Monday, April 16, 2012

Nerds and Church Marketing

What should be most attractive about church is the life of Jesus flowing from believers. But I've also seen some pretty cool church websites and logos. The separation of church and state gave rise to church marketing. Adobe Photoshop and the Internet have exacerbated it.

I stumbled into a branding campaign two years ago. Like most churches, ours had a logo and meme:
My brother-in-law designed it while he employed himself at Mohawk Designs. I had had the vision and verbiage, he made it "a reality." We printed the image on glossy bulletins and pressed it on blue shirts. After several years and service projects, the shirts grew faded and stained. Our wardrobe needed an update.

For the new graphic, I wanted something that went beyond the DNA of the church to her mission. We are located in the former seat of Kosciusko County, in the armpit of US America: Leesburg, Indiana--where the corn grows tall and the roads are paved with brick. The branding had to fit our context.

In February of 2010, our website domain name had expired. I sampled a few new names. I wanted to steer away from our initials, for there is an unfortunate overlap between our church (Leesburg Grace Brethren) and the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, and Transgender movement.

What I landed on was Grace in the Burg. It emphasized what we love about God's character (Grace) and our calling (in the Burg). On the day of its launch, received six hits. (Thanks mom.)

Little did I know, that the domain name would start a re-branding process that I am convinced will stick because of my daughter and box of Nerds. But first, the shirts. I asked an artist from our church to design a few concepts for Grace in the Burg. The options boiled down to bricks and silos.

Silos won. You can see a some across our parking lot. They look glorious in the sunrise.

Eventually we printed the new branding on bulletins and pressed them on blue shirts. And then rushed in the ideas of connecting with our community. Ideas appeared on whiteboards and landed on lists. They developed through teamwork. One idea eventually called for a name: Thirds in the Burg. It is a monthly venue (every third Friday) for community connection. Live music, food, drinks, and various themes a provided at no cost. The launched exceeded our website's by sixty hits and a few punches.

I'm almost a believer: If you brand it, they will come.

Hundreds of visitors have been in and out of our church in the past few weeks. We hosted our first Thirds in March, followed by a Community Garage Sale, followed by an Egg Hunt, and finally a Resurrection Service. At each event, we cross-promoted other local happenings. Thirds in the Burg. Junk in the Burg. Eggs in the Burg. Grace in the Burg.

At then end of the Egg Hunt, my family muddled about the empty church building. We moved amid the debris of plastic egg shells and candy wrappers. My six-year old daughter opened up her box of Nerds. She shook several in her mouth and announced, "Nerds in the Burg." We roared. Branding accomplished.

But I'm still realistic: Most people have come for the candy and pancakes and rummage. But they came. People from the Burg braved our church walls. Some two weeks in a row. This Friday some will return for Thirds.


Unreal City said...

Nice article Tim (and not just because you put my logos in it). But you have Nerds, and I take your Nerds...I. Eat. Your. Nerds in the Burg! And they were delicious. Glad to hear that people are catching the vision (and the branding)!

Unknown said...

Loved your post! I miss God's church in the Burg!