One of my favorite blog posts on the topic of church communications and branding is the classic piece by Tony Morgan entitle “What If Target Operated Like A Church?”
If you’ve never read it, do not pass go, do not collect $200. Read it now.
Tony makes some great points about the hilarity of church practices when it comes to marketing and design. Some of my favorites include:
- “Instead of having men’s and women’s clothing departments, they would be called clever names like Impact and Embrace that are completely meaningless to new shoppers.”
- “Each department in the store would have its own logo to go with their clever name. And, of course, all those logos would be different than the logo on the front of the store.”
- “The store manager and his wife would be pictured on the front page of the website.”
Some of these are uncomfortably true. I think part of this is the nature of the church…it is a non-profit, volunteer driven organization that is more relational and organic than a business. There are definitely some things churches can learn about marketing and branding.
Then I got to thinking…
If church was viewed more like a mall than a Target Super Store, we would have a different set of expectations…
In a mall, you have branding that is over the map. It’s expected…and even celebrated. The bigger malls have even more stores…more options…more to choose from. Any decent mall has stores for children, youth, men and women…and you don’t expect them to have the same “look or feel.” You wouldn’t get upset that the folks at Pottery Barn didn’t know about the pretzels at Auntie Anne’s…it’s a totally different experience.
We go to the mall FOR the variety. If every store was the same, why go?
The nature of Target is different then the nature of a mall. Both serve a purpose and both have their pluses and minuses…but there is no reason to constantly be frustrated that you are not as vertically integrated as the superstore down the street.
Embrace Your Inner Mall-ness
Here are several ideas gleaned from the “church as mall” idea.
- Both malls and churches are destination locations. Make sure you offer something for every age and stage.
- Have several Information Kiosks staffed with knowledgeable friendly folks to help people find their way around.
- Good signage and clean rest rooms are mandatory.
- Parking can set or wreck the mood. Make sure there is plenty of it.
- Be clear on what your anchor stores (ministries) are and how they are doing.
- The goal of “mall marketing” and “church wide events” is to get someone in the door. Once they are in your building they can discover the many different offerings your store/church has. Make this process of discover easy and enjoyable.
- Make sure people know “what’s next”…give someone an incentive to come back.
- Make sure purchasing (ie. giving and ticket buying) is as quick and painless as possible.
- Stores that are not doing well and going out of business do not reflect well on the mall. Every store has to carry it’s own weight.
- Food options are expected and necessary if you expect people to stay over long periods of time and not feel rushed.
- Safety is important. Every mall (and church) needs a Paul Blart: Mall Cop.