Think about the most famous name brands in the world. What do you feel when you see the BMW, Nike, Apple or Harley Davidson logo? How about brands in the digital media space, such as Facebook, Twitter and Google? What is your sentiment towards these brands? Do you view the brands positively? Why or why not?
In the world of business, perhaps nothing is more important than branding. Branding is the art and science that defines and articulates the identity of an organization to the world. Many elements go into making that happen, including a company name, logo, identity, tagline, story, personality, values and more. The methodologies and strategies behind creating these elements might appear simple to the naked eye, but they require a sophisticated level of expertise and long-term commitment to develop a brand that resonates with its target audience.
Marketers have every intention of using these strategies to differentiate a company from its competition to create brand loyalty. They intend to shape what the public believes about the brand. However, there’s a term used by marketers called brand image. Brand image explores how the brand is perceived in real life? How a brand wishes to be perceived does not always match reality. Therefore, a company must always be aware of the impression it makes on the public and have its finger on the pulse of what people think about the brand.
What Does Brand Image Have to Do With the Gospel?
If we want to attract people to Jesus, the brand image of the gospel means everything. Jesus is the most attractive person in human history, but too often the attitudes and actions of self-described Christians turn people away. Are Christians better known for religious dogma than spreading good news? Are we more interested in behavior modification than loving people. Will Christians stand for truth amidst a deteriorating culture? In short, how does the general public perceive the gospel brand? To quote from my book The Art of Marketing Jesus:
“We must explore these questions to determine if we are accurately representing the gospel brand to the world. If we evaluate our brand image and don’t like the results, we must learn to better define the gospel from inside the Christian ranks. Only then can we make the necessary changes to improve public perception on the outside. If done correctly, this process will not compromise the integrity of our faith. On the contrary, it will work to clarify the true meaning of the gospel and attract people to Jesus.”
Jesus Versus Pharisees
One of the most prominent researchers on topics of faith and Christianity, the Barna Group, conducted a study to measure the extent to which believers in modern society possess the attitudes and actions of Jesus versus the attitudes and actions of the Pharisees. Study participants ranked a series of qualities, which allowed the researchers to place each study participant into one of four quadrants:
- Christ-like in action and attitude
- Christ-like in action, but not in attitude
- Christ-like in attitude, but not in action
- Christ-like in neither
According to the study, 51 percent of “self-identified Christians in the United States are characterized by having the attitudes and actions researchers identified as Pharisaical.” These people fell into the quadrant Christ-like in neither. Only 14 percent of self-identified Christians fell into the quadrant Christ-like in action and attitude. In other words, most believers embody attitudes and behaviors that are more aligned with the Pharisees. It should go without saying that these results do not bode well for creating a brand image that attracts people to Jesus.
How Do We Improve the Brand Image of the Gospel?
Branding always works from the inside out. Where there is a brand image problem on the outside (with the general public), something is going wrong within the organization. It’s the same idea that Jesus taught about producing good fruit. If you want to have good fruit, you must first make the tree good. Most Christians behave like Pharisees because they share a similar belief system as the Pharisees.
I recently wrote a column called Why Christians Should Stop Following the Rules that touches on this subject. Many have turned the faith into a rules-based religion. Like the Pharisees, they see God as a demanding rule-enforcer. Others rely on rule-keeping for daily living, which produces spiritual burnout and self-righteousness. The only way to improve the brand image of the gospel is to embody the attitudes and actions of Jesus. This can only happen when we stop following the rules and start living by the Spirit of God.