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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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 and the author of God Dreams and Church Unique.

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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?"

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
— Glenna Hendricks
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright

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