Simple Church Branding, Part 6: Simple Next Steps

Simple Church Branding, Part 6: Simple Next Steps
November 5, 2015 Dan Wunderlich

Congratulations! You have made it to the final installment of the Simple Church Branding series. If you did your homework, you should now have:

  • A solid purpose and reasonable expectations for branding (Part 1)
  • A specific and focused understanding of your organization and its target audience (Part 2)
  • A set of fonts that help you communicate not only information but personality (Part 3)
  • A color palette that makes your communication stand out and gain familiarity (Part 4)
  • A logo and/or mark that is instantly recognizable and fits your ministry (Part 5)

Now it is time to put it all together and into action!

The Power of a Cohesive Brand

I like to joke that it is the power of Coke’s brand that makes their cola taste like childhood while Pepsi’s cola tastes like a cavity—and research backs me up! One of the coolest studies out there used functional MRI data to watch people’s brains react in real time while participating in a Coke/Pepsi taste test. As documented in Martin Lindstrom’s Buy-ology, participants taking a blind taste test not only preferred Pepsi, but their brains did too. When told which they were drinking, the group overwhelmingly preferred Coke instead—and the brain data was different as well. The Coke brand literally changed the way their brains reacted to the very same thing.

This shouldn’t be surprising, however. When you think about it, which cola company has been the most consistent over time? Which is the clearest and most defined in your mind? Coke wins by a landslide. The same is true for leaders in almost any field.

It is not that things won’t change and evolve over time, but they are grounded in the foundation of who they are. Their personality is defined, coherent, and consistent.

Filling Out the Personality

The design decisions you made over the last couple weeks factored in personality. But just like with a well matched outfit, your outward appearance can only tell so much about you. We only truly know who you are by interacting with you. The following decisions flesh out that personality and give you the opportunity to decide how the interaction will go on your end.

Tone
When we hear the word “tone” we often think of tone of voice, but it is more than that. When you think about well defined brands, there is a tone to everything they do.

Nike is is about speed, power, and dedication. Their slogan is “Just Do It.” Nike literally means “victory.” Losing is not an option. This shapes the words they write, but it also shapes the style of their visuals. Athletes who rep Nike products are usually not smiling at the camera—they are either in action or they are sweaty and scowling as if they just completed a tough workout.

On the other end of the spectrum is a company like Farmer’s Insurance. They have carved out this incredible balance of smart and fun, which allows you to feel taken care of without being overwhelmed. They hit a home run in hiring J. K. Simmons for their commercials, but even their social media channels are full of bright colors, smiling families, and occasional humor.

So, what is the tone of your organization? How is the personality fleshed out? Are you bright/fun/relaxed? Are you hyper-designed/hipster/handmade? Are you serious/focused/intellectual? Are you earnest/emotional/people-focused?

Remember—the tone needs to be a reflection of who you actually are. Few things will torpedo someone’s good will toward your ministry faster than if they feel tricked into coming.

Words
When you have your tone identified, we flesh it out further by giving it a voice. What does our church sound like when it speaks? Does it speak in short, simple sentences or long, complex sentences? Does it say everything with a smile? Or a wink? Or a serious face?

What kind of vocabulary does your ministry use? Are there key words or phrases that help define the mission and vision of your church? Do you use big, technical words or do you describe things in “plain English”? How do you interact with pop culture or current events, if at all? Do you quote and/or reference Scripture? Theologians? Artists?

Some churches go as far as creating style guides for their copy. Since this is about simple branding, we won’t go quite that deep here (you can Google examples), but defining a voice for your ministry is important.

Imagery
What visual signals will you send in your communication? Will you rely on just the typography and colors you selected? Does the logo you developed point toward a visual style—structured and angular, hand drawn and flowing, or some other style?

Will you incorporate photography? If so, is it black and white, color, or overlaid with your brand’s colors? Is it sharp and clear or does it have an Instagram-type look to it? Is it minimalist or busy? It is close-ups or wide-angles? Does it feature people or objects? Will you use photographs from your own congregation/building/community or stock photos?

Will you use illustrations/drawings? Do they look hand drawn or are they clean and geometric? Do have an artist, designer, or access to varied enough stock elements to cover the things you might want to do?

Story
How will you put the tone, words, and imagery together to tell the story of your ministry? Do you focus on the testimony of individuals and/or families? Do you focus on the history of your organization? Do you share the impact you make in the community and around the world? Is your focus the preaching/teaching ministry of your pastor(s)? Are there Scripture verses, stories, or themes that you wish to emphasize?

Different communication channels may call for different areas of focus. For example, your social media channels may be full of quotes, Scripture verses, and words of encouragement, while a brochure or your website may focus on stories of the church’s impact on families in your community. However, each of these should be executed in a way that works toward the same goal. What runs through each of these pointing to the overarching story?

Next Steps

At this point, you have a solid foundation to build on—an understanding of your organization, your target audience, your brand’s design assets, and your organization’s personality. The next step is executing consistent, intentional communication that strategically uses those assets to connect people with your ministry. In addition, you can find ways to get the tools of your brand in the hands of your congregation members so that they can tell the story of your church as well.

Before I point you to tools and resources to help you do that, I want to say one more important thing:

Never lose sight of why you created these things in the first place—to help you connect people to God. When you read phrases like “executing consistent, intentional communication that strategically uses your assets,” you might end up back where I started this whole series—with a hatred of branding in the context of the church.

But if I were to break that down, consistency recognizes that if we do the same things over and over again, we build familiarity. Intentional means that we take communication seriously, which Jesus certainly did. Strategic means that there are effective and ineffective ways to go abut doing the work of the church—and Paul certainly reflected this in the way he planted churches. We are to be good stewards of our time, talents, and resources.

But in the end, it is ultimately about God and about people. The guiding quote from Seth Godin for the whole series called us to tell the truth in such a way that people would want to connect with us—and through connecting with us they have the opportunity to connect with God.

Everything might not perfectly match. Some things you create might be “off brand.” A staff member or volunteer might do their own thing. But it will be a success if everything you create and communicate comes from an authentic place of wanting your community to know the love, grace, and mercy of God.

Tools and Resources

Makerbook – A collection of links to free design resources of all kinds. Through Makerbook, I found Pexels and Unsplash. These sites supply the vast majority of the photography on my blog.

Flickr – Online photo galleries from amateurs up to professionals. Some (but not all) of the photographs can be used and/or modified for your own projects. Be sure to look at the license associated with the images you wish to use. Flickr has a page describing the various licenses and restrictions.

Creative Market – An online marketplace for design resources. They also have a small collection of free resources that change each week.

Canva/Canva for Work – Create designs, images, and documents using professional templates in your web browser. Canva for Work allows you to define and save the particulars of your brand (colors, fonts, logos, graphics, etc.) as well as save editable templates. This allows people on your team to create/design using the parameters you define.

Pablo – A tool from Buffer for creating images with text for social media. The linked post also includes valuable information like the image sizes they feel are ideal for each social network.

Buffer’s Tools and Resources for Creating Social Media Images – A post containing links to lots more sites and tools for creating social media images.

ProChurch Tools – Their blog and podcast are full of great content on church communication and design. They also run a membership program called ProChurch Academy where they train churches in various media.

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