The Power of Brand Perception

Your BRAND is the perception of your organization that lives in the minds of your audiences.

Every interaction your audience has with your church or organization forms thoughts, feelings, and perceptions in their minds. In this understanding of a BRAND, everything speaks—business cards, website, words and posture, interaction with volunteers and staff. All of these things contribute to your audience’s perception of you.

With a strong brand, you communicate effectively and consistently across all communication channels.

The branding process is one way to fully leverage the hard work of getting clear about your vision, seeing it come to life in all of your communication.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Branding Faith by Phil Cooke

Have you hit a wall with your church, ministry or non-profit organization? In spite of a genuine calling, an exceptional team and solid investment in the vision, have you noticed that the spark never catches fire? Media and marketing expert Phil Cooke wants every ministry to ask, “Who are we?”

By identifying what makes your organization different from the thousands clamoring for attention, you can get your message heard. Cooke has consulted with many of the most recognized churches and non-profits in the world, and in Branding Faith: Why Some Ministries Impact Culture and Others Don’t, he shares his road-tested strategies for using media and marketing to make your mark on people’s minds and hearts. Whatever the size of your organization, his helpful hints and insider know-how will give you the tools to set your ministry’s strategies ablaze.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION – The Power of Brand Perception

The brand is what people think about your church. Your brand is what people think about your church, the expectation, the idea, they have. It’s not what you have. It’s what they have.

Branding, at its heart, is about making an emotional connection. If it’s what people think, we want to make that emotional connection there. People fall in love with brands. They trust them.

Brand is how people feel about us. There’s that emotional connection that’s built there.

Auxano Navigator Bryan Rose shares two two ways to think about your brand: “There are actually two brands, the big “B” brand, and the small “b” brand. Let’s define the two. The big “B” brand represents the impression that your church leaves in someone’s mind as a result of a total experience with the ministry. Brand is every interaction that occurs on behalf of the church. Person to person, environments, culture, the worship experience, social media presence, the posts, and their responses.”

All of those things come together as the big “B” brand. So, your church’s brand, the big “B” brand, lives in someone’s mind, lives in the people’s mind, and it’s a result of all these experiences. 

The key to effective branding is that a successful brand isn’t what you say it is; it’s what they say it is.

Telling an effective story about your church, ministry, project, or even yourself begins with understanding the power of perception. In a media-driven culture, perception can be even more important than reality because, with the advent of technology, word travels fast.

Whether it’s a simple email message that is continually forwarded exponentially to everyone in your address book, a viral video that’s distributed through the Web, or the convenience of cell phones, in the digital age, it’s tough to keep a lid on bad news.

The influence of the mass media in our culture is changing everything, and “perception” is the language spoken by modern media. In a world when sound bites heavily influence the political process, the unique characteristics of mass media now affect every aspect of our lives.

It’s not about facts; it’s about perception.

In today’s media-saturated culture, who you are becomes less important that how you’re perceived. When researchers study the process of communication, they realize that the message being sent is not always the message being received. For a variety of reasons, few communicated messages actually arrive with the same intentions, information, and impact.

The art of perception can be also be used to promote positive projects, people, values, or ideas. In spite of its abuse, the power of perception can be utilized for good if we know how to activate it in our lives. The way to do that is to consider your audience before crafting your message.

Phil Cooke, Branding Faith


Because it’s not the message you send, it’s the message that’s received that counts.

As author Phil Cooke states, “It doesn’t matter how brilliant your sermons are; if your attention is misunderstood by the listener, then you’ve failed to communicate.”

He recommends that leaders start at the receiving end first to make sure your message has the best chance of being received properly.

In other words, don’t begin with your message; begin with your audience.

In advance of your next speaking opportunity, consider using questions like the following to help understand your audience:

  • Who is my audience? You have to think like an audience member – what would they want to receive from a speaker?
  • What are their stakes? Do you know why they are present? Chances are the outcome that they are looking for is not connected to your goals.
  • How can you repackage your presentation? Without changing your core message, what can you revise in order to align with your audience’s needs?
  • How can you redefine the expectations of your audience to meet yours?
  • What language and visual style is your audience expecting?
  • Why is your core message interesting for your audience?
  • What is the best medium for your core message to come through? Are you better off talking without visual aids, or are they appropriate?
  • What “gifts” can you give to impact your audience? Your presentation happens, and then? A strong core message may be remembered, but wouldn’t it be better if your audience changed their behavior by integrating some of the knowledge and ideas from your presentation in their daily lives?

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 109-1, released January 2019.


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<

Tell Your Story in Every Environment with Compelling Consistency

With so many messages competing for people’s attention, how can we most effectively tell our church’s story?

Every day, your church stewards thousands of moments of truth. Every time a member talks to a neighbor, someone drives by the church facility, a ministry email goes out, a pastor’s business card is left on a desk, some interaction on behalf of the church has transpired. Every time these events happen, the church’s vision grows brighter or dims in the tiniest little increments.

