I wanted to write a post on the idea of congregational branding. Now, the idea of Branding, even as it is with marketing, a congregation is one that many people object to on the basis of misunderstanding. They look at the word marketing and automatically think in terms of people who are trying to pilfer and sell bills of goods to members; likewise, people look at the word Branding and feel that the product must be inorganic if it can’t sell itself, which is completely understanding. The exact opposite, however, is the case here. In branding, a very strategic subset of marketing, the local congregation has an opportunity to have their message at the forefront of their audiences mind. With the plurality of congregations who basically look the same on the outside, the proper exposure is important for congregations who want to present the truth.
Now, the concept of congregational strategic marketing involves defining the resources that are available to you and building a strong set of practices around those resources that will greatly enhance the perceived profile of your congregation.
There are a few necessities that every congregation should have in building this strategy;
- Identity system – For the local congregation, an identity system is essential as its components are basically the first things that people will see when looking at your brand. A standard identity system consists of a coordinated letterhead, envelope and business card. In expanding upon this idea, a visitors card, usher name tags, and weekly bulletin shell can all fall in the category of identity system.
- Brand Logo – In addition to the identity system, the congregation may decide to build for themselves a logo – nothing elaborate, simply a stylized spelling of the congregations name or otherwise.
Website – A web address is essential to todays congregation as many people look for congregations on the web. Consider looking into building a web presence, and notice the word presence, for the congregation. There are many open-source website platforms that are free to use and hosting is very reasonable for congregations.
- Dedicated E-Mail system – There was once a time when getting your own hosted e-mail was cost prohibitive for most people. The same can not be said in 2008. With services like dreamhost for hosting, and Google Apps, every congregation can have their own top level domain e-mail address. Which means… No more congregation email going through a Yahoo address. The systems that are in place now are so advanced that they allow you to set up many users instantly. Simply put, all of the leaders at your congregation can have their own e-mail address at your congregations domain.
- Use the Bulletin as a source of ministering – There is no reason that a bulletin can’t be used as a tool for ministering to lost souls. If designed right, a Sunday morning bulletin can house all of the announcements, as well as a message from the minister and even steps to becoming a member. If there is a monthly bulletin it’s even better.
In today’s environment, any great marketing system has to first address the overall identity of the congregation, and what better way than to have an identity system as the cornerstone. Now, an Identity system, at its core, is simply a stationary set that provides identification for your congregation. In most instances an identity system consists of a coordinated letterhead and envelope set and a business card. In more substantial cases, there are various labels and note cards and other collateral pieces that are used. The key, however, is the seemless transition from one piece of stationary to the next. This is achieved through 2 specific factors; The Logo and the color scheme.
The Logo – The logo, while important, is as simple to create as utilizing a stylized font in spelling out your congregations name. The key is consistency in usage, the fact that every time people see your name at your congregation it is always neatly displayed with the same characteristics, be it the same color and font, or any other way that generally sets your logo apart. At the Magnolia Park Church of Christ, there is both a primary logo and a secondary one. The Primary logo consists of a stylized spelling of “The Park”, the congregations name, with the title Magnolia Park Church of Christ directly underneath. This is done with the specific purpose of people associating the both the nickname and the congregation name. The nickname presents a friendly feel and is, in a sense, welcoming when seen and disarming, but at the heart is always the congregations name as to always remind people that The Park is a church. The Primary Logo is used mainly in-house for the members on all publications and there are plans to utilize it more on information that goes out to visitors and others.
The secondary logo is a much simpler logo that is just a styled capitalized M & P that appears on everything from the church bulletin to announcements and visitors cards.
The Color Scheme – It’s important to have a set of colors you work with when designing congregation materials. For one, with a defined color scheme, you’ll be able to always achieve a level of familiarity with those that receive your materials. Also, as an added bonus, you’ll not have to spend a lot of time with colors that may not work well. One of the prime points of creating a color scheme is great color usage. Think about it; on your bulletin board, which bulletins stand out? And which announcements wash out with their bland black and whites. Even if you’re pressed for money, a pre-designed letterhead with spot color will achieve both recognition and consistency in presentation.
Keep this in mind – The more time and effort that is spent on creating a smooth and consistent image for your congregation in print, the more likely it is that people will respond positively when your name is presented to them.