Branding Overload? You Need a Brand Overlord

Branding Overload? You Need a Brand Overlord

January 9, 2012 by

Remember that trick you used to play on your friends? “Want to play 52 card pickup?” Then you’d throw their deck of cards in the air.

I feel like my church does this each week with their bulletin. An usher hands me that beautiful piece of literature. Then my next five minutes are spent picking up the pieces that spill out.

Each piece of paper is advertising some church ministry:

  • Fire Explosion Ignite Youth Ministry
  • Proverbs 31 Zoe Grace Women’s Group
  • Passion Eagle Holy Spirit Worship Arts

You see, my church has jumped on the branding bandwagon with extra gusto. Every ministry gets special marketing attention from its leader. Unfortunately, no one is watching out for the church’s brand.

The youth pastor is branding his youth group. The children’s pastor their ministry. Even the worship pastor gets in on the action by branding his band or department.

But with everyone branding their own ministry, who worries about the church’s brand? Very few churches can afford a branding manager for their church. And pastors are often focused on branding their messages. So the church’s brand is pushed to the back while everyone’s ministries fight for attention.

Does your church struggle with brand overload…with no brand overlord to keep them all in check? Let me suggest you scale back on some of the branding and focus on a strong church brand.

Ask every key member of the organization to focus their efforts on the church as a whole. Your church brand will grow stronger. You’ll even find those over-branded ministries will reap the benefits of a strong church brand.

Work on branding the church first. Make sure what people see both reflects the church and makes them want to step through the doors. Then you can slowly add the other stuff.

What are your thoughts on your church’s over or underwhelming lack of branding?

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Post By:

Jonathan Malm

Jonathan Malm is a creative entrepreneur and writer. He is the author of Created for More (Moody, 2014), a 30-day devotional to help you develop a more creative mind.
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15 Responses to “Branding Overload? You Need a Brand Overlord”

  • Jack
    January 9, 2012

    I’ve noticed this, even with my own small area – I head up the youth service. We have a strong brand and the same image comes to everyones mind, (loud) modern worship songs, interactive service with videos & tasks and sometimes performances, cafe style with mocktails (non-alcoholic cocktails!!)….

    …however, even within this area we’ve discovered branding is becoming over the top with EACH service having a new poster – completely different to the one before – all the branding is focussed on the service’s topic (ie. the Micah Challenge) and the services brand is being lost within this!

    It’s so easy to do…. The solution doesn’t have to be paying someone – a volunteer from your Church, who has personal experience of marketing/branding to give oversight to each ministry is really helpful!

    • Jonathan Malm
      January 9, 2012

      Exactly! Or just refocus the staff/volunteers on pumping the service at least as strongly as the individual topics.

  • cksyme
    January 9, 2012

    Talk about hitting the nail on the head. Yes–church branding first (as the umbrella, so to speak) and everything else is a function of that. It makes the sheep less confused and distracted. Research on marketing also tells us that people can absorb info better if it’s branded from one mothership, including message, graphics, and style. Good piece, Jonathan.

  • Andrew Hansen
    January 9, 2012

    Thank you Jonathan. Well said. As ministries begin to overbrand, we begin creating churches within churches. It’s a slippery slope.

    • Jonathan Malm
      January 9, 2012

      Excellent point! The church tends to act like a pendulum…we go to extremes… :-P

  • Bryan Chalker
    January 10, 2012

    Perfect close – “Work on branding the church first. Make sure what people see both reflects the church and makes them want to step through the doors. Then you can slowly add the other stuff.”

    The total-church branding takes everyone on staff. All those involved, need to get your comment through their heads first. Another one of the “overlooking the obvious” issues :P

  • Tom
    January 11, 2012

    Church bulletin = Sunday morning newspaper ads

  • Michael Kern
    January 13, 2012

    Our Communications Director shines as the gate keeper, or overlord, of our bulletin. Every bit of info goes through him, and as a result, everything – announcements, order of worship, sermon notes, scripture, etc. fits in an 8.5″x14″ bulletin. There’s an occasional insert, but never more than 1 per week. There’s no room for logos and graphics, but it puts all the info on equal footing, and it’s brief enough to digest so there’s no overload. The same announcement info is sent out via email on Friday afternoon, and it’s also posted on the website. Come to think of it, there isn’t a sense of competition among the ministries in the bulletin. Our church size is about 1700 members.

  • David Kline
    January 13, 2012

    This is so very true… a really good article. I do, however, see a potential problem with the idea of “ask every key member of the organization to focus their efforts on the church as a whole.” This would certainly be better than everyone doing their own thing, but unless “every key member” understands the greater church brand, it will only work to a limited extent. I think you are right on target with some individual being the branding “overlord.”

    • Jonathan Malm
      January 14, 2012

      Definitely. That’s where vision casting comes in. There needs to be tons of communication about what the church is trying to accomplish.

  • Trey Shirley
    June 1, 2012

    Great article. A model that I always suggest in these situations is the House of Brands/Branded House model. When I was in higher ed marketing we used to really struggle with focusing on our core identity. Each college wanted their own logo. The athletic teams wanted their own unique logos. And, every different organization within the university wanted to brand themselves individually. Once we transitioned to a Branded House strategy and conducted a brand inventory, we were able to pull in all of our different colleges, athletic programs, and other organizations or promotional events under the core brand identity of the university.

    I think this translates well to churches who struggle with similar issues of identity management. As important as having a brand overlord, though, is having a system in place that others can easily understand and can rally around. This makes the job of the brand manager much easier in the long run.

    When I was the brand manager I had the brand inventory made into a chart and whenever someone would ask for their own logo “different” from everyone else’s, I pulled out the inventory sheet and showed them why we could not do what they were asking.

  • Trey Shirley
    June 1, 2012

    Another thing: Whenever I attend a new church I always find the branded class names to be intimidating. They always seem to be very clique-ish, and from an outsiders point of view that can scare newcomers away. I prefer a relatively short, yet descriptive title that says exactly what the class is about, who is welcome, and doesn’t hide behind metaphors written in church-speak that new Christians don’t understand. IMHO.

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