the baby and the bathwater

Brand : Telling our Story
April 17, 2009, 9:46 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

We live in a culture dominated by the media, by celebrity and by brand. We may not like it. But it is true. If the church ignores it and hopes it will go away, it will stop being salt and light in the world and it will probably fail in it’s great commission.

Many people, especially Christians, are very disparaging of brands. For many people, they represent the fluffy exterior of a very poor product or service, something that manipulates rather than informs, something that draws in the weak-willed to pay for something that they not only don’t need, but something that could also cause them serious harm.

Some may point to particular markets: to cigarette brands that used to tell you that you would become cool and sexy if you smoked them, covering up the possibility that they may lead to lung cancer; to fast foods that promise children fun and tasty eating, covering up the possibility that it could lead to obesity; even to political party brands that purposefully produce smoke screens to cover up the truth. Such distortions of course are so wrong, and possibly even evil.

Some also point to brands that are created to provide distinction or identity within a crowded market place. Whether that’s the coffee you drink, the computer you use or the clothes you buy. But in my mind, there is nothing inherently wrong with any of this – it is just life. And I am happy drinking Costa, Using a MAC, and wearing M&S clothes. But some people think such brands can be manipulative, and I can appreciate that view. (Although I drink Costa because it is the best coffee, I use a MAC because it works, and I wear M&S because it deals effectively with my middle age spread).

And so when people like me start talking about the branding of our faith, they naturally become very concerned.

So let me tell you what I think brand, used well, should be.

A brand, at it’s heart, is a story. It is a story built around a product, service or ideology that is being presented to the world. It is not the product, service, or ideology itself, just the window that let’s the world see, appreciate and understand what is on offer. Branding becomes corrupt – as in the examples above – when the story presented leads to mis-information being absorbed by the consumer. But brand can be life-giving and edifying if it is a story that represents the product truthfully.

And that is where our journey into brand starts. We need to be a church that faithfully and truthfully tells the story of our faith to our culture. We need to be a church that provides a clear and visible window onto our faith, onto our God, that this culture can find accessible.

You see, I believe that the reason that the church in many areas is in decline is not because we haven’t got a great product. In fact I think we have the best product the world has ever had. The reason we are in decline is because the window we ask the world to look through to see that product has become so clouded, stained, dirty and irrelevant that they can’t see through it. The reason that they are not listening to us is because the story we are telling of our faith is in a language that they just can’t understand.

You see, the branding of our faith isn’t about a few creative types having fun, demanding big salaries, or getting lost in their own little creative worlds. It is about the mission of the church.


3 Comments so far
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interesting analogy mr bennetts . . . and looking forward to seeing where you go with it.

I have some thoughts forming and they ain’t fully formed but here we go. . ..

branding: no problem . . . think its important
branding and the church: I have questions . . .

the word ‘branding’ seems to conjure up that we have something to sell in today culture as you have mentioned – I don’t see through that lense – that we have something to sell whether it be an ideology, product or service.
Maybe this is where the church (aka you and me) have fallen down in the past and why this discussion is happening?
Maybe we have seen ‘it’ (aka our faith|story) as a product to be bought or sold? an add on – optional extra? Yea a great ‘product’ but a ‘product’ nonetheless?!

okay my smatterings of what ifs as always bennetts!?!

Comment by Nae

Your smatterings and what if’s are always welcome friend!

Language, as always, is so important here, and is why I am starting with my definition of brand: as the story, the window onto what we want people to see, believe, buy into.

And whether we use the language of ‘a product to sell’ or the language of ‘a person to be embraced’ the fact is that we as the church are Jesus way of making it happen as easily as possible for people.

And generally – as you state – we’re not very good at it.

I am looking forward to the debate!

Comment by neilbennetts

(Jesus = product) + (church = selling) = really bad language?

Comment by Nae

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