It seems whenever I think of this whole branding or franchising discussion, I think of Naomi Klein. I began thinking about this some while back when there was discussion of “Emergent” branding, and of course it relates. I actually started this post at that time and then left it alone until now…. but now Scot McKnight is talking about a no-logo gospel and Len Hjalmarson is on along the same theme. The whole No-Logo thing has to do with the fact that we’re being marketed to all the time, and basically we’ve had enough of that. (Also see Adbusters and The Cluetrain Manifesto.)
I have a few friends who are into marketing one of them we called “adboy” for a while, and he put me onto the No Logo book… I pulled it from my shelf a short while ago, but confess I’ve not gotten through it. In my business, terms like branding and brand equity come up in the context of marketing and advertising our goods and services. There’s this feeling that one needs to “build the brand” but I wonder where the point is that people start buying the brand and stop paying attention to the product. For marketers that’s good, because it means easy sales… unless, I suppose, people know the brand as a “lemon” product. People react to the Edsel brand too… and the oft-quoted (but usually badly summarized) war for marketshare between the Betamax and VHS formats was less about technology in the minds of the consumer than it was about buying the more popular brand (in other eras, this was good for IBM and it made Microsoft).
But is this a good thing for the gospel? Ah, this is where Scot and Len come in, and the questions are far more fundamental than a Jesus logo. In the presentation or marketing of the gospel, do we eventually create a scenario where people respond to the brand and not the product? Unfortunately for the sake of the gospel, the job we’ve done of branding and marketing the brand means people are more inclined to reject the product based on the brand. It seems we’ve got too much wood, hay, and stubble propping up the brand to make it more attractive but it doesn’t, of course. This is were Scot’s and Len’s observations come into play, about defining, distilling the gospel and about a move to a “new catholicity” which is more inclusive. In the pomergent world we’re exploring, people are more inclined to summarize similarities than differences. Much better foundation for relationship if you ask me… and besides, isn’t it better to define your brand by what it is rather than what it isn’t? Scot keeps his list short, and I’ve gone back to the Apostles’ Creed on this one. The trick is to just cite the basics, and stop there.