people talk about x church. What have you heard?” You may be surprised by what you hear.

Mistake #3: Don’t connect your brand to your staff

Hilton, a global company with more than 350,000 employees, has a clear mission: to be the most hospitable company in the world. It’s obvious how this impacts their guests: clean rooms, exceptional service, and so on. But leaders at Hilton realize the brand mission extends to their employees. That’s why they work to show hospitality to their own team as well as their guests.

This strategy drives Hilton to consistently be on the Top 100 Places to Work list.

What does this look like in your church?

Think about the core values shared with your congregation. Are those values woven into the staff culture? For example, if generosity is a core value, how is it shown to the staff? Are there policies and practices in place that reinforce generosity as a core value? When your team regularly experiences the core elements of the brand, they champion those ideals with volunteers, guests, and the community.

Mistake #4: Assume your members understand your brand

When I served as a student pastor, I inherited a ministry with individual branding for everything we did. It was confusing, and no one could explain it to me. So I asked another staff member to give me some insight. She had attended for 25 years, worked in the church for over a decade, and her in-laws founded the church in the 1800s. When I asked her to explain it, she gave me a blank stare.

What does this mean for your church?

Stats say most people attend church twice per month on average. They aren’t hearing everything you say each week, so continually remind people what distinguishes your church. If generosity is part of the brand, celebrate it often. If diversity is part of your brand, show it in your leadership and worship teams on Sunday. It’s your job to show and tell your brand identity often.

Mistake #5: Everything in your church requires its own brand

For more than two decades, churches have branded everything: ministries, meeting times, and meeting rooms. This focus on building a new brand for every aspect of the church is confusing for people who visit your church. And it’s probably doing more to hinder your church than help it.

What does this mean for your church?
Don’t feel the need to create a new and unique brand for every single thing in your church. This confuses people. Instead, focus on the overarching brand of the entire church. Working with your executive team and ministry leaders, take that brand and infuse it into every ministry. The consistency you create will resonate with more people, causing them to engage in what you do.

These mistakes are common, but they aren’t fatal. Lead your team away from these mistakes. Soon your church will begin engaging more people and leading them to Jesus.

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