As a church, you might not think of yourself as a “brand.” After all, you exist to glorify God – not yourself.
But a brand isn’t about shouting your name from the rooftops; it’s about how you connect with your audience – and you have a brand whether you know you do or not.
Brands are related to how your audience perceives you, and they’re made up of messaging, visual elements (like logos) and experiences. That means if you have people visiting your website, attending your church or interacting with you in any way, you have a brand.
The question isn’t whether or not you have a brand; it’s, “What is your brand saying to your audience?” If you haven’t put an intentional effort into building your brand, that means your audience is filling in the gaps and defining your brand the way they see it…which isn’t always a good thing. That’s why creating brand messaging – yes, even for churches – is so important! It equips you to define who you are and empowers your audience with language to talk about you.
Whether you recently went through a formal branding process or have never made your brand official, here are five reasons why your brand messaging might not be working:
1) It’s not focused on your audience.
There is a difference between a mission/vision statement and a brand statement. Your mission and vision define your purpose and what you hope God will do through your work. They are “cause” oriented and often used as a rallying cry for your “internal” audiences like your staff and members.
A brand statement, on the other hand, should speak to the pain points of your audience and offer a “value promise” for them. This is why good church brand statements often focus on messages about finding a home, a place to belong, etc. They speak to the heart of what the new audience wants emotionally; then, once they are at the church, they can explore mission and doctrine.
2) It’s too generic or vague.
Church brand messaging can be challenging because on the surface, most churches do the same thing. You exist to minister to people, help people grow spiritually and spread the Gospel. You also most likely have some version of weekly assembly, small groups and ministries. It can be tempting to think your brand isn’t unique and end up with messaging that is too vague, generic or that could apply to any church.
That’s why it’s so important to do up-front work to define your key differentiators. Those differentiators might not be your mission or your programs, but you do offer something unique in terms of your approach or HOW you do church. Maybe you have a very multicultural congregation. Maybe you have a strong focus on the arts or on communion. Maybe you’re looking to reach a specific group of people, such as those who have been hurt by church and want a safe place to ask questions. These elements all become anchors for your brand messaging.
We have one client who refers to these distinctives as a “tuning fork.” Maybe they are small or subtle elements of who you are, but those who are looking for what you’re offering will be able to hear the message woven into your brand language and know your church is a place for them.
3) It uses language that’s hard to understand.
Your brand language isn’t your doctrinal statement or the place to introduce heady spiritual concepts. It’s a place to connect with your audience and let them know you offer them love, hope and community. Write for a 6th-grade reading level, avoid Christianese and don’t include complicated or polarizing messages in your brand language.
4) Your church has changed.
Maybe you are a traditional church that has recently added a contemporary service to attract younger audiences. Maybe you have a new pastor with a new vision. Maybe the city around you has changed and you are trying to reach a new demographic of people.
If you have made changes to who you are but not updated your messaging, there is likely a disconnect between what is being said in your marketing and the experience people are having on Sunday. Your message should always be in alignment with who you are and with who you are trying to reach.
5) It, well, doesn’t exist.
Like we mentioned earlier, churches often overlook their branding and focus on the mission, thinking they don’t have a distinct brand. So many churches we work with have never gone through a strategic branding process! The problem with this is that without brand messaging, you’re failing to communicate who you are in a way that speaks to the heart of your audience. Your message either falls flat and doesn’t resonate or is open for misinterpretation because your language is not intentional and strategic.
Need a rundown of what brand messaging is? Check out our blog post about the core elements of branding to see if you have messaging place or not.
Church branding is a critical tool for reaching your community. If you feel like your message isn’t connecting, a branding exercise might be just what you need! If you’re curious about what that looks like, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d be glad to listen to where you are and explore what the branding process could look like for you!