Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Brand Your Church?

Nathan Campbell recently attended a marketing seminar with the guy responsible for marketing Virgin Blue. Should you "brand" your church? And what's a "brand" anyway? In fact, maybe you're branded already? Check out his report:

Brands that sizzle
Branding is a new marketing buzzword. It’s a concept that’s moved from the cattle stock yards to the biggest players on the stock market. Developing an established brand identity is the holy grail of marketing. Once a product has a recognisable brand it essentially sells itself, but a brand can lose its lustre so you have to work hard to maintain your brand. But what is a brand? How do you create brand recognition - how do you make your brand stand out from the pack?

What is a brand?

A brand is not your logo. Your logo is only a small part of your image. Nobody buys a logo. People want the product behind the logo. Your brand is the emotional response people have to the presentation of your product. It’s the first thing that pops into someone’s head when confronted with your logo. In the 1980’s Nike’s brand was cool, desirable and a sign of prosperity – now, just 20 years on the Nike swoosh represents sweatshop exploitation, American imperialism and all that is bad about globalisation. Nike has lost its branding. Different audiences have different understandings of the brand. Your brand is not the label you use to describe yourself – it’s the label others use to describe you. Marketing your brand is the way to equalise those perceptions.

Brand Recognition
Brand recognition develops over time, and through the clear, repeated communication of the key elements of your brand/product to customers. Brand recognition won’t happen overnight, but it will happen. An effective slogan will catch in people’s minds (like the shampoo slogan I just quoted). Coca Cola’s theory on marketing their brand is that a potential customer needs to come into contact with their brand 8 times for every sale. The theory is that subconsciously if you register the coke brand 8 times in the one day you’ll need a coke. There are much cheaper ways of developing that brand identity.

Marketing Principles
“There’s only one rule in advertising – but nobody knows what it is” – Sean Cummins, Cummins&Partners

“I know half my advertising works, only I don’t know which half” – some company executive quoted by Sean Cummins

Advertising and marketing are imprecise sciences but there are general principles you can employ to make sure your brand is as effective as possible.

1. Find your point of difference. In a world where there are thousands of options that all look the same you need to find the thing that defines your product and separates you from the rest of the pack. Selling the same product as the people next door in the same way isn’t going to bring more people through your doors.

2. Say one thing really well. Once you’ve found your focus – stick to it. Trying to communicate multiple messages at once means you’ve got too many balls flying in the air. Communicate one message that you want everyone to understand about your brand. If you try to send out too many messages the ball (your message) becomes too hard for your target to catch.

3. Do something different – because we live in a culture dominated by advertising anyone with a brain can churn out an ad – look for a different way to communicate your message. Do something quirky, eye catching. Don’t be bogged down in generic marketing talk. Avoid clich├ęs like the plague. Don’t rely on icons to sell your product. The market is now looking for experiences rather than Kodak moments. Sell the experience of your product rather than the product itself.

4. Stay consistent. A brand is consistent. Consistency builds trust. Consistency demands action.

5. If you’re trying to figure out who your target audience is ask yourself “what sort of car is my product” – car companies spend millions of dollars on demographic research and know who to target their messages to. Look at the approach they take in their marketing and take those principles to your approach.


Jens said...

Hi Phil,

Regards to church branding. Not withstanding the value of good art, its interesting how seekers (or non-seekers) respond to “church” based on the people they see in church. The people reinforced the brand.

(P.S. Nice site)


Will Henderson said...

I agree, a great site with heaps of thoughts about communication and how to do it better.
As someone who did a Marketing Degree before Bible College I know how controversial the work marketing... try talking about branding. So I don't use the word branding much but I DO try to focus on what it is and how it can be used to better communicate the message of the gospel to our community.
In regard to branding, I reckon it's not as complicated as it might first seem. The steps to a church using 'branding' as a support in the communication process are these;
1. First you must clearly define as a church who you are, what you're doing and what you are passionate about doing. This may take some time reflecting on God's Word and prayer but don't take short cuts in this step as it provides the foundation.
2. Then you think through everything you do asking yourself, 'does this align and consistently communicate who we are and who we aim to be for Christ in our community.'
The obvious result from these two steps is that you will significantly narrow down in your own mind who you are as a church, what you are called to do and the image and theme that flows out of this.
This then effects the way you think about even little things such as lighting, colour schemes, your communication style, your church atmosphere and culture and how you communicate them.
Bottom Line : if you don't know who you are, what you're doing and where you're aiming to go you can't begin to communicate anything clearly and consistently and thus develop your church 'brand'.
I think I've made it complicated.

Anonymous said...

Thanks guys. This is a useful discussion!

Anonymous said...

Further notes from the Virgin marketing guy... and tying nicely into Will's post - he reckons with each new client he spends 65% - 85% of his time working out what the focus/brand identity needs to be and only 15% - 35% of his time working out how to say it creatively. Once you've got your brand figured out you are able to (and should) stick to a similar creative approach from that point on. For Virgin this meant witty, punchy ads that don't shy away from controversy. Consistency of approach is important - you can't be witty one week and morose the next.
Ultimately you should also stick to your product/services and not advertise as something that you're not - and you also need to steer clear of anything that doesn't connect your target to your message.
For Virgin this meant they decided early on that all their advertising would feature a picture of their planes and not focus on Richard Branson who Australians just see as a crazy guy who crashes balloons - not someone you want running an airline.
For churches this means keeping the gospel as a central focus in your brand/message. Not selling your church based on personalities or anything that will potentially change. It's easy to be consistent when we have a message that will remain constant.

Paul Rogers said...

Interesting site this, kind of like an aussie version of churchmarketingsucks.

I agree with the earlier posts about the people of the church are the best ambassadors for the church brand. It'd be interesting to see some research on how many unbelieving people attend a church service because they have been invited or whether they have seen an ad in the paper. My hypothesis is that invitation is the majority for this demographic.