The other day I had lunch with my dad at a casual dining franchise restaurant here in town. It’s one of my favorite joints to frequent. I order the same thing every time. Total creature of habit. In fact, I’ve been ordering this particular entrée (which is really an appetizer, but I digress) as far back as my high school years when I worked at the Goody’s Family Clothing store formerly located in the same parking lot.
When our friendly waitress arrived with the meal, she commented on how delicious my buffalo chicken tenders looked. I agreed, but didn’t think much of it because I order them regularly. Then she said, “You know what’s really good? If you like our buffalo sauce, try it on our quesadilla. Sometimes on my lunch break I’ll make myself a little buffalo chicken quesadilla and it’s amazing.”
Why am I telling you this story about delicious buffalo sauce? Because you better believe that the next time I see her, I’m going to be requesting that quesadilla. But not just because I love buffalo sauce and quesadillas. It’ll mostly be because this smiling, happy lady took the time to be a rockstar and have personalized, conversational moments with me while I enjoyed a meal on a chilly February afternoon and even introduced me to an idea I had never previously considered. It didn’t matter that my dad and I were in the middle of chatting about ministry issues and cool podcast junk, yo. What mattered was that she engaged. She made a connection.
And when I left that restaurant, what I remembered the most wasn’t anything about this restaurant’s logo, slogan, social media, menu design, lighting aesthetics, or TV commercials — although I’m well-acquainted with them all. What I left with was the realization that there’s a lady there who likes buffalo sauce and quesadillas as much as I do. And maybe if I come back again, she’ll make something for me that will be even better than “my usual.”
This is the sort of thing that I wish a lot of churches understood, particularly those undergoing revitalization and those in need of revitalization. You see, your brand is bigger than your logo or some piece of random signage sitting in the foyer. It’s the the very nature, heart, and soul of your church. Simply put, your brand is who you are. That includes your beliefs, your reputation, your relationship with the local community, your online engagement, and even the interwoven combined personality of your congregants.
If you’re a pastor or Church Comms leader trying to assess your church’s current brand, you need to scrutinize everything: Your digital media, your greeters, the taste of your coffee, the temperature of the sanctuary, whether you’re replying to social media comments and messages, and even that annoying toilet in the lady’s bathroom that never seems to properly flush. The overall “vibe” of your church. It all leaves an impression.
Good branding can help you step up your revitalization game. Here’s why it matters:
1. It will help you become authentic. (More than just a logo.)
Solid logo design, social media management, and stellar graphics are critical. I’ll address those in forthcoming posts. But your logo is an inanimate object. When that depressed single mom in the neighborhood behind your church needs groceries, she’s not going to give a flying rip if your church’s Instagram account is like totally lit, bro. She’s going to be thinking about the nice staff lady she met at your last community outreach event who sat and talked with her and her daughter and gave them a connect card. If your church has taken the time to properly engage and form relationships, you’ve built a brand of authenticity and trustworthiness that will extend far beyond a logo on a fancy website or a sign on a hill. And who knows? Maybe she’ll eventually start attending and even invite a friend or two.
2. It’s positively infectious.
By this I mean that it’s both positive and infectious. Ever watch a Starbucks commercial and then find yourself craving your favorite brewed beverage? (Or is that just me?) Good branding inspires people to action and moves them in a positive direction. It should be the same with your church’s message. The community should be so overwhelmingly curious about and enamored with what’s happening at your church — or desire it so much because of the last positive experience they had — that they can’t help but to either attend or, at the very least, seek out more information via your digital platforms, which should then circle back around to inspiring them to attend.
3. It will excite your staff and volunteers.
A good church branding strategy won’t just motivate, inspire, and engage the local community. If you do it right, it’ll give your leadership team something to get behind too. Everybody wants to be a part of something bigger than themselves; something that can make a difference; something that will change lives forever. Your brand should remove all obstacles and roadblocks between your team and this goal. I'll cover some ways that you can do this in future posts.
It may take time for your church to do this successfully, but be patient. You'll get there eventually. Buffalo chicken quesadillas didn't happen overnight either.
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