“Just Do It”. Everyone knows the slogan and sees a similar picture in their mind. You know it; you trust it. Nike has held that same slogan for 15 years. Reebok has changed their slogan 14 times. Guess who’s leading in shoe sales (and more)? Is it because Nike makes better shoes? I’m sure they would say so, but their status as the leading shoe brand is also about consistency in brand.
The more you practice something, the better you get and the more natural it feels. As the saying goes: Practice makes perfect. Consistency works because repetition is the key to mastery. The same is true for a brand. The more times you see it, hear it, and feel it, the more natural it feels and the larger space it takes in your brain. We need consistency to keep that “mind space” because new messages will move them, distractions dull them, and sleep erases the space that your brand message has taken up. By repeating the same message again and again, you begin to own that category in the mind.
Whether we look at Nike, Apple, Target, or any number of the leading brands, we can see this over and over. So why is it so hard for us to be consistent? Why do churches tend to have dozens of different logos and names and styles that don’t connect to one another? How can we overcome this and use consistency to help people master the story of God? Probably because you get bored. I used to have a large client, Dow Chemical, who has very strong brand guidelines. We could only use certain colors, sizes, graph types… you name it. Sometimes the only thing we would change is the cover image. That’s not very exciting and certainly not challenging. But you knew it was Dow Chemical as soon as you picked it up.
Target is so well versed in this that several years ago they took over as the sole advertiser in the New Yorker. Except there weren’t any ads. They simply brought their trademark red color and the feel of Target to the entire magazine; cover, illustrations, everything.
Companies like Target and Dow realized that while they were probably bored, and certainly their award winning creative teams were, their customers were not. While we see our logo and ministry names over and over, those that we reach may only see them a few times a month. They aren’t bored; they barely even remember some of the names, colors, etc. In fact, once you get bored with your look or name, it’s a good sign that it is probably starting to find a space in your target market’s mind. While you’re bored, they’re finally starting to know who you are.
We need to push through that boredom because clarity beats creativity. When I first got to Victory, we had a lot of brand names – many of which only made sense to the people who already knew what they were. We had V-Groups, M90, and iCare. We now have Victory Small Groups, Victory Community Outreach, and an event called Man Up. Over the past few years we’ve gone through and given clarity to our ministry names so that when someone walks through the door for the first time and sees a ministry name, they know exactly what it is. We are consistent in our tone and in how we communicate who we are. It’s not very creative – we save that for a small group campaign or an outreach video – but it is clear.
But we do have Man Up as well as Capitol, The City, and Fusion. For brands like these – brands that need some of their own flavor – we can bring some creativity and still retain consistency. You will always see these ministries with a clarifying tag such as Young Adults 18-30, Student Ministry, etc. The idea is to never make people guess when it comes to brand. Your brand is all about who you are, and who you are shouldn’t be confusing to anyone.
This doesn’t just apply to the names we use; it also is in the tone we carry and the look we give things. Again – using Capitol, The City, and Fusion – they each have their own logo, but those logos are similar in style to our main logo. We are known for being a diverse church, so for us, the driving force of our visual brand style is a fractal type look – pieces coming together to make something whole. They stand on their own and don’t look like the overarching logo, but they do feel related. This not only gives consistency in our brand, but because of that, it connects our kid’s ministry to our middle school to our high school to our young adult and all the other ministries of Victory. We are a brand family.
It is not easy getting here. You will have to kill logos and names that you may really like or that the pastor himself came up with and find a new, unified direction for your brand. You will get bored with it at times; you will want to be clever and you will be tempted to give in to the latest trend for the next logo. Resist that. You will be stronger. Just imagine someone simply seeing a particular color and having him or her think of who you are as a church. It’s possible – but only when you stay consistent.