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Branding the local church: reaching out or selling out?

By Graham Dover

Abstract

For-profit organisations recognise the importance of a strong brand. The world all have brand values over $1 billion. A brand, a distinct image and idecompanies to differentiate themselves from their competition. In contrast, non-profit organisations (NPOs) have not seen branding as essential. However, recent research shows that NPOs with a high branding orientation, (i.e., those that perceive themselves as a brand), experience increased: revenue; member and public awareness; and strategic focus. This paper examines how a branding orientation has impacted on Christian churches. A survey of UK and Irish church leaders was conducted to identify whether they: (a) perceived their church as a brand; and (b) were aware of the potential benefits of branding, as identified in the literature. The leaders were also asked for their views on whether branding distorts their mission. The study found that whilst the majority of church leaders surveyed perceived significant benefits in branding, they also recognised its potentially negative effects on organisational values. Drawing on organisational identity theory, the paper argues that tensions lie at the heart of branding in NPOs. NPOs often have ambiguous and multiple identities, formed out of strong ideological values which are perceived differently by a range of stakeholders. It is not possible to simply ‘cut and paste’ for-profit management/marketing concepts - which may overlook the complexity of the non-profit form and dilute the NPO’s identity in a search for a clear and concise image. Navigating these tensions involves giving consideration to the relationship between branding orientation (i.e., the commitment to brand) and branding focus (i.e., those within the organisation or outside it). A new model which can be tested in future research is discussed. This model reveals several organisational types and makes it possible for leaders to consider how branding might assist or detract from their core mission and values

Topics: BR Christianity, HD Industries. Land use. Labor
Publisher: Centre for Civil Society, London School of Economics and Political Science
Year: 2006
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.lse.ac.uk:29221
Provided by: LSE Research Online

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