The leader’s role is to crank up the wattage.


THE QUICK SUMMARY – Unique, by Phil Cooke

Today’s culture is more connected than any time in history, but all of this connectivity comes with a price. We live in a world that’s become cluttered, distracted, and disrupted by social media, with the average person receiving as many as 5,000 messages a day in one form or another. If you’re a pastor, nonprofit leader, artist, filmmaker, entrepreneur, or creative professional in this hyper-connected, highly distracted world, how do you get your unique idea, project, or vision on the radar of the people who need to respond?

In Unique, Phil Cooke, a highly respected media producer and consultant, addresses both the challenges and the opportunities of branding and social media in the 21st century. If you have a vision or message to share with the world, Unique provides a blueprint to cut through the clutter, communicate your story, and impact your audience.


To maximize your ability to connect, you must invest time, mental energy, and resources to really discover and articulate your uniqueness — your vision, your essence, your story.

Stories inspire and capture imagination. Stories connect on personal and emotional levels. They help us develop relational connections.

That’s why it is so important for your communication toolbox to say who you uniquely are— what differentiates your church from the crowd.

The combination of the right words with powerful imagery compels engagement, insight, and memorability.

Most churches haven’t developed their story and leveraged great design to share it. Don’t miss the opportunity to tell your church’s story with design so you can really extend your reach. Shouldn’t the church connect and build relationships in every way possible?

At its core, branding is simply the art of surrounding a product, organization, or person with a powerful and compelling story. At its most basic level, branding provides answers to the simple human need to differentiate one thing from another.

The goal of branding is to win the hearts and minds of the largest audience possible and imprint an indelible story around your vision.

The power of these stories and the hold they exert over our lives is remarkable, and many would say the power of story is embedded in our genetic makeup. From the ancient days of the Israelite storytellers who recited the epic chronicles of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to the writers, preachers, and filmmakers of today, we are a story-driven people, and we use stories to make sense of life.

Stories work because we want to experience the emotions, feelings, and passions of others who have encountered the challenges we face each day.

During Jesus’ short time of ministry on earth, He had to teach a message that wouldn’t simply change people during His lifetime, but transform the world for ages to come. If you had faced that challenge, what would you have done?

Jesus did what many pastors in that position would probably consider a career killer: He started telling stories. Most of Jesus’ stories were just everyday people doing everyday things. They weren’t particularly exciting, romantic, or even thrilling.

Stories drill deeply into your brain and explode later with meaning. Sometimes the meaning comes when you least expect it. Stories impact audiences because each person interprets the story in light of his or her own personal situation and experience. As a result, the impact is far greater than a simple object lesson or teaching session.

In many cases, you can interchangeably use the words “brand,” “story,” “identity,” and, sometimes, “reputation.” Branding is about building trust and loyalty and extending your relationships far beyond a single transaction.

Stories are the central focus of the art of branding.

Phil Cooke, Unique


How well does your brand tell your story?

Here’s a question for you: What’s the Nike brand all about? If you said “Just Do It” you would be incorrect – that’s their tagline. Their brand is really their mission – “Bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world.” (By the way, the * is further explained by Nike as “If you have a body you are an athlete.”)

To help understand how your brand tells your story, watch this 5 ½ minute video from Nike with your leadership team.

After watching the video, discuss these questions with your team:

  • How much more important, and eternal, is the mandate of the church than a shoe company?
  • How well defined and well lived, and resultantly effective, is our church at telling our story?
  • Does our story create movement and reflect the heart of God for the church or is it just words on a website or worship service bulletin?

Many pastors tend to be skeptical of investing time and resources into working on statements of identity like mission or values or taglines, especially when things around church “feel” like they are going well enough.

When any organization lives their mission, the results are seen – and life change becomes possible. The marketing video from Nike sums up why, for them, people living out their mission is more important than people knowing their tagline. And shows how good they actually are at living it, better than most churches. 

What are three stories of life change that capture the essence of your church’s brand? How does your church’s mission statement move beyond generic statements to reflect these examples of your unique calling?

With the Gospel at the center of everything we do, the church, by its nature, is a message-centric organization. Jesus, the greatest story-teller of all time knew, before science showed us, that people are simply hard-wired to respond to story and images. And today’s world is becoming ever-increasingly visual, with selfies, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Consider this: there are hundreds of little moments of truth – touchpoints of connectivity – that happen each day.

Each of these are opportunities to share the message of the gospel. Are you going to make them or miss them?

Just by being more intentional with your brand, you really can capture more “makes” than “misses.”

When the communication gets cluttered, tell your story in every environment with compelling consistency.

Taken from SUMS Remix 26-2, published October 2015.

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

You can find out more information about SUMS Remix here.

Subscribe to SUMS Remix here.