Church face-lift goes with new market image
Move over the religious services column in Saturday night’s newspaper. Advertise in a movie theatre, or the local rag. That’s what a Brethren church did in an attempt to re-invent itself in the eyes of the community.
When the former gospel chapel re-located from its Petone premises to the spacious but outback situation that once housed a hospital, the church believed a marketing campaign was needed to complement the geographical movement.
LifeSwitch launched itself into the local Hoyts cinema with a pre-screening advertisement last November and since last February have featured a prominent and regularly featured print ad in regional newspaper The Hutt News. That was at the same time they moved into the Reynolds Bach Drive premises at Silverstream in the Hutt Valley – a huge multi-purpose facility.
Church Director Dr Tim Cooper has found that many people have bad images in their minds about church and have had bad experiences attending. “It’s about breaking down stereotypes,” he says.
The advertising has created community awareness of LifeSwitch. It is intended to open up the idea of church to a wide variety of people by user-friendly marketing. Their aim is to establish the church in the local community by branding their image as “relevant, contemporary, fun, relaxed and real.”
Dr Cooper says the initiative has achieved its ends. “We’ve made it easier for people to bring their friends to church. They can be confident the message will be proclaimed in a way that everyone can understand, without ever having to cringe.”
He explains there are reports of church members having conversations with friends about the church after having seen the movie and print advertisements.
One conversation Dr Cooper had with a bank teller proved the advertising had an effect on that person. “She was able to recall who we were and where we were from seeing the Hutt News ad.”
Most people usually become aware of LifeSwitch via word of mouth in spite or as an indirect result of the advertising.
He stresses they are not in competition or conflict with other churches. Conversely, he sees the marketing as doing a service to the whole church by reshaping people’s perceptions of church.
“It’s been worth it,” Dr Cooper says. “Numbers aren’t everything”, he says, but on a good day at their old premises they would get 50 people attending. This has more than doubled since the changes, with new faces from various walks of life and backgrounds appearing.
By Peter Veugelaers.
Published 2005, Challenge Weekly