Friday, November 14, 2008

When Rebranding is only Skin Deep

Mike O'Connor pointed me to the excellent new Beyond Relevance blog, which is well worth a look. Here's a snatch from a recent article:

re-Branding on Momentum

It seems like churches these days have seen the power of marketing and branding just enough to jump onto the band wagon. Churches everywhere are sliding onto the re-branding table and looking for a quick-fix for their "growing" concerns. A few recent conversations have illustrated the often missing link in a church's preparedness to go under the knife for a branding make-over.

Now, before I get into this, please note that true "branding" goes much deeper than skin deep. True branding is a plum-line from the core of who you are to the people God has called you to reach. It is a promise you deliver on in all that you do and is seen on the surface as your communication, design, image or brand. With that said... 

I was teaching a session on branding last week at the 
National Youth Workers Convention. I normally speak to senior pastors, so I jumped at the chance to hang out with youth leaders for a few days. It was a blast. I was challenging on the need for churches to become successful without a branding effort and that the best brands are those that learn how to connect to people and grow organically first—and then build their brand around that. A youth leader visited me afterwards almost in tears. He had recently taken a position at a new church and, as what he (and much of the church world) thought was norm, decided to launch a new youth group brand. He built that brand around a new look, new logo, new name, new everything. He developed the image of this great brand before he had built trust in his youth and momentum through his ability to connect with them and see growth. He then attempted to launch the brand with a huge event and watched it all to fall flat. The results were a disappointment for him and now his youth group is struggling and shell-shocked. He was heartbroken.

What this represents is surface re-branding. It is an epidemic. It is the concept that if we are not attracting people, it is because we do not have the right name or image, and therefore, we need to change it and re-design our look. With all the love I can muster, if you are not growing what you have, it is not because of your logo. If you are not connecting with people that come through your doors in a way that causes them to come back and bring others, no amount of design can create a long term fix. If you do have momentum however, the right brand can be a catalyst to new levels of growth.

This stuff is not taught in schools. In February, I sat down with a doctoral student at Dallas Theological Seminary who interviewed me regarding his doctoral thesis on church brand development. His brilliantly written thesis had a fatal flaw—it omitted that re-branding should only take place after momentum has been generated. To simply re-brand a church when it has not found its traction is generally just an indication to your community that you’ve tried everything else without success and in your last attempt, you’re changing your style and/or name in order to reinvent yourself. Branding done right is not a "fix". It is a swagger. It is a well-communicated sense of self built on successfully connecting with others. 

Here’s the deal: if you aren’t currently connecting with people right where they’re at, no amount of branding/design can solve your problem. Re-branding without momentum is kind of like dressing up for your prom and forgetting to court a date. Think about it.
 
Design cannot obtain what a disconnected ministry cannot reach.

© Richard L. Reising

Published on Friday, November 7, 2008 @ 12:00 AM CST

2 comments:

Russ said...

Thanks Phil. Just letting you know that the links have fallen out of that post.

Best wishes,
Russell

Matt said...

Thanks for the article Phil. It was a good reminder to get the basics of love and truth right in the church before you mess with branding. I think branding is important in some contexts, but it's not the gospel.

cheers
mv