Billboard Jesus

I worked with a design consultant several years ago who said something that stuck with me: “a company’s brand is a promise.”  He was thinking of ‘brand’ in a very broad sense as not only the logo or catch phrase used by a given company, but the entire aesthetic and feel of a company’s marketing and communication materials.  He believed, and I adopted the same belief, that the way a company or institution or church presents itself to the public makes a commitment about the content, quality, meaning and purpose toward which that body is aimed.  

For instance, Apple’s logo is clean, simple and beautiful.  Their brand ‘promises’ products that are likewise clean, simple to operate and beautiful in nature (no matter what Android users say).  Mastercard’s tagline is “There are some things money can’t buy.” Their brand ‘promises’ access to otherwise unattainable fulfillment (ironically through a financial instrument). Beer companies famously advertise their products with beautiful people in beautiful places doing incredibly cool things. Their ‘brand’ promises that your life would look like this if you drank their beer. Companies of all sizes spend extraordinary amounts of time, energy and money developing and cultivating the kind of brand that will convince the public that their products will deliver on the promises generated by their branding.

There’s only one problem: we rarely reflect on whether a given company can actually deliver on the promise they’re making. Apple’s products are often anything but simple; Mastercard doesn’t gift-wrap happiness just because their card was accepted; the disconnect between the way people in beer commercials look and the way people who drink their beer look is laughable. Nonetheless, it would be helpful to reflect on the promises that our culture throws at us all day, every day and ask “If they can’t deliver on that promise, who can?”

I hope you’ll join us this Sunday for the beginning of a new series: Billboard Jesus.  We’re use some of the most famous branding campaigns in history to examine the sources toward which we look for fulfillment and meaning every day. I think we’re going to have a good time with this series!