Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Branding the Church

Since we are starting a new business soon, I’ve been reading up on marketing and the act of creating a recognizable brand, which is known as “branding,” Similar to a rancher putting a mark on the hip of his cattle, branding a business helps it stand out from another herd. Branding is an identifier. One way a brand is created is by the use of catch phrases, or by-lines, that summarize the product or business. Coke is identified as The Real Thing.” McDonald’s changes theirs from time to time, lately it seems like they want me to know that I’m lovin’ it.” I even remember back when I was a kid, the fuel additive, STP, was known as The Racers Edge.” The catch phrase attempts to connect the product to the consumer, by making the brand seem like something worth having. Coke thinks you value authenticity, so you would probably want The Real Thing. Nike thinks you will buy into the discipline it takes to get good at a sport, so it tells you to Just Do It. You get the picture The Church As We Know It plays the same the same branding game by using its own by-lines. Here’s a few I’ve come across recently:

  • A church of Broken People
  • A bunch of messed up folks, so you’ll feel right at home.
  • Not perfect, just forgiven.

I get the idea of trying to connect with people who have needs, but at some point doesn’t this kind of marketing break down? In the attempts to build a bridge between church and culture, does it help to say that the only difference between you and me is that I’m forgiven? It may inspire you, but it leaves me a little flat. I’ve got my weaknesses like the next guy, but I certainly don’t want to stay there. I don’t want my Achilles heel to be my identity. I want to be different. I want to grow and change. I want to leave that old stuff behind and live free. Can I do that among a bunch of people who boast about being messed up? The Church As We Know It needs to be aware of this focus. If it is to live by marketing, it must be willing to die by that same marketing. Branding itself as a Not Perfect, Just Forgiven will only lead to a church with no visible differences from its culture. At some point, who wants be a part of a group of people whose forgiveness doesn’t really lead to anything?

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