Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Church's "Master Brand"



by Seattle Jon:

I recently received an email from the Publishing Services Department of the Church. My stake had been selected to participate in a research study examining the visual styles used by the church and they asked if I'd be willing to participate. As if the focus group wasn't enough of a draw, a meal and compensation for my time and travel were included. "I'll be there," I replied.

A few days later they emailed me the following short preparation exercise along with the date, time and location of the focus group.




Two participants had already arrived by the time I showed up. Three more showed up over the next ten minutes. I recognized several of them, two were from my ward. We were handed a packet of four "brands" in random order with instructions to rate our interest by selecting our first and second choices based on the basis of those we found most relevant, persuasive and motivating, and to provide rationale for our choices. We could also circle words we liked and/or cross out words we didn't.


The six of us were then moved into a large room with not only spectacular views of downtown Seattle but of ourselves as well - one side of the room consisted of a giant bank of mirrors. Thoughtfully, the table around which we sat was loaded with snacks and leftover Halloween candy. Water was provided. The woman moderating the discussion told us representatives from the Church were behind the mirrors - in my notes I wrote "creepy."

She told us we were there to help the Church create a "master brand" with imaging that was appealing to both members and non-members. I asked where else the Church was doing these sorts of focus groups - she said "worldwide."

The discussion began with the six of us introducing ourselves using the above preparation exercises. As we talked, the woman would ask clarification and follow-up questions, I assume to give "those behind the mirrors" a better sense of who they were dealing with. We discussed our personal opinions of the Church, including its pros and cons. All of this took about thirty minutes.

For the next hour and a half we discussed our first and second brand choices. Who liked what and why. What we would change and why. There was discussion, debate and more questions from the woman. When we ran out of food, she spoke to the ceiling and more snacks magically appeared. Finally, we voted and Brand B moved on.

Note Brand D had the most votes, but B's three first-place
votes tipped the scale for "those behind the mirrors."

The final hour consisted of dismantling/rearranging/rebuilding Brand B. We could keep the original pictures and wording, go with pre-selected choices or make up our own. For example, we were shown the following from Brand B and asked to decide between the original, any of the new options or a combination of the two.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ...

Original: Embraces and lifts us to be better people, changing lives for the better. Fortifies us with the knowledge that our Heavenly Father has a divine plan for us.
  1. Inspires growth and balance in all aspects of life - both temporal and spiritual.
  2. Encourages lifelong learning and self-reliance to help family and community.
  3. Acts as a mentor, providing a path to peace in this life and eternal life in the world to come.
  4. Helps us grow as individuals by teaching the fullness of the Gospel.
  5. Helps me live my life with a divine purpose.
I neglected to take a picture of our final revised version (my phone probably would have been confiscated anyway), but it was warm, inviting and prompted followers of Jesus Christ to action in their local communities. Pretty much the exact opposite of the brand they rolled out to finish up the evening - Brand E, the church's current brand.


As we discussed and compared the two brands, I experienced what can only be described as love for my fellow focus groupers. The six of us couldn't have been more different - think The Breakfast Club. Six mormons, all different stereotypes, meeting in some random place, pouring our hearts out to each other and discovering we had a lot more in common than we thought. In that moment, I had great hope for the Church and its chances of continuing to make a difference in the life of this sometimes disaffected and disoriented member.

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Seattle Jon is a family man, little league coach, urban farmer and businessman living in Seattle. He currently gets up early with the markets to trade bonds for a living. In his spare time he enjoys movies, thrifting and is an avid reader. He is a graduate of Brigham Young University and the Japan Fukuoka mission field. He has one wife, four kids and three chickens.

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