What does having a cohesive church brand look like? Is it having pristine brand guidelines with exact colors and fonts to use everywhere? Templates galore that every staff member must use?
Or is it a more fluid process, like a flowing river that never goes outside its banks?
After working with hundreds of churches on their weekly graphics, I have seen the full gambit of what people think having a cohesive brand looks like.
Here are my top tips in creating and implementing a cohesive church brand:
#1: Define Your Church’s Flavor Profile
Coffee snobs alike all know that different roasts of coffee provide different “flavor profiles.” Don’t know what that means? Next time you pick up a bag of higher-level coffee, you’ll see notes about the coffee’s flavor profile.
“Candy Sugar, Apple, Cranberry”
“Milk Chocolate, Cookie Butter, Bold” – my personal favorite
“Caramel, Graham Cracker, Milk Chocolate”
These flavor profiles all describe the coffee, without going into crazy detail. You know by reading these generic descriptions that one blend is going to taste fruity, and the other will task smooth and chocolatey. Just like these coffee flavor profile notes, you should be able to quickly describe the flavor of your overarching church brand without unnecessary detail.
“Liturgical, conservative, and regal”
“Simple and colorful, with personal, bright photography”
“Modern, trendy, and envelope-pushing”
Your goal here is to quickly define what your church’s look is in simple, short terms. You can back this up with design examples after defining it. However, the point is that this is a SIMPLE description of your church’s brand flavor. DON’T worry about the microscopic details such as exact fonts and colors.
#2: Having ‘Brand Fonts and Colors’ for Everything Isn’t Helpful
Shocking, right? There are some churches out there that keep everything tight to the chest when it comes to their branding. You MUST use one of their three brand fonts and can ONLY use one of the brand colors. For. Every. Thing. Doing this is more likely to hurt your church’s reach than you may think.
Why is that? Won’t people know it’s from our church if we use the same fonts and colors in everything?
Maybe. However, there’s something you should know about the human eye. As a survival instinct, our brain is trained to ignore anything that’s familiar to us. Think about it. Something new gets built along your commute and you notice it right away. Your eyes are actually drawn to that new thing because it hasn’t been there before (and you secretly hope it’s an amazing new coffee shop). After the building has been completed for three months, you don’t stare at it every time you drive by anymore. But why?
Because it’s not new.
The same thing goes on with our designs and imagery in our church branding. When we use the same colors, the same fonts, the same style, we actually are training people to STOP looking at our stuff.
So, instead of boxing your church into only using the same five colors and three fonts on everything…
#3: Create a Sandbox With Edges
My sons are both young and absolutely LOVE to play at a nearby playground full of sand. They play inside the sand, build things, kick their feet in it, bury their legs, and definitely don’t eat it ever. (Okay, you got me. It’s happened once or twice.)
Here’s the thing about the sand park. There are no boards showing kids exactly what they can and cannot make out of the sand. They are free to play in the sand and make whatever they can out of it. However, as we all know there are some limits to playing with sand. For instance, I can’t make a delicious cup of pour-over coffee out of the sand.
For your church, it’s important to give your staff and volunteers a sandbox in which to play. Don’t totally box them into just those same three fonts and five colors. Give them generics to work within and the flavor profile words. Provide visual examples of what graphics at your church look like and give some examples of graphics that don’t work.
This is where a guide comes in handy the most. Give people those general guidelines in a PDF or webpage and let them run with it.
But, what happens if they make something out of line?
#4: Give Soft & Regular Feedback
Whether you see something great or something terrible, the only way things will get better is if you talk about it. Be generous with praise and gentle with criticisms. Whatever you do, talk about your brand constantly and help others grow in their own applications of the brand.