About this time last year, Oxide started working on a branding and identity overhaul with First United Methodist Church of Omaha. We have a tremendous relationship with them, not just because they’re a paying client, but because we also believe in their mission and goals. In fact, they’ve become one of our favorite clients because of their enthusiasm, their willingness to think progressively, and their proactive attitude. FUMC did something we never dreamed would happen: they took the branding we built with them and ran with it, creating something no design firm could create on their own.
Let me set the stage. FUMC was on a downward slide when they reached out to us. A significant shake-up in the church halved its membership in about 1998, and a slow but steady decline in membership had been occurring ever since. Over the previous five or more years, various constituencies of FUMC had undertaken a wide range of efforts to develop a cohesive vision focus and strategic plan for the church. Unfortunately, the brand, visual identity, and marketing efforts of the church lacked focus and had been sporadic at best. They partnered with Oxide to build a new brand and cohesive identity for the church.
Oxide conducted a wide range of research about FUMC: historical studies, a congregation-wide questionnaire, in-depth interviews with a wide spectrum of church members, and intensive collaboration with church pastors and lay leaders. In a rare but positive occurrence, the research found a congregation almost unanimous about the things that are important to them.
We worked with FUMC to refine the data into the church’s ultimate goal:
To grow with and in God as a faithful community.
a standardized overview statement:
First United Methodist Church is a welcoming and inclusive community, inspired to grow with and in God. We are passionate: intellectually challenging and theologically progressive. We are also compassionate: supportive, healing, and actively involved in mission and social justice. Ready to question, be inspired, and create positive change in the world? Come join us in our collective journey.
and a set of core brand traits of the church, phrased as the methods in which they approach the world:
inclusive, diverse, accepting, warm, friendly, caring, community-based, open, authentic
theologically progressive, actively educational, intellectual, adaptable, questioning, curious, exploring, meaningful, relevant, honest, courageous
visionary, uplifting, energizing, celebratory, musical, artistic, encouraging, sincere, renewing, growing, dynamic
actively involved in mission and social justice, acting not just talking, creating opportunities to give back, encouraging positive change, deeply involved in community and the world
caring, healing, listening, safe, positive, uplifting, meeting people’s needs, compassionate
The church leadership and marketing team embraced the new messaging immediately. Those five traits would become the foundation upon which the identity and all of the marketing would be built. The logo incorporates five upward-reaching lines to symbolize the five traits, and pieces like the welcome brochure and all of the print advertising utilize the five specific words to convey FUMC’s brand. Everyone was thrilled that the efforts produced a 34% average increase in weekly attendance in the six months after the launch. But then something happened beyond our wildest dreams.
Rather than rest on their laurels, the leadership at FUMC carried the torch forward. Without the budget to continue paying for professional assistance, they took matters into their own hands. The leaders and members of the church began to integrate the new brand into every facet of the church – building more value than Oxide ever could have on our own. All aspects of the church started being categorized and evaluated by how well they achieve the five core traits.
Imagine how thrilled we were to discover that, without input from Oxide, the content of the weekly newsletter is now categorized into five labeled sections: Welcoming, Challenging, Inspiring, Acting, and Supporting. All church meeting agendas now follow a structure based on the five traits. You find the five core words everywhere in the church. Purely of their own volition, First United Methodist Church had the courage to embrace their new brand and let it focus their behavior at the deepest level.
It’s only at this deepest level of collaboration and deep integration that design carries the most value. FUMC took Oxide’s good branding foundation, and built it into something truly great.