To Brand or Not To Brand…

Posted: October 7, 2014 in Uncategorized

Logo

There are plenty of thoughts out there about youth group branding, and as someone who has done a fair amount of branding, I wanted to share some thoughts on both sides of this issue.  I am obviously biased toward branding, so I bet you can guess what I will conclude with, but I will do my best to discuss some thoughts on both sides of the issue.  And then I will end biasedly.

Brand recognition.  Creating a brand can be a good way of promoting your youth ministry quickly and easily by slapping your logo on everything you do.  The first time I tried branding, the first thing I did was order t-shirts for the youth to wear to school.  I saw an immediate response in the amount of guests wanting to come to youth group simply by becoming aware of their friends’ affiliation.  So when I put posters out in the community, advertise on Facebook or create shirts and other takeaways, the logo is always displayed.  But, this can have the opposite effect as well; if only one group of friends display their shirts, it can appear that the group is only for them; if members of the group wear it while breaking rules, swearing loudly or selling black market organs, your brand is now associated with the wrong sort of message.

Unity. Another reason I first tread the way of branding with my first youth group was that we were a group divided between two rival school districts.  Each group of teens identified with their school over their church and there was tension in the group.  By adding and promoting a unified group through a name and brand, I was able to move past the rivalry and create new bonds.  A possible problem with this that a youth subculture may develop and you can see a silo effect with your ministry from the wider church which is something you need to avoid at all costs.

Group Spirit.  By giving my youth a brand and the means to display and promote that brand, I have seen on each occasion a team/school/hometown sort of spirit arise within the group.  On two separate occasions, I have had the group organize specific days they all wear their shirts to school or out into the community.  I have had teens treat Sunday morning like a homecoming week football game through their enthusiasm and creativity.  A group can rally behind a brand and identity if the situation is right.  But, as I stated with the last bullet point, making the identity of the group too important or too central to your energy, and you can see a divide from the identity of the church itself.  A few great ways to safe guard against that are making sure the name of the group includes the church identity as well and to include the wider church in the activities and events you are using to showcasing your brand.  For example, once a month have your teens wear their brand t-shirts to Sunday morning worship.  After a few months, have the congregation get in on it by encouraging them to wear the color of the shirts, too.  It promotes a feeling of church wide unity, not just teen wide or group wide.

Creative or trendy.  Brands, when done well, can help bring a bit of creativity and trend to your youth ministry.  Like most things, a little flash can bring the excitement of an event or meeting to the next level.  But, when done less than well, branding can make a group seem dated or non-relevant.  We are not all graphic designers or marketing majors.  A bad logo can do as much damage as a cool, fresh logo can do wonders.  So, if this is your skill set, use it.  If it isn’t, there are a few options for you.  First, look around your congregation for a designer.  If that’s not doable, you can check out services like fiverr and get a $5 logo (check it out here).  Either way, if you are good at that sort of thing, do it, if not…get help.  So in the trendy/graphic designy/creativity arena, know thy self.

Those are a few reasons branding is used, and a few reasons why we should be careful and use branding correctly.  I say the risk is worth it, but I have had great success in all of my branding endeavors.  The moral is that branding, when done well, has the potential to take things up to a new level, but when done poorly can hinder the success of any ministry.

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