4 Ways to Avoid Being Brand Identical

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When it’s time to design your new student center, update the website, or refresh the brand identity, it might be tempting to look at one of those “hip” churches and think, “We want our new (thing) to look like (that) church.” Keeping up with the Jones’ doesn’t just apply to your manicured lawn at home.

Looking at other brands and benchmarking is a great thing to do. Evaluating what you like, and dislike about other websites, physical spaces, and brand identities can be very helpful. Just make sure that in your wishing and benchmarking that you don’t forget that your church has its own God-given identity—a unique story that is distinct and filled with God’s creative intention.

This sort of forgetting happens all the time. It happens in our personal lives looking at someone else’s gifting and wishing we had a little more of “that.” It happens with businesses that try to do too many things and become unfocused, and it happens with churches that try to lift the DNA, flavor, and identity from another church and stick it on top of themselves.

Sometimes what is amazing about us is hiding in plain sight.

We believe that your church IS a unique story and that design should elevate and visually articulate that story across every aspect of where people interact with your church.

In the midst of the great commission and all that God’s doing in the earth, He has given your church a unique role to play, a distinct expression of His glory and activity. That means discovering it and defining it is a process of discernment. That also means that the creative expression of your church and how you tell your story needs to align with that uniqueness and not fall into the trap of trying to be someone else that is creating a lot of “brand identical” instead of unique brand identities.

Whether you’re working with an outside design firm or working with an in-house crew, here are 4 ways to help you stay out of the “brand identical” trap.

  1. Don’t forget the origins story.

Whether you’re the founding pastor or one pastor in a long line of leaders, it doesn’t matter, go back to the beginning. Why did God start this church? There is often a common thread of passion and a spark of inspiration that has left an indelible mark on the DNA and unique purpose for your church. That purpose is solid ground to build on.

  1. Look for common themes of grace.

What is it that God is always doing in your midst? Is there a consistent way people feel when they come into your church for the first time? When you close your eyes and imagine your church on it’s best day, how does it feel? What does it care about most? Often there are overarching themes that further help to identify your unique role in God’s mission. These themes provide creative energy to your story.

  1. Listen for your voice.

Your church already has a voice. Jesus said that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45). Pay attention to what your church naturally talks about—those common sayings, phrases, and mantras that get repeated often. What kind of values do they reveal? How do they sound—are they gutsy and courageous? Are they optimistic and hope-filled? The look and feel of your identity and story should have a direct connection to your voice.

  1. Insist that all creative connects to your story.

Design should have intention. That intention should be rooted in your unique story. Don’t settle for creative just “looking good.” Designers should have a reason and some rationale for how their design decisions connect back to your unique story. If not, chances are it’s not yet distinct enough.

 

Your church is an amazing part of Christ’s body. Our hope is that you become your own best self, not just in your leadership and ministry, but also in how you express yourself creatively. Soli Deo Gloria.

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About Author

Shawn Stewart

Shawn is the Director of Strategy at PlainJoe Studios. Previously, he was national brand strategy and brand management lead at Kaiser Permanente, a multibillion-dollar health care provider and not-for-profit health plan serving 10 million members nationwide. Shawn has served as a youth pastor and associate pastor within the local church, and a strategic consultant with hundreds of senior and executive pastors in both small and mega church contexts. His education and background is in visual communications and he is a recent graduate of the AIGA Executive Management Program for Creative Leaders at Yale University.

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