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What is Branding?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the phrase: Your logo is not your brand. This is repeated often enough that I have to guess there are people out there, who think a logo is a brand.

On the other end of the spectrum there are people arguing that a brand is so much more than a logo, that a logo is inconsequential. So I wanted to show how I define, understand and use the terms logo and brand, as well as some other related key words.

Once a logo has been designed it gets applied to many different applications. These can be as simple as the logo placed in the top center of a piece of paper and calling it letterhead. If all you do is essentially rubber-stamp your logo onto different things, you really have not developed a full brand identity.

A brand identity is the larger, distinct visual look that is associated with a company.  When a brand identity really works, you should be able to recognize the brand even if you don’t see the logo. For example, Netflix’s red envelope is a simple yet powerful example of a brand identity.

Many people have heard about the importance of using their logo consistently. But there should be a consistency to elements beyond your logo. (ie. Pastor Chestnutt's picture, the colors, the clean aesthetic/look).


What is included under the term brand is much harder to define. It certainly encompasses the logo and the full visual position created by a strong brand identity. But it also includes many other areas that are not strictly the design side of a business. These may include your content, messaging and story telling. Customer service and the client experience also a part of a brand. The idea of reputation is a critical part of defining the word brand. Some people summarize this into the very abstract idea of a promise.



1. The Brand Promise

At its core, a brand is a promise to consumers. What will consumers get when they purchase a product or service under your brand umbrella? The brand promise incorporates more than just those tangible products and services. It also includes the feelings that consumers get when they use your products and services.

Example: Think about your favorite brand and what that brand promises to you. If you’re a Nike fan, the brand might represent athleticism, performance, strength, good health, and fun. Your brand promises something to consumers. What is it?

2. The Brand Perceptions

Brands are built by consumers, not companies. Ultimately, it’s the way consumers perceive a brand that defines it. It doesn’t matter what you think your brand promises. The only thing that matters is how consumers perceive your brand. You need to work to develop consumer perceptions that accurately reflect your brand, or your brand is doomed to limited growth potential.

3. The Brand Expectations

Based on your brand promise, consumers develop expectations for your brand. When they pull their hard-earned money out of their pockets and purchase your products or services, they assume their expectations for your brand will be met. If your brand doesn’t meet consumer expectations in every interaction, consumers will become confused by your brand and turn away from it in search of another brand that does meet their expectations in every interaction.

4. The Brand Persona

Rather than asking, “What is a brand?” a better question might be, “Who is a brand?” Every brand has a persona. Think of your brand as a person. What is that person like? What can you expect when you interact with that person? From appearance to personality and everything in between, your brand persona is one that consumers will evaluate and judge before they do business with you.

5. The Brand Elements

Your brand is represented by the intangible elements described above as well as tangible elements such as your brand logo, messaging, packaging, and so on. All of these elements must work together to consistently communicate your brand promise, shape brand perceptions, meet brand expectations, and define your brand persona. If one element is awry, your entire brand can suffer.

Example: There is a reason why that blue Tiffany’s box has been around for so long. It means something to consumers.

Bottom-line, a brand is clear, reliable, and believable to both your consumers and your employees. However, brands aren’t built overnight. Before you can define and live your brand, you need to do some research so you don’t waste time taking your brand in a direction that won’t allow you to reach your goals. You must understand your competitors and audience, so you can develop a brand that promises the right things to the right people. Research should be first, definition, strategy, and execution should follow, and in time, your brand will grow.



What’s the Point?

The purpose of branding is to simply and easily help your customers understand what you offer and how you’re different. But it’s not only a USP (unique selling proposition), it is the combination of all the ways you communicate what you stand for.

In addition to your logo and corporate colors, you can communicate your brand message through:

  • Your store environment and atmosphere

  • How your staff members treat customers

  • How your staff members dress

  • The products you carry

  • The price you charge

  • Product packaging

  • Public relations

  • Public speaking

  • Direct mail

  • Sponsorships

  • Advertising

  • Nonprofit partnerships

What your customers and prospects take away from all this shapes your brand.

Building a Brand

If your business does not yet have a consistent brand, or you don’t like what your brand currently stands for, it’s time to rebrand. Here are some steps to take to shape public perception for the better:

  • Identify what your customers love most about your business. What makes yours stand out? What are your strengths?

  • Create a brand message that conveys what your business aims to do for its customers – what you’re best at. Geico promises to save you 15% in 15 minutes. That’s its brand promise. Marriott promises quiet luxury. What are you promising your customers? And are you delivering?

  • Make sure your visual elements match your message, and your brand. If you’re promising innovation, don’t use greys and boring images.

  • Develop standards for employee dress and behavior that support your brand promise. Make sure they understand what your brand is and can support it.

  • Apply your visuals across every marketing tool you use, from advertising to signage to store displays to mailings to shopping bags.

Branding is a complex process, mainly because its success or failure is determined by your customers’ reactions to the act of doing business with you.



You've probably heard a lot about the importance of church branding, and maybe you've also seen the pushback on it. If you're one of those people who don't think it's important — or if you don't really know what it is — I hope you'll keep reading.

What is branding?

Many people think branding is just a logo or a way to visually identify a church. Branding is much more than that. It is who your church is: the values it embraces, the message it shares, a representation of its identity.

Why branding is important

There are some who think congregations shouldn't have a brand because it makes the church too commercial or too business-like. But make no mistake, your church has one. It may not be a thought-out brand that's been adopted, but the community has branded your church based on what they've seen, personally experienced or have heard about from others.


If your congregation doesn't have a brand, wouldn't it be better for your church to craft one that accurately reflects its values, message and testimony?

Branding components

A logo is just part of branding. Just as you have multiple senses, a church brand touches many areas of ministry — greetings, music, website, visuals, preaching, community interaction with staff and congregation. All of these areas come together to form the impression your community has of your church

What defines your congregation?

If your church doesn't have a brand or it needs updated, there are some things to keep in mind.

Authenticity — If you have a clear view of what your church vision is, you should be able to do this in five sentences or less.

Unity — This goes along with being authentic. Now that you've written out several sentences that define your church, have someone who knows the ministry read the statement and give you feedback. Also, have several people in your congregation from various age groups and interests read them. Do they agree with what's been written? If not, ask questions and revise.

Branding doesn't make your church authentic or unified. That comes from within. If the church branding lacks authenticity and unity, then the brand isn't true and will fail. Branding is not a fix for internal church issues.

Here's what I mean. Many years ago we moved to another state and were looking for a new church home. Based on some church-branded materials, we visited a specific church.

It didn't take long for us to realize that the branded materials represented what about half the congregation wanted the church to be, while the other half was happy with the way the church had been. We're talking more than whether to have a traditional or contemporary service (or both).

Within the congregation there was a big disconnect about what the church's message, outreach and testimony was. In the last 10 years, this church of around 700 had started to shrink. Those moving out of the area no longer attended, and those moving in didn't join.

Some in the congregation were OK with the decline and inward focus. Others felt that for the church to be healthy, they needed to change their outlook and ministry values to reflect the needs of the changing community around them.

The two groups never agreed and the church never unified. It continued to shrink, and eventually another ministry bought their site for a satellite church.

Relevance — Part of the issue this church had was that the surrounding community had undergone big changes and had needs that many in the church weren't interested in addressing. Being relevant doesn't mean compromising your beliefs; you should never do that. It does mean being aware of the needs of your community and how you can impact lives.

Once you have a true vision of your church brand, staff can then adopt brand standards to create consistent messaging that supports the church mission and values. Be authentic, unified and relevant.

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