Six Lies About Logos

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Okay, “lies” might be a bit extreme, but it’s true they’re often misunderstood or misperceptions.

When done right, brand identities can be an instant way to communicate the vision, values, and what someone can expect at your church or ministry. They can break down barriers, pave the way to connect new people, and focus your culture. When done wrong, it can reflect an inaccurate image, create divisions, or even be misleading.

So without further ado, let’s cover six of  the most common misperceptions ministries have about brand identities.

Lie #1 : Identities Don’t Matter Much

Brands, logos, and marketing are basically all just fluff anyway, right? Wrong. We live in a visual culture and how we communicate matters. People form impressions about who we are and what we do based on how we communicate. Having an identity that accurately reflects the heart, vision, and culture of your church can go a long way in reaching people and overcoming misperceptions.

But before you start sketching up ideas, be clear about what you want to communicate, and who you’re communicating to.

Your identity is a channel for connecting people to your vision and needs to be viewed with a strategic lens.

It’s less about which color or font you like best, but what these things say to the people you’re trying to reach.

Lie #2 : It’s Critical to be Literal

I mean, how will anyone know this is a church if we don’t include a cross, dove, and a picture of the building? And of course we can’t forget adding a globe to reflect our heart for missions… Stop it. Just stop it. Your church is more than your building.

The best marks are the ones that allow room for you to fill it with meaning and point people back to the vision.

Embrace simplicity and create conversations, remembering the identity will always be delivered in context. If the logo is on your business card, chances are you’re handing it to someone. The sign on your building? People are on the campus. Your website? There are lots of opportunities to tell the rest of the story. The Nike swoosh is one of the most recognized identities on the planet and it’s not a picture of a pair of shoes.

Lie #3 : Copying is Okay

If we just copy what another church created, it’s not a big deal, right? What they’re doing seems to be working, so it’ll probably work for us, too, right?

Don’t get me wrong—it’s okay to be inspired by others. But when inspiration stops short and becomes imitation, you’re robbing your church of the unique identity God intended for your ministry. Invest the time to make the ideas that inspired you your own.

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Lie #4 : The More the Merrier

Some churches may think an identity isn’t important at all, and then there are others infected with logo-itis. It almost feels like Oprah showed up one day and stared handing them out. “YOU get a logo, and YOU get a logo…”

Unfortunately, when every ministry has its own identity, it splinters the collective identity of the church.

Worse yet, we’re setting these ministries up to compete with each other for the congregation’s attention. When everyone has their own look, feel, and voice within the same church, it runs the risk of brand schizophrenia.

There’s enough already trying to compete for people’s attention—the last thing we want to do is compete with ourselves.

A simple rule of thumb that’s worked for many churches is to draw a clean line in the sand: If a ministry has its own weekend worship service, it’s okay to have its own logo because they’re serving a distinct audience with distinct needs. (For example, Children & Students = Yes. Ministries such as Men’s, Women’s, and Redheaded Knitters Named Marge = No.)

Just remember to include your church’s primary logo on any mailings or communication tools these ministries use so everyone is clear your student ministry is still part of the church and not an island unto themselves.

Lie #5 : Rollouts Can Be Random

It’s painful to think about, but there are ministries large and small that have invested a ton of time, energy, and resources into creating a new identity but then completely dropped the ball when it came to introducing their bouncing new baby brand to the world.

One pastor thought if he just started casually mentioning the new name during his weekend messages, people would somehow subconsciously get used to it and be more open to the change. Another very large church thought it’d be okay to just start using the new logo on envelopes containing year-end giving statements before the new website (or anything else) was ready because, “It was just sitting there not being being used.” The congregation had no idea a change was even on the horizon in both cases.

When something as visible as your identity changes, there’s a powerful opportunity to cast vision and celebrate stories.

Don’t let it slip by. Take time to think about when the best time might be to roll out your new identity, how it might align with other opportunities, and above all, tell people WHY it matters.

Lie #6 : A New Brand Will Fix It

This happens a lot—Attendance is flat or has started to decline, the church wants to do a better job of reaching younger (or different) people than they’re currently reaching, the people in the pews aren’t as friendly as they should be, or perceptions need to be shifted to emphasize a focus on serving.

The solution? Maybe creating a new identity that feels more hip, diverse, friendly, outward-focused, or fill-in-the-blank will magically fix these problems and change who they are on the inside as well. Ah, if it were only that simple.

It’s true that a new brand identity can go a long way in recharging the batteries of a ministry, but ultimately changes need to happen on the inside as well for it to be effective. (And authentic)

 

Does this make sense? What misperceptions have you run in to?

Are We Who We Say We Are?

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The whole idea of branding can be confusing for a lot of smart people. And it’s easy to see why with all of the different definitions floating around—is it what other people say you are? Is it your logo? Or the website & other promotional channels?

The simplest way to wrap our minds around this is to think of it as a promise we’re making of what to expect, and how well we consistently deliver on that promise.

