Recently, I was reading an article outlining three key elements of branding: knowing your audience, keeping your brand consistent and making your identity memorable. While all of these points are important, the idea of making your brand memorable stuck out to me.
Being memorable has two sides to it. First, there’s the positive. You create an experience or foster a community that makes people feel great about who you are. For a church, this could be intentionally making the Bible relevant to people’s lives today. Or it could be a welcoming atmosphere where a visitor feels like they’re in a place where people truly care about them.
The other side of this is creating a negative memory. Perhaps for a church this is creating a culture that feels more like a country club than a welcoming family. Or maybe you’re trying too hard to be something you’re not, leaving people with a feeling that you’re not sincere.
There are plenty of ways to leave someone with a good or bad memory about who you are as an organization. And there are plenty of examples in and out of the church world of organizations that leave people with a mixed bag of memories.
While walking around the mall last weekend I started to think about memorable impressions based on three different department stores: Nordstrom’s, Sears and JCPenney.
Nordstrom’s has always been a store that cares about customer service. Employees are trained to put customers first and they attempt to exceed expectations. The recently remodeled Nordstrom’s near my house has taken the idea of helping customers to a new step. They moved the customer service counter from the back corner to the middle of the store. Additionally, every cashier is equipped with iDevices to help you find products and check out more easily. The memory I left with was that Nordstrom’s is trying to innovate to keep their shopping experience unique to hold on to their customer service title.
On the other end of the spectrum sits Sears. As someone who shares a state with Sears’ corporate headquarters, I want them to succeed. Yet the once popular department store is in steady decline. Stores are run down, employee friendliness is a mixed bag and corporate mangers don’t seem to have many ideas of how to fix it. The memory of my last Sears experience leaves me thinking this lost company won’t be getting any more of my business and is likely on its way out.
Then there’s JCPenney. The catalog giant has faced a lot of turmoil over the past decade. Several years ago, in an attempt to draw in younger shoppers, the company hired an Apple executive, changed logos and dropped coupons to focus on an everyday low price model. It was a big risk that ultimately flopped as it didn’t bring in new shoppers and alienated the few loyal fans who were left. JCP, the rebranded name, was trying to be something they weren’t. Now, with the feather ruffling management gone, JCPenney is back and trying to rebuild the brand equity they lost. As of now it’s working. The turnaround is taking time, but the company is rebounding by trying to improve without losing its core identity.
I know this post turned a little business-like, but I wanted to provide real life examples of what can happen to an organization if they forget the importance of their brand. If you think about churches, many are in similar situations. Some are innovative like Nordstrom’s. Others are lost like Sears. And some are trying to rebound by being something that’s not at their core like JCP a few years ago.
A memorable brand isn’t about a logo, but the experience and emotions someone has when interacting with an organization. Be intentional about how you reaching out and building up your congregation and community.