Just Brand It
My big brother raises cattle on our farm that has been in my family for 137 years. Every year about this time, cows begin to calf – meaning give birth.
As soon as my brother spots a new calf, he brands it. Not in the way John Wayne used to in those movies, with a branding iron on the rump. Today, it’s an ear tag with a number. Some ranchers even use computer chips.
But the result is the same. The “brand” helps my brother keep up with his cattle – how much food they eat, their vaccinations, the overall progress of the calf throughout its lifetime.
The brand provides a lot of information about cattle and about our ministries. When we brand our ministries, we’re identifying the purpose of our ministry; we’re helping our audiences identify with us; and we are ensuring alignment between our message and our mission.
A critical function of a brand is helping both internal and external constituents know and understand what we do, who we are and even whose we are.
For the rancher, a brand not only identified his cattle for the rancher. A brand also told others who that cow belonged to. When you think about branding within the context of Christian ministries and organizations, our brand should easily identify those aspects of what we do, who we are, and whose we are.
Buckner International, where I’ve served for 22 years, is 137 years old. About five years ago, for the first time in our ministry’s history, we went through a brand discovery process. Our goal was not so much to brand Buckner, but to discover our brand so that we could better communicate it to our constituents.
The brand discovery process was a fascinating exercise that cut across internal organizational boundaries. It was not a logo redesign. Rather, we realized that we could not properly communicate Buckner until we knew what the brand was already. In many ways, ours was an inside out approach.
Through interviews with key stakeholders inside and outside the ministry, we began to discover what the brand was already for many people. The interviews were supplemented with additional research and input from senior leaders and board members.
What we discovered was an existing brand. Our challenge was taking the brand we discovered hiding inside Buckner and articulating it in a way that could be messaged to our audiences.
From our work, we developed a tagline that encapsulates Buckner – “Hope Shines Here” – and then we created excitement and energy behind that slogan.
Our brand discovery process helped us better identify the key audiences that would connect with Buckner. Identifying those key audiences gave us a breath of fresh air and has helped target our messaging with greater confidence, greater efficiency and greater impact.
For most ministry members of Christian Leadership Alliance, chances are you already have a brand hiding inside your organization. The task is discovering it.
Scott Collins is the vice president of communications at Buckner International, where he oversees the ministry’s public relations and marketing work.
- Articulate the purpose of your brand
- Determine your target audience
- Recognize how your brand drives mission