Your Brand is Probably Not What You Think It Is

Brand is the buzzword for businesses and organizations all over the world. It spurs countless meetings and brainstorms, millions of dollars in research and hundreds of pages in manuals. It has shifted messaging and advertising campaigns. It has prompted new logos, flashy design, catchy taglines. And, after all of that, people still don’t know how brands are made.

A reality check might help. Jeff Bezos to the rescue: “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

Of course, you may have a clear idea of what you want people to think about your church or organization—you’ve got it all documented in your brand manual with definitions of brand values, essence, promise and guidelines. Great start. But, that’s not what makes a brand dream come true. Your vision may be well documented and poorly demonstrated.

Is the brand you’re promoting what your audience actually experiences? The answer is found in the space between what you profess and what you practice. (Age old “perception vs reality.”)

Ready for a reality check? Review your game films.

Think through all the places people interact with your church – map out an individual experience from the website to the event. Keep in mind, everything communicates – each email, Facebook post, online review (and response), announcement slide, service handout, interaction with staff or volunteer, trip to the bathroom, sign, check-in lines, payment process, traffic flow, etc. Make a list of all of these “touch points.” Then, one at a time, compare what you “say you are” to “how you behave” in each transition and each interaction.

A brand is a living entity – and it is enriched or undermined cumulatively over time, the product of a thousand small gestures.
– Michael Eisner, Former Walt Disney CEO

Did you catch that? The cumulative sum of every touch point defines your brand reality. (Shocking, I know. It’s not what we say, it’s what we do.)

So, it’s true what they say. You should sweat the small stuff. And, here are seven ways to get started.

1. Run empathy practice drills. When your communication engine feeds on calendar event promotions and transactional efficiency alone, the body doesn’t get what it needs to stay healthy. When the body is malnourished, it starts to feed on itself. A peak performing communication engine, on the other hand, grows healthy by feeding on empathy; planning logistics around the human factor in every step of every interaction.

  • What is he leaving behind – an ailing parent, a stack of unpaid bills?
  • What did she have to do in order to get here today – pack a diaper bag but still forgot diapers, argue with a spouse who is turning away from God?
  • What is he facing when he leaves – an empty house, a demanding boss, a draining job?
  • What stress is she carrying – fractured relationship with her kids, shared custody, abuse?

(Are you starting to see why redesigning a logo isn’t making the splash you think it is?)

2. People watch. Set up listening posts and take note of interactions, tendencies and requests. Are people taking bulletins and reading them? Do most people arrive late and are missing the announcements? What questions are people asking at guest services? Train your staff and core volunteers on the first line of defense to ask questions. Create a safe conversation where guests/attenders can be heard, and truth shared – no offenses taken. Stress the importance of wanting to know how you can get better.

3. Check data vitals. When is the last time you evaluated your website analytics (versus just tracking counts)? For example, look beyond how many people are coming to your site and check out:

  • how they’re coming to you (direct URL, search or link from somewhere else)? That will give you insight around whether or not people are finding you via referral, your promotions or other.
  • how they’re viewing your site (on mobile devices or desktop). This will give you insight around how they’re using your content; at home or on the go. Is your site mobile-friendly?
  • how long are they staying? This will give you insight on how helpful and user-friendly your content is.
  • what are they clicking on? This will give you insight on what content is most relevant for them.
  • what are they searching for? This will give you insight on what might be missing, what might be buried in navigation, what jargon is misleading.

I’m sure you’re starting to get the idea by now. And, if you’re ready to dive into what to do with this new insight, I’ve dug up two articles to get you out of the gate.

  1. Important Google Analytics Metrics
  2. Best Google Analytic Reports

4. Start social listening. You can dive pretty deep into this one – but don’t get lost in the data. Start with the basics and then ramp up. At the very least, set up a Google Alert. Be alerted to any mention of your church name and top leaders but also Christian, church and perhaps your particular denomination. Look into top trends on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. What are people looking up? What are people talking about? How are they talking about your church or sermon topics? If there isn’t any online chatter about you… what might that mean?

There are countless ways to approach this, but I suggest starting simple. I like how Van Baird makes it easy with his 60/20/20 Rule and how Shift Communications breaks down which metrics to pay more attention to and which ones to ignore.

5. Make comment cards accessible. Set up a box with cards and pens for easy access and in a safe place to anonymously fill out (not the center of the room). Add gathering these cards and recording the feedback part of a staff member or volunteer’s weekly routine. Make the same feedback mechanism available online and on Facebook. In other words, make it easy for people to share about their experience. Then, set up a monthly cycle where you review them as a team and commit to take action (not only with the person who shared the feedback, but also with future protocol).

6. Add mystery shoppers to your bench. Gain insight from regular attenders and guests through a “mystery shopper” exercise. Compile a list of questions and areas for “shoppers” to observe and provide feedback.

7. Ask better survey questions. Surveys can be a helpful tool in revealing what people really think about your church – IF you ask the right questions. I’ve seen this mishandled more times than I can count. Your feedback is only as good as the questions you ask. So, be sure to target your questions to uncover targeted information you can’t find any other way.

