Friday, January 9, 2015

Religions as Brands

I think of everything in terms of brands. Cities are brands and cultural institutions are brands. So are schools and yes, even religions.

Think about how different Unitarian Universalists (UUs) seem to be from people who belong to an Assemblies of God church.  Or how Christian Scientists are different from Southern Baptists. Or how The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) is different from Vineyard churches. Consider Hindus and Buddhists and Muslims and Jews. And even within the Muslim faith, consider the different branches of Islam – Sunni, Shi’a, Sufi, Ahmaddiya, etc. Or within Judaism, the differences between Orthodox, Conservative and Reform. And there are Missouri Synod Lutherans (of a German heritage, fairly conservative), Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (Scandinavian, more liberal) and Wisconsin Evangelical Lutherans (very conservative). Or how LDS is different from RLDS or FLDS.

Consider the differences in beliefs and world-views and traditions and forms of worship. Consider the different conceptions of God and of man’s place in the universe and even of the nature of reality. Consider how some religions value silence while other focus on praising. Some prefer traditional music, while others like contemporary music. Some do not believe in music. Others practice ecstatic dance. Some churches are intellectual and scholarly, while others focus on emotions. Some primarily tend to the needs of their members while outreach and community service are critical to others. Some focus on good and evil and justice and judgment, while others focus on mercy and compassion. Some are inclusive, while others are exclusive. Consider the different types of people that different religions attract.

While one might argue that religious organizations have well-established brands based on their heritage, sacred texts and well-established doctrines, I have been engaged by different religious groups to help them figure out what most attracts people to their particular form of religion and then to help them articulate that in the form of a brand promise/unique value proposition, tagline and elevator speech. This process also helps them return to their sense of purpose and source of inspiration. It is an opportunity for them to "go deep" and explore who they are and what role they play in society.

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