The Christian Brand – with 30% More JESUS!

14Jun08

We think of brands as products. But the idea of branding is actually useful in many areas of study. The science of Branding is based on Psychology and how our brains work. It turns out that we associate feelings and words with specific things in our brains – this affects our image of a brand, and our interest in buying it.

Starbucks does a great job of branding. Their stores are SUPER COOL! Their logo is cool, their menu looks cool, their walls, furniture, fixtures are all hip, designy and cool. Even the baristas are cool, with cool hair and nose rings and stuff. They have successfully attached “cool” to their brand image – so they are able to charge me $4 for flavored, hot water.

Not all brands have such a positive image. McDonald’s image is way tarnished – as a result they probably get less business than they otherwise could have. Spam is another example of a bad brand image. I don’t know how they got it (doesn’t everyone love meat in a can?), but they have it. So much that SNL made skits bashing spam (I think?), and if you ever see Spam, you can make a joke about it and people will laugh. The Spam brand now has this idea of silliness, incredulity, grossness attached to it. I don’t know how they can stay in business (are they still in business?). Probably most brands, when they gain a consistently bad reputation, die quickly – and we forget about them. If not, they may live on, but who will buy them?

This same idea applies to people. “The first impression is the most important” – that’s branding yourself in someone’s mind, just like products strive to do. When your brand image goes down, even if you’re alright, you lose public favor, and then your job. Also works with abstract concepts (isn’t that what everything is?) like running – good brand image, or not tipping – bad brand image. Islam has a bad image, b/c of all the violence and bombings we see muslims doing in the name of Islam – but they’re also uncompromising, unified (mostly), rebellious toward Western culture – which is perhaps why some hip, rebellious types have turned to Islam, almost looking to the anachronistic religion to solve their American consumer woes.

Anyway, similar to Spam and other bad brands, Christianity has acquired a very bad reputation. Many would argue, and I would agree, that, biblically, we’re destined to have a bad reuptation. Of course, I agree, but not the kind of bad reputation we have. The bad reputation we have is for not loving people (which is deserved), and is the opposite of what our reputation is supposed to be – “they will know that you are disciples because you love one another.”

So, interestingly, while the “product” “Christianity” is a very good product with some great features – abundant life (supposed to be), eternal life, forgiveness, peace, joy, etc – the “brand” Christianity has none of these associations.

So what do we do? Corporations, when one of their brands goes bad, have to decide whether to keep the brand or replace it. They can “rebrand” it, by changing the package design, font, change the offering (30% More!), the color. Recently Starbucks rebranded themselves a little, with the launch of Pike’s Peak original coffee, new cup design, new menu, new fixtures, new colors – they’re trying to tell us that they’re getting back to original Starbucks. Sometimes the bad brand image is so severe, you have to kill the brand, but simply use the product by another name. When the Ford Pinto got a horrible brand image, the care became un sellable (I assume), so they used the factory and parts and stuff to make a different, similar, car with a different name.

Perhaps we need to do this with Christianity? Our brand image is severley sucky. But our product is THE BEST PRODUCT IN THE WORLD! BAR NONE! Unfortunately, because so many people are averse to our brand, they can’t hear God’s message of love for them. I wonder if, in the interest of making Jesus more available/accessible to people, we need to do a rebrand or kill the brand and repackage it.

What do you think? Is our bad “brand image” a problem? If so, what should we do about? Perhaps you disagree that we have a bad “brand image” – if so share why you think we have a good or neutral image.

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4 Responses to “The Christian Brand – with 30% More JESUS!”

  1. 1 Jessica

    Yeah, we should repackage our image as authentic loving christians whole-heartedly seeking god’s word. But it doesn’t matter how much you repackage the outside of the box if the inside is not what’s advertised. You can con some people into buying it once or twice just based on what the packaging, but if the content doesn’t live up to the hype, you don’t get the staying power to really turn someone from a casual observer or foot dipper to the disciple stage.

    But I think the solution starts locally…starts with living our own lives in an authentic loving way, starts with discipling others to be living with that same faith and action…kind of like Nehemiah with the wall…its too big of a project for us as a country to individually rebrand Christianity, but if we each take taht individual responsibility to take care of the little piece of the whole that is front of where we live, something “too big” can be accomplished.

  2. 2 Lara

    I’m in the middle, I think. There are times when I look at Christians today and think, “Gosh, we are so off!” But then I wonder what it really means to do things “right.” Although we can take some clues from the culture around us and what they see and respond to, I can’t help but think about the reality that we will be hated wherever we go because of Christ’s name- that was a pretty clear promise He gave us in Matthew 10. The Truth that I think we often forget is that the cross is foolishness to those who consider themselves wise by the worlds standards. We need to be careful not to let the negative impressions the world around us has about Christ and the Church dictate our actions, and press into Jesus with all we are, allowing Him to show us where we are wrong and letting Him live through us. I know for myself, I cannot love people in a way that is a solution to the problem. I can only lay myself down at the feet of Jesus every single day, praying that He would continually beat the crap out of me and my selfish wants and desires.

    Haha. I’m not going to pray anymore that Jesus would help me to love people. Instead, it’s going to be, “Jesus, daily beat the crap out of me…so that You can love people!” Imagine how many black and blue people there would be in the world if we started doing that! It would really put all new meaning to Eifel 65’s “I’m Blue”…I can see the headlines now- “Eifel 65 taking the Church by storm!”

  3. 3 jessephillips

    Thanks Jessica and Lara. Lara, I get that idea that We’ll be hated just because of Christ. Amen, bibleness! But, if you look at it, I don’t think that’s where most of the hate comes from. I think we’re hated because we’re not loving, rather, we’re legalistic hypocrites, many of us, or were known for being that (whether we are or not).

    That’s not being hated for Christ’s sake, it’s being hated because we’re too lazy to love people (or inable, or whatever).

    I believe that if we would just drop legalism, and stick to the first two commandments, Love God and Love your neighbor, and that if we lived lives of sacrificial generousity and abundant grace, as we’re called to do by the scriptures, we would be much more effective at reaching people, and much more satisfied.

    But you bring a GREAT POINT! that we can’t do it ourselves, that Jesus has to do it through us. I guess, then, that we need to do the submission (or whatever) necessary to allow him to do it through us, in order to, eventually, be more effective at reaching people.

  4. Dude,

    I so side with you on this issue. I love how you connected the idea of branding and gave insight into how we as the Church can rebrand our image by getting back to our core values of what it means to be a Christian. I think the need for us to rebrand is so overdue. I admire church leaders like Craig Groeschel who has launched the ONE Prayer initiative to unite the Church and others like Shane Claiborne who are telling the story of love in a more authentic and engaging way.

    Our brand is “love”, has always been “love”, and should always be”love”. Just like Starbucks is known for its cool environments and coffee blends and Apple is known for its innovation and the iPod/iPhone, Christ branded the Church when He said that we should be known by the “love” that we have for one another. That’s been our brand from the beginning… LOVE.

    I think that’s why organizations like Catalyst and others are so important because it is vital for our current church leaders to be change agents in equipping, imparting, and influencing the hearts and minds of the next generation of church leaders. We must stay true to our brand if we intend to captivate and impact this world with the message of Jesus Christ.

    Great post!!!

    T H I N K | C H A N G E


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