Let’s think about church branding… and fried chicken!
I’ve been aware of Hope Church Vauxhall for a little while now. On reflection, this is sort of strange for a church plant that is yet to open its doors! I’m not involved with the project, and it’s a few hours up the road, as well, so it’s not like I’ve stumbled upon it in the street.
Actually, my awareness of Hope Church is largely due to their communications efforts. For a few months now, they’ve been sharing project updates on social media, keeping everyone informed with progress as they move towards a launch date.
Just last week, @HopeVauxhall shared this series of images on Twitter, and it caught my eye:
Christ Jesus Our Hope
— Hope Church Vauxhall (@hopevauxhall) August 2, 2018
Just look at those colours!
Instantly, I’m aware that if I did live around the corner, I counldn’t possibly miss this gorgeous wall art!
What’s in a Name?
Sam Gibb, of Hope Church, recently published this post on Co-Mission: Jesus: The Message of Hope in the Heart of Vauxhall
Sam writes about the thinking behind the church’s branding – not just the logo, but the overall way in which the church (visually) represents itself.
He starts by discussing the name:
Names mean something, they say something about what you are about, they say something about the people who make up the church and they say something to the people in the community. Names can be immediately off-putting or appealing. And names create first impressions and leave lasting impressions. So, although other things matter more, names still matter.
Sam acknowledges the importance of a name for creating an impression on the community that surrounds your church. And whilst a name by itself has a limited message, the rest of the brand derives from it. So your name, your brand, and your whole activity as a church should harmoniously combine to communicate who you are.
Your name, your brand, and your whole activity as a church should harmoniously combine to communicate who you are.
Behind the church logo
With a decision on the name, Sam goes on to explore the church branding, as they sought to develop a visual identity ‘that would look and feel like Vauxhall’:
My ‘market research’ consisted of wandering around the estate and heading to all the places where people hang out. Though Vauxhall lacks a traditional high-street, the Vauxhall Gardens Estate does have a central crossroads… But, at 3:30 and 9:30 there is one place to be – Tennessee Express: Vauxhall’s finest fried chicken shop.
All these shops shaped our branding, the no-nonsense all-caps friendly but thick font quickly found its way into the logo. But Tennessee Express, and more widely the ever growing Chicken Shop culture of South London, was the driving force.
Sam notes that, “there is a pretty good chance that we are the first church to model its branding on a fried chicken shop”. Well, they’re certainly the first I’ve heard of!
Even if you don’t like the bold colours shown in the image, hopefully you can agree that it is a visually striking brand identity, that will catch people’s attention.
Look at the Hope Church website –
Or consider how the branding is applied in the wall art above: this isn’t a church that wants to blend in amongst the high street shopfronts. This church SHOUTS about it’s presence! But it does so in an attractive way, that has real potential to inspire positivity. This isn’t just a kitsch church poster with a nice Bible quote.
Backtracking for a second; what’s more important than how the brand looks is why it looks this way.
It’s clear that Sam and his team didn’t take inspiration from a chicken shop ‘just to get a nice logo’.
This church logo has been specifically designed to show that Hope Church is a part of the community! They are a church in Vauxhall and for Vauxhall. Hope Church is right there in the heart of London, soaking up the same local cultures, and frequenting the same fast food outlets.
7️⃣ days…. 🚀🚀🚀 pic.twitter.com/GK9EP7xLKu
— Hope Church Vauxhall (@hopevauxhall) August 26, 2018
Is this what your logo does? Or at least aims to do?
Sure, all of these messages might not be communicated to every person who sees the church logo, but have you considered what does come across when someone sees the branding by your front door?
Freedom to communicate
Sam notes the reason we’re able to give time and thought to these matters – our God-given freedom:
Though the Bible is clear on so many things about what church is (a local body not a lovely building for starters) and how it should run, God has generously given us freedom to work out what that looks like in a particular place in the world and at a particular time in history.
God has gifted us with freedom, as well as with analytical minds.
We’re able to get stuck in to our local community; to see what drives them, how to live with them, and how to love them. Not as projects, but as people created by God, who need to know the Saviour.
And only then can we think about how best to communicate this message of Hope to them.
Wrapping things up
Your church’s visual identity is one of the methods by which we do this. It sits alongside your website, your app, your social media, your print publicity, your welcome team, your notice board, your digital signage, your powerpoint slides, your PA system, your music, your preaching style… And many, many more things that make up a church’s work.
But as Sam notes, at the end of the day, “all this is just packaging. And, though you might choose which gift to unwrap first based on the quality of the wrapping paper it is soon scrunched-up on the floor, being chewed by the dog.”
As much as I advocate for the critical importance of all of these aspects of church communication, there is no replacement for a gospel-centred mission to preach Christ in love. The rest is just “packaging”, as we seek to contextualise this message, preaching it effectively, in a way that people will hear, relate to and, God-willing, respond in faith.