This all comes down to the EXPERIENCE we’re offering. Are we who we say we are?

When we think of it as a promise, we’re in control—we manage the expectations and experience of that promise. If we allow others to define who we are, we’re constantly in a reaction mode.

This goes beyond what we say in bulletins, brochures, & billboards to what we actually do.

Everything else is just a channel for delivering on that promise.

Last Chance to Get In

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I’m a huge fan of learning from others. Especially when they’re people who walk the talk & have a great track record.

If you somehow missed the new online conference everyone’s talking about, there’s still a tiny bit of time to sign up. Registration closes tonight at midnight CDT.

The roster of folks sharing what they’ve learned in the trenches is pretty amazing. Here’s just a few:

  • Jon Ferguson — Lead Teaching Pastor, Community Christian Church
  • Darrel Girardier — Creative Director, Brentwood Baptist Church
  • Casey Graham — CEO & Founder, The Rocket Company
  • Jay Kranda — Online Campus Pastor, Saddleback Church
  • Scott McClellan — Communications Pastor, Irving Bible Church (Former editor of COLLIDE Magazine & director of Echo Conference)
  • Carlos Whittaker — Author & Church Communications Specialist
  • Tim Schraeder — Social media ninja, led campaigns for Hillsong United
  • Blaine Hogan — Creative Director, Willow Creek Community Church
  • Haley Veturis — Social Media Artisan, Saddleback Church
  • Emily Cummins — Associate Director of Communications & Branding, Central Christian Chuch
  • Mark Clement — Founder & CEO, Big Picture Media Group
  • Jason Inman — Content Developer, LifeChurch.tv
  • (I’m talking about the Keys to Communicating Change)

** A couple of things to note **

1) All of the talks are TED-style… 10 mins or less of the best stuff

2) Speakers will be chatting live & answering questions w/participants DURING their talks

3) If your schedule on Wednesday is looking a little hairy, the talks will be available again after the event for participants so you can watch them later

4) A private Facebook group has been set up for participants. Folks are already connecting & learning from each other

5) They’re including a bonus Facebook Ads Training (Which apparently I could use, as I’ve been rejected 3x so far–Thankfully I’m not talking about that)

I’m really excited to see how this event turns out. If you’re thinking about jumping on board, I’d recommend it.

Ps: Did I mention registration ends tonight at midnight?

The Price of Free


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It can be tempting to chase after “free” opportunities

  • A volunteer is willing to start a new ministry idea
  • An organization is offering to sponsor an initiative on your behalf
  • Someone is willing to include your ad on their website, magazine or newsletter
  • A partner wants to send a summer intern/assistant/extra-hands-and-feet-to-do-work-for-you

Sounds great, right? I mean, who doesn’t like free?

Before jumping on board, remember everything has a price. Sometimes it’s actual, physical dollars & cents. Other times it’s time. Or relationships. Or how much it impacts your brand or reputation.

So be sure to ask first:

  • Is the timing right for this opportunity?
  • What will it really cost?
  • Will it ultimately help accomplish what we’re supposed to do?

“So often people are working hard at the wrong thing. Working on the right thing is probably more important than working hard.”

I4J Interview with Phil Cooke and Justin Blaney

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Does media matter? How can churches reach people without a big marketing budget? Isn’t “marketing” kind of a dirty word in a ministry context anyway?

Phil Cooke and I were interviewed by Justin Blaney at Innovate for Jesus this morning and these were just a few of the topics we covered. Lots of great stuff shared for ministry leaders big and small (And if you look closely, about three quarters of the way through, you might see my Great Dane slipping by in the background… Kind of a Where’s Waldo sorta thing)

Here’s a few highlights that were tweeted:

“We have the greatest story ever told. But if our audience doesn’t speak “Christianese” we need to adapt to their context”

“When every ministry has its own logo and brand identity, you’re setting them up to compete with each other”

“The people that really break through are the ones that focus. We were made to focus”

“If we don’t define what is important, by default, nothing is”

“The average TV is on for eight hours a day. The average preacher preaches for an hour a week. Who’s winning the battle?”

“The most creative ministries are often the ones that didn’t have money to throw at the problem”

What are some of communication principles you’ve found to work?

Foundations Conference

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I am really excited to take part in a new conference that’s happening July 22nd. It’s entirely online (so no need to travel) and there are some pretty amazing friends joining me…

  • Tim Schraeder (social media ninja, helped raise a boatload of cash for Hillsong United)
  • Scott McClellan (communications pastor @ Irving Bible Church, prior grand poohbah of COLLIDE Magazine)
  • Jon Ferguson (lead teaching pastor at Community Christian Church & all-around scary smart guy)
  • Carlos Whittaker (brilliant musician, amazing at generating viral word-of-mouth, including this adorable video with over 7 million views)
  • Brady Shearer (founder of Pro Church Tools & host of a great podcast I was privileged to be part of)
  • Blaine Hogan (creative director @ Willow Creek & founder of a great coaching community Make Better)
  • Vince Marotte (church communications specialist & prior fantastic backstage broadcast host of Cultivate << he actually arrived on a bicycle)
  • Dave Shrein (wicked smart, author of The Communicators List & prior discussion leader of Cultivate)

Best part is until MIDNIGHT TONIGHT pricing has been rolled back to early bird rates of $89

Just use the promo code: Party (case sensitive)

It’s honestly one of the best ways to invest $89 and a few hours of your time. I can vouch for these guys. They’re legit. You’ll learn a ton. Totally worth it.

