Focus on the Negative: Working Backward to Determine Brand

magnifying glass looking at film negatives

Although we all find our identity in Christ, your church needs its own unique identity and brand. Granted if you are a denominational church, your brand limits are a bit more defined, but still you should determine how your church stands out from the one just down the street. This is more difficult than it seems, as the same words are used over and over to describe churches. This article asks you to work backward from what you are not and let the audience see what you are.

We are marketed to every single day; during a trip to the store, a drive down the highway, or watching a show on television. Unfortunately many claims now mean nothing to us. Are you really eating the best potato chips in America? Did the company that offers world-class customer service do the research to prove this? Does it really quantify a truck if it is the official vehicle of your favorite sports team? These are often empty statements that leave us numb to most claims. Unfortunately this includes not believing a churches when they say how great they are.

Avoid Buzzwords

What words would you use to describe your church? Honestly, think about it for a minute. What phrase or set of words do you use to tell people about your church? I bet in many cases it does not sound very impressive. Did you use “welcoming”, “serving”, “caring”, or “freeing”? In many cases we string these words together into a slogan and slap it on your website logo. This often falls into the same category as those brands that claim to be something they are often not. I know, this is difficult; which is why I want you to continue reading.

Find the Antonym

The easiest way to avoid buzzwords is to start with the opposite of your proposed wording. If you think you have a welcoming church, think what wording means to not be. The worst thing is that “we are selfish, cynical, jaded, jerks” might be somewhat believable by the unchurched.

Turn It Around

No take that word or phrase that talks about what you would not do, and transform it into something that simply describes what you are not. One great example was a slogan outside a church that could have talked about no religious thinking, but instead said “No perfect people allowed”. They promoted an air of acceptance by stating only broken sinners can attend their services.

Utilize Emotions

Are there any emotions your message can connect with? If you are supporting a foreign mission, instead of saying how much it cost to support a family living in poverty, remind them that the cost of a latte is comparable to that family’s average daily earnings. Asking for money to help fight a childhood disease? Why not phrase it in terms of helping that child see their graduation or wedding day. Granted this is more focused on financial campaigns, but see where you can infuse it into your taglines, branding, and mission statements.

Action Item: Consider the selling points of your church and use them as a launching point to talk about what you are not. Instead of rambling on about what your church does for people, start with what you do not and work backward. Lastly, watch this short YouTube clip. It shows that a change in perspective, especially one that tugs at your emotions, can drastically change your audience’s attitude. Turn your thinking around and let people know what you intend not to do.

Note: Thank you to Paul Boag for the inspiration for this article, in the form of his AudioBoo on this topic.

Photo courtesy of Juan Martin Socorro

Author: Stephen Morrissey

I have been making websites since 1996, and using social media since 2006. My current profession is designing user experiences for corporate software, websites, and mobile applications. I started sharing my knowledge with the world in 2011, about a year after a revival in my faith.