4 Signs Your Church Needs a Brand Architecture Overhaul

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How well is your church managing its brand? “Brand Architecture” isn’t a term you hear often in the church world, but it’s a concept you experience every day–everywhere you go.

A great working definition of brand architecture is “the way in which a company or nonprofit organizes, names, and designs its products, services or activities to show consumers the differences and similarities between them.”

For example, Apple’s naming convention for its products is the lowercase i: iPhone, iPad, iTunes. We all know they’re Apple products, but no one has to say Apple for us to understand the association. Another great example is the branded house (master brand) structure of USA Today; each section is named and color-coded for easy navigation.

 

So how might an intentional brand architecture benefit your church?

  • Clarity: your community will associate your church with its branded ministries and remember the connection
  • Simplicity: overhauling your brand architecture will make brand management easier for your church, including ministry branding, church planting, and campus naming
  • Recognizability: intentional brand architecture helps keep your brand from drowning in a sea of sub-brands
  • Reduced Competition: it keeps your main brand from competing with its own sub-brands
  • Cost: a brand architecture overhaul will save your church money because you won’t be paying to distinctly brand multiple ministries

Signs your church needs to overhaul its brand architecture:

  1. Ministries, classes, and outreach programs all have their own brands

We humans love to name and create things; it’s a God-given gift. But when it comes to brand management, all those clever ministry names can become a huge challenge.

When we start new Bible studies or youth ministry programs in our churches, we get excited. Our immediate instinct is to say, “Let’s name this ministry and create a logo”…without formulating a reason why we should brand it separately. As a result, your church’s primary brand gets lost in the noise of all the sub-brands.

Before you brand a new ministry separately from your primary brand, your leadership team should be asking:

  • Why should it have a brand identity of its own?
  • Are we targeting a specific demographic?
  • Does it need to integrate seamlessly with a secular community outreach?

Having too many brands floating around pulls attention away from the brand that matters most: your church. At the end of the day, your church’s name and brand identity should be what people remember.

  1. Your church is bleeding money to maintain all its brands

It can be expensive to maintain one primary brand, not to mention multiple brands under one roof. Pouring money into the design and marketing of multiple brands stretches your budget thin and takes away from your primary church brand.

Instead of creating multiple identities for each ministry, maintain your main brand identity while identifying each specific area. For example, we helped Asbury Church take a straightforward, simple track in naming their student ministry Asbury Students. On the other hand, we worked with Pennsylvania-based Vibrant Church to give their ministries a slightly different twist by springboarding off their primary brand.

They stayed true to the Vibrant brand:

At the same time, they differentiated their campuses (left) and ministries (right) by naming them “Vibrant [Campus Name]” and “Vibrant [Ministry Name]”:

The youth and kids’ ministries took a slightly different track. Vibrant’s youth ministry was named “The Vibe” and given a slight variation on the main logo, while “Vibrant Kids” maintained the name and also received a logo variation.

  1. Your brands are confusing to visitors, members, and staff

Maybe your church has multiple ministry brands…but they’re all so distinct that your members, visitors, and even leadership staff isn’t sure where each one fits. If people can’t tell who “owns” which brand and how it relates to your church, it’s time to rethink your brand architecture.

For example, let’s say your church is promoting its men’s ministry, but that ministry has its own logo and name that are separate from the primary brand. If a visitor to your Facebook page who doesn’t attend your church sees you posting about that ministry with no context, they’re going to wonder what it is and whether it’s from your church or another organization entirely.

When we began work with Church of the Highlands five years ago, they had over 20 ministry brands; their main brand was diluted by all of the sub brand ministries. They had multiple programs that people didn’t even realize were tied to the church. Their staff audited the brand and, over the course of five years, streamlined everything into one main brand and only a small number of separately-branded components.

Here’s an example of their primary brand, followed by two of their sub-brands:

   

In promoting your ministries, it’s best to be straightforward so the only brand you’re promoting is the church.

  1. Your creative and marketing teams are stretched to their limits

When you’re trying to maintain multiple brands, a lot of creative energy ends up being pushed into the development of many different things. Logos, websites, social media marketing–each component of brand management is comprised of multiple moving parts, and each brand has its own list of project management needs.

From a branding standpoint, this doesn’t make sense. Your staff ends up overloaded and overwhelmed, trying to maintain all the different moving parts. As a result, the promotion of your main brand suffers on multiple levels.

Align your ministries, classes, campuses, etc. with your long-term strategy.

Brand architecture is a function of brand management, and brand management requires an understanding of your brand’s long-term goals and vision. It’s best to align everything to these goals, including your current efforts.


If you’re ready to overhaul your church’s brand architecture and are looking for a place to start, download this free ministry brand decision tree from PlainJoe Studios.

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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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