  • What topics do you need help with?
  • What hurdles do you find when you come for the first time?
  • What hurdles do you find on the website?
  • What was the most helpful experience you’ve had here?
  • What was a discouraging experience?
  • Are you in a group? Why or why not? [benchmark]
  • Do you come every weekend? Why or why not? [benchmark]

The questions identified as benchmarks should be asked 1-4x per year. Look for trends. Are people growing? What are the consistent hurdles that your team need to address?

Good intentions don’t work as a “get out of reality free” card

You don’t know what you don’t know. And you can only serve people better if you find out the truth. I know listening can be a humbling and frustrating experience. But, it’s crucial. If you don’t address your blind side, it can cost you the game. But, when you look at the whole playing field, you can make good decisions with good information.

Have fun, and enjoy the discovery.

> Read more from Kem.


 

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kem Meyer

Kem Meyer

Kem Meyer has spent almost three decades working with small business, big business, not for profit, tech, finance, PR, advertising, schools and churches. They all have issues with communications; for better and worse. And, learning from them all, she's developed quite a knack for finding the simple themes that increase organizational clarity and remove barriers that get in the way of our messages.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Three Branding Strategies for Your Church

In 2004 the marketing guru David Aaker, published a book entitled Brand Portfolio Strategy, in which he describes a tool called a “Brand Relationship Spectrum” to help simplify the world of brands when companies steward multiple products or services. Revisiting his book will help us create a very simple, three-part language for church leaders. Understanding these basic strategies can have a profound impact on how your church communicates.

But before moving on…Even though, the “b-word” can be lead to resistance from the church crowd, it shouldn’t. Branding is simply how your church builds relationships with communication tools.

The genius of tool is represented by two terms that Aaker used to coin the ends of the spectrum.  On one end of the spectrum he identified a strategy called the “Branded House” to describe a company like Apple, Harvard or Cisco, where one unified brand is the sole driver for many products or services. For example, Apple creates products like iPhone, iPod, iPad, iTunes, etc., but they are driven primarily by the Apple master brand. On the other end of the spectrum is the strategy of the “House of Brands” to describe the diversity of stand-alone brands that all belong to one relatively invisible company like Procter & Gamble or Yum Foods. For example Yum brands represent, KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell. But when you eat at these establishments, you don’t encounter the master brand at all.

Most ministries, however, live between the two ends of the spectrum- somewhere between “Branded House” and “House of Brands.” Therefore we name the third way- in the middle- as “House Blend.” This in-between language was created by a friend and brilliant dude, Armando Fullwood.

Here is how Armando explained the House Blend:

The “House Blend” – This is an architecture based on the development of sub-brands with the added credibility of the existing parent brand. Google, for example, started as a search engine then continued to establish the primary brand through offerings such as Gmail, Calendar, and Maps. Eventually, they began to acquire other, smaller tech companies such as Blogger, Picasa, and YouTube. These acquisitions maintained their existing brands but gained credibility through the primary brand of Google.

Another example, is Nabicso. They own many retail brands that consumers recognize like Wheat Thins, Ritz, and Triscuits. But you will see a master brand visual from Nabisco on a box of Wheat Thins in the upper left-hand corner (you can probably picture it.) That would be an example of the House Blend strategy.

Now the key to naming these three strategies starts with evaluating your church ministries. Most churches drift toward a house blend or a house of brands too quickly. Armando offers some initial insight here:

Smaller organizations that are still focusing on gaining market share need to choose the architecture that will help them grow the fastest. A “House Blend” is most often the wrong choice in these cases. House blends thrive on the credibility of the parent brand. If a smaller company has a product or service that they would like to introduce into their existing structure, it’s usually a good idea to create a sub-category of their existing brand rather that creating a new brand for that product or service. This makes a “Branded House” architecture an excellent choice.

Also, non-profit, experience-based organizations such as churches thrive on branding simplicity. For example, in a church with multiple ministries it can be tempting to create a new brand/logo for each division (House of Brands or House Blend). However, this creates internal competition. Each brand begs for attention from the attendee and struggles to be recognized as “part” of the main brand. Many times, each ministry feels the responsibility to develop their own brand, which can consume an enormous amount of energy. Instead, try focusing on your main brand and simply categorizing ministries under that brand. For example, if Faith Church has a children’s ministry, it wouldn’t have it’s own name…it would simply be the “Faith Church Children’s Ministry”.

In the rest of this series on branding, I will continue to unpack key questions around church communication and illustrate what brand guidelines should like for different churches. We will address questions like:

1) Why do churches tend to fragment their message so much?

2) What about the missional church? How does branding apply as it sounds so “corporate” and old school?

3) How do you know when its time to launch new ministry sub brands in a large church?

4) What does a well developed communication and branding strategy look like?

Read more from Will here.


Would you like to learn more about branding for your organization? Connect with an Auxano Navigator and start a conversation with our team.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Will Mancini

Will Mancini

Will Mancini wants you and your ministry to experience the benefits of stunning, God-given clarity. As a pastor turned vision coach, Will has worked with an unprecedented variety of churches from growing megachurches and missional communities, to mainline revitalization and church plants. He is the founder of Auxano, creator of VisionRoom.com and the author of God Dreams and Church Unique.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

bruceherwig — 01/26/17 5:18 pm

Reminds me Tony Morgan's classic post entitle “What If Target Operated Like A Church?” I wrote about this in a blog post "Is Your Church Like Target…or More Like A Mall?" https://goo.gl/2qQIy3

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.