Hope to see you there!

Stuff to Check Out :: unSeminary

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A lot of the folks in my circles tend to be leaders. Oftentimes Lead Pastors, Executive Pastors and Communication Directors. And some of these leaders have huge hearts to help others—and others really need to know about it. So if you haven’t already heard of unSeminary, this is a resource you definitely want to check out.

Founded by Rich Birch, Operations Pastor at Liquid Church, (and all around great guy) he offers up some great, practical resources to guide your church communications. Here’s a highlight reel of some of the goodies you’ll find:

I honestly haven’t come across another one-stop-shop that offers so much free, quality stuff as unSeminary. Rich was a fellow speaker at Collyde last year when we first met, and he did a great job of helping me keep the crazy at bay before my session started. He’s continued to impress me ever since.

** Side note ** This is not an endorsed post. unSeminary is just a great resource and the world will be a better place if others know about it. 

Are We Providing Hurdles or Open Doors?

(Throwback Thursday :: This post originally published 4/08)

How easy is it for your “customers” to go deeper in their relationship with your organization? Are opportunities to get even more involved and committed intentionally accessible? Not just the get-’em-in-the-door type of intentional, but what about for those already on board?

I just spent [versus invested] a pretty painful amount of time trying to upgrade my Comcast subscription. No dice through my online account [which should have giant “upgrade today” buttons, but alas, no], so I bit the bullet and called the 800 number. Got halfway through the endless prompts aaaand had my call dropped. Tried again, waded through more prompts, sat on hold & finally connected to a service representative. She was friendly and got me set up, at which point the Internet in my bundled service immediately goes down. More teleprompts & disconnected calls.. lather, rinse, repeat. I was so sorry I tried to upgrade.

Contrast this experience to one with a Sirius telemarketer who called earlier today— I had a 3 month subscription that came with my car and over those few months I came to the conclusion I couldn’t live without an All Blues All the Time station ever again. I’m not a big fan of telemarketers in general, but they already had my attention, called when my free subscription was nearly up and made it easy for me to take it the next level. The whole thing took about 5 minutes. No interruption in what I already had. No pain.

“So, Dawn,” you say, “Enough with the whining. How does this have anything to do with me?”

The best customers are the ones you already have. And they help find new people for you when they become raving fans, which typically happens when the organization invests in them. This can come in flavors like an easy to navigate website, customer service that goes a little bit further than expected, making exceptions to the “rules” when it makes sense… you get the picture.

And yes, this absolutely applies to churches. Every time someone steps forward to volunteer, get involved with a small group, sign their child up for MOPS, participate in a class, etc., let’s ask ourselves, “Did we make that easy or hard for them?” Or better yet, let’s ask them.

It’s the Little Things

[Throwback Thursday :: This post originally appeared 07/06]

Okay, we’ve all heard it before. It pays to be nice. And apparently when it’s intentional with a pay-it-forward mindset, it can really make a difference.

I just read an article in the Mining Gazette [yes, you got the name right] about a town in Michigan that decided the best way to increase tourism was with positive word of mouth buzz.

And what they did was just simple stuff. Having extra maps of the area in their cars, helping stranded motorists, offering suggestions of where to get the best pasty. [I have no idea what that is, but imagine it’s important to know where the good ones are] I’d imagine folks were so amazed the locals would go out of their way to help an “outsider,” they told all their friends.

This got me thinking. How often are we intentional about this in ministry?

In the article, it wasn’t just the town council/Chamber of Commerce/mayor who was responsible for this. Everyone pitches in and it doesn’t take a huge marketing budget to pull off. I’ve read statsics somewhere [don’t look for a link for this] that studies show it takes 30 days to form a habit. So, this isn’t a marketing initiative, but a way of life for these folks.

Makes ya wonder if a little area in the upper peninsula of Michigan can do it, what would the possibilities be for ministries?

Pro Church Podcast Interview with Brady Shearer

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I had so much fun doing this interview with Brady. (You can also listen on iTunes here) He’s fun, personable, and has such a heart for helping others. If you haven’t heard about Pro Church Tools yet, it’s chock full of great resources to help churches communicate better. They’re doing a fantastic job. Highly recommend ’em.

PS: This was my first time doing a podcast, so if you have any suggestions of how it could be better I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

PPS: What OTHER questions do you have about branding that we couldn’t get to in the podcast but you’d love me to cover in the future?