Internet Evangelism Idea #11: An Effective Brand

This post is part 11 in the series 20 Ways to Share Your Faith Online leading up to Internet Evangelism Day on April 25. We encourage you to tweet, share, blog & discuss these ideas in your church & circle of influence.

First, a confession: I’m a marketer. I’ve been in the advertising business for almost 20 years. And when I was a kid, my dad was, too, so I grew up in the business. As a result, I plead guilty to defining evangelism, and pretty much everything the church does, as marketing.

That said, I realize many inside the church see advertising and branding as worldly evils. Like tattoos. Video sermons. Or Kevin Bacon in Footloose. But I think that’s sad, because there are many lessons the world of secular marketing has to offer the church. If we’ll only listen.

Case in point: developing a distinct and compelling online brand.

A few years back, when the Web first became a viable media option for marketers, a lot of companies (and their ad agencies) made the mistake of being so smitten with the shiny new bauble that they jumped headlong into the technology while sacrificing the message they were trying to deliver. Their brand took a backseat to more sexy topics like click-through rates, CMS, SEO and other important-sounding acronyms. That’s slowly changing, but not as quickly as you might think.

Here’s my deceivingly simple-sounding point: The Web is, and always will be, just another way to communicate with people. Don’t lose sight of that and don’t be intimidated. The same tenets apply whether crafting a newspaper ad, welcome brochure, website or tweet — make sure the voice you use to reach a lost and hurting world is very real and very human. Good advertising does that (think of your favorite Super Bowl commercial). Bad advertising doesn’t (think “Active On! Apply directly where it hurts!”).

Avoid churchspeak and churchisms like the plague. Invest in a well-designed logo and website. Develop and adhere to an internal brand standards document. And remember that, to those outside the church, Jesus is just another product they can choose from on the spiritual shelf. We know he’s much more than that, but branding isn’t about seeing things through our own eyes, it’s about seeing through those of your target consumer.

Ultimately, we marketers (read “evangelizers”) have no magic formula when it comes to getting our message (read “the Gospel”) heard. We have no proven method for breaking through the self-defense mechanisms everyone develops to filter out the 3,000+ messages a day we’re each assaulted with. All we have is the ability to harness shared emotions like humor, pain and compassion to try and connect — in the hopes our message is one of the precious few that breaks through and gets heard.

Not coincidentally, the same can be said of leveraging the Internet as an evangelism tool.

Brett Borders has worked as a creative in the advertising industry for just shy of 20 years — 13 of them spent as a freelance copywriter and creative director, and all of them as a follower of Jesus.  Learn more about Brett on his website or his blog. Or connect on Twitter.

5 Responses to “Internet Evangelism Idea #11: An Effective Brand”

  1. Brett, thanks for the post. I think your right that there are people who take offense at the idea of a church "marketing" itself or the gospel. But it is important to note that whether you are aware of it or not, your church has a brand.

    Every interaction people have with people who are a part of your church contributes to the idea of what kind of a church it is. Are they cold & judgmental or loving & accepting?

    Every interaction people have with your website contributes to your church's brand. Does it give the impression that your church is about buildings and programs or about people? Is it about the church members or is it about helping visitors connect?

  2. Great post! As someone who worked for a bunch of churches and is now volunteering to run social media for my church (cheap plug:http://www.thrivefacebook.info ) your point about avoiding "church talk" is so true. I follow alot of churches online to see what they are doing and etc. It it seems many of them are simply using social media as an extension of the church bulletin.. Sure you need to make announcements every now and then, but you also need to get people talking.

    I'm amazed on our fan page how our most talked about strings are things dealing with American Idol, favorite restaurants and etc. Say something about church and you get a few "Amens" but post something that you were shocked Katie got voted from Idol and get a 30 comment long string!!

    Scott

  3. Thanks, guys. It's a controversial topic, I realize. Appreciate you giving me the soapbox and hearing me out.

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  1. Tweets that mention Internet Evangelism Idea #11: An Effective Brand « Christian Web Trends Blog -- Topsy.com - Apr 16, 2010

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  2. New Series: 20 Ways to Share Your Faith Online « Christian Web Trends Blog - Apr 22, 2010

    [...] An Effective Brand by Brett Borders [...]