“One bad apple spoils the whole bunch.”
Though he didn’t quote it, Todd Henry seemed to have this proverb in mind during his podcast interview of Alison Stratton, author of Unbranding: 100 Branding Lessons for the Age of Disruption. He worried that since a lousy employee could damage the reputation of a company, managers would have a tough job preserving the image of their business.
In theory, a single poor worker could give the company a black eye, but even still, there was room for optimism.
Stratton replied with a quick story about a disgruntled customer of IKEA who posted a critical review. Because so many other people had great experiences with the store, they didn’t believe the negative post. In fact, they put up positive reviews.
She concluded that if the crowd likes a business, it will be self-motivated to defend that establishment. Stratton called this phenomenon “brand insurance.”
How can churches get brand insurance?
Consider how the church began.
“Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. 42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” – Acts 2:41-47
The newly-established church won the respect of the crowd when the people:
- saw conversions
- witnessed miracles
- observed generosity
- heard celebrations
Who wouldn’t want to join in? The church which proclaimed new life in Jesus Christ backed up this good news with changed lives. And the people approved.
The first Christians bought brand insurance by sharing what no one expected: the gospel of Jesus Christ. Its novelty, power, and effects guaranteed that the church would occupy the center of attention.
But as time goes on, the newness fades. Would the gospel brand stick? Would people remain impressed with the lives of Christians and their Savior?
“The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. 13No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. 14Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. 15As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed.” – Acts 5:12-14
The crowds wavered. The disciples were already in trouble with the elders of Israel; the crowds knew that following Jesus could prove costly. Safer to keep your distance.
But the message, power, and manners of these Christians were impressive. And God was doing something remarkable through the church; hopeless cases were being healed. Yes, the people were in awe.
But the church must maintain its positive reputation. It can’t afford to coast.
“To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of Him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of My God.” – Revelation 3:1
What keeps a church alive? Finishing what it started. The church in Sardis won people to Christ and discipled them in the ways of the Lord. But somewhere along the way, the church neglected its commitments. Their zeal waned, other issues took precedence, and the ministry began to feel too difficult to be worth the effort.
Jesus recognized that the church at Sardis had a hollow reputation; the shell remained but it was devoid of substance. In effect, their brand insurance had expired. How long would it take until the city noticed?
Does your church have brand insurance? Ask yourself: If your church were to disappear, would your community miss you? (Would they even know you were gone?)
To build your brand reputation in your town, practice embeddedness.
Here’s an example from the tech industry.
According to The Verge, Apple is losing ground in customer loyalty. What helps is embeddedness. The more woven into the fabric of people’s lives a product or service is, the more likely they are to trust it. The article elaborates:
So despite its track record on consumer privacy, record-breaking revenue and market valuation, and reputation for premium hardware and top-tier design, Apple appears to have been eclipsed by companies that are becoming more deeply embedded in the fabric of everyday life. While neither Google nor Amazon really compete with Apple in key categories like premium desktops, high-end tablets, and smartwatches, both have dominant positions in areas increasingly more relevant to our digital existence.
Do you want your church to have a positive reputation in your community? Then get involved in your city. Tackle the needs of your neighborhoods, the big ones, the kind that scare the civic leaders because they can’t solve them. Trust God to give you the wisdom and power to prove that Jesus makes a difference.
When you do, your church will establish a reputation. This is how you purchase brand insurance.