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Stealing Logos

Stealing Logos

Posted March 2, 2012 by Jerod Clark

My wife noticed it right away.  There it sat.  Right near the front door of a church we visited.  A bright yellow brochure with the big heading “Just Try It” positioned above…the trademarked Nike logo.  Like a scene from a church-communications action film where a bomb was armed to blow, we looked at each other wide-eyed, mouths open as we shook our heads in slow motion—all the while silently yelling, “Noooooo!”

Okay, it wasn’t that dramatic.  Our reaction was probably more of just subdued frustration. Inside, though, I did feel that dramatic, animated anger.

The brochure in question was an attempt to get people to serve as volunteers in the church.  The phrase “Just Try It” isn’t bad, but adding the Nike swoosh made it a mess for several reasons.

  • It’s illegal.  The Nike swoosh is a trademark.  It’s protected. And the church isn’t in the parody business, so they shouldn’t use it.  Legally, they could be sued for doing it.  Is Nike ever going to know this happened?  Probably not.  But stealing is not a Christian ideal. So, why do it? 
  • It’s lazy.  Taking a popular brand and plopping it on your own materials doesn’t take much effort.  God created you to be more creative than that. Use those talents to create something more original, more focused and more appealing.
  • There’s nothing to gain from doing it.  Sure, using the Nike swoosh, the Apple logo or any other easily recognizable symbol may get someone’s attention.  But as soon as they see the content has nothing to do with the logo, their interest will likely go away.  You’ve lost an opportunity to communicate with someone and you’ve hurt your chances of reaching them in the future because they can’t always trust what they’re seeing.  Plus, in this example, using the swoosh doesn’t make sense.  Volunteering won’t make you run faster or be a better athlete.  Not even if you’re chasing kids all morning in the Children’s area.

I’m not sure why the church became a place where it was fun to use and abuse corporate logos in the name of ministry.  In fact, twisting corporate logos into some Christian message (like Subway to HisWay) is a multi-billion dollar industry. Whether you’re making t-shirts or a simple non-for-profit brochure, I’m pleading with you to stop.  Just stop. Use the creative mind God gave you instead of copying something pop culture says is cool.

Filed under: Branding, Logo, Communications, Graphic Design, Marketing

About the Author

Jerod Clark

Jerod joined ReFrame Media in 2007 and built Church Juice from scratch. He poured all his passion for branding, marketing, and messaging into the ministry, publishing e-books, blog posts, and speaking at conferences to help churches energize their communications. He also served as ReFrame’s in-house graphic designer. Before beginning his work at Church Juice, Jerod was a local TV news reporter. In 2016, Jerod stepped away from the ministry to pursue interests in marketing and communications on new horizons.

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Comments (2)

  • Michael Kern
    3:12 PM
    Mon, Mar 19, 2012

    Thank you for a great post. As someone who specializes in designing church logos I’ve seen more than my share of stolen logos (including ours). Sometimes pastors are unaware the logo was stolen, other times they are ignorant - thinking anything they find on the Internet is fair game. Two weeks ago the explanation was that they had to redraw it (trace over our original logo), so they were claiming they created it from scratch. Brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to be better. Church Juice - you summed it up well. Nice job!

  • KCBear
    3:05 AM
    Fri, Oct 5, 2012

    I think it comes down to education, many marketing peole within churches are unaware of the copyright laws. This post is awesome!

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