This week on The Ministry Growth Show we are talking with Jason Locy, Founder of FiveStone, as he shares his insights on building a brand, telling stories, and developing a participatory narrative for your audience. If your ministry is struggling to build a brand that has loyal support and brand advocates, Jason's insights will shine a light on what might be missing in your marketing. Enjoy!
You're listening to the ministry growth show brought to you by Reliant Creative, the creative agency for gospel centered ministries. Find out more at Reliant Creative dot org. Welcome to the Ministry Growth Show, a podcast dedicated to helping churches and ministries grow and make more effective impacts for the Kingdom of God in an ever changing digital world, whether you're building and growing a gospel center ministry or leading a church, if you want insight into the strategies, struggles, challenges and successes of other ministry leaders, you've come to the right place.
Welcome back to the ministry Growth show today on the show. I'm gonna be talking with Jason Losi, He's the founder of Five Stone. Jason. Thanks for being on the show. Yeah, man, thanks for thanks for having me.
Yeah, of course, excited to have you on. Can you tell us a little bit about five stone and maybe share a quick rundown of your experience and how you got into this? Yeah. So, um I started five stone back in 2001.
So we've been around for a while. Um, and if, you know, if you're old enough to remember that time period, you know, at least on my side, it felt like a lot of companies and organizations and brands. Um, we're kind of dominating the space and seemed like they were winning.
Meanwhile, knew a lot of really great people who had started non profits or organizations or companies that we're trying to do something a little unique and different and better and they just couldn't get traction.
And so, um, the thought was kind of like, man, I wonder if we were to bring some sort of design, thinking some sort of branding, some sort of human centered design strategy to some of these non profits organizations, brands that we're trying to do something a little bit different.
I wonder if they could actually have a chance of succeeding. And so we were kind of founded on this idea that or were founded with the mission and vision to help uh positive impact brands, yeah, communicate better.
Um, Do their work better, be more holistic in their offering etc because we thought that would be more attractive to the general audience and you remember this is 2001, so people weren't really positive impact companies weren't really a thing, ministries weren't really thinking about branding and marketing in the same way and stuff like that.
So there's a little bit of a barren space at the time, at least I thought it was. And what was your experience coming into starting five stone? How how do you, how do you get into this agency game? Yeah, man, that's a story for another time maybe um fast someone's really respond.
It was really was really founded as a reaction to like a personal crisis actually. So, um, we were living, my wife and I were living in Atlanta Georgia at the time and um, we were pregnant or she was pregnant with our first child.
And you know, as these things go one day she wakes up and says, hey, it's, you know, it's time. So, um, we kind of scurry around the house, pack up the car and I start pulling down the driveway to head into downtown Atlanta for the, for the uh, to go to the hospital and the NPR's blasting on the radio and we learned that of plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.
And as we're driving down as we're driving to the hospital, we realized that it wasn't that a plane crash, The plane was flown into the World Trade Center and we're like, oh my gosh, what do we, what's happening, what are we doing? And what is this baby? What this baby coming into? What world is this important to? We check into the hospital and the tv over top of the receptionist to ask, we watched that first tower fall while my wife is in contractions.
We, We're just watching the news unfold. And so our first son was born around 4:00 that day. Um yeah, and then, uh, two days later I lost my job. So um, we're not, we're not what you might call sabers.
So we didn't, we didn't have a ton of, you know, I used to have a ton of resources available to weather layoff in the middle of what ended up being, you know, a bit of an economic recession or the beginning of an economic recession.
So I kind of was just sort of started because that's, you know, I was doing it in sort of a freelance capacity prior I needed work. Um and no one was hiring, and the thing just the thing I had been doing before I worked at a software company and uh everyone was out of work so they could easily find someone with double my experience.
So I just was not an attractive candidate for folks, so it's really, you know, it was really just started out of this need to provide for my family. Um That's a crazy story. Yeah, I mean uh some kind of say that sometimes God nudges you and pulls you and sometimes he just kicked you in the butt and this was this was just a good old fashioned, but kicking a big shove off the edge.
Yeah, there was no there was no nudge, it was just here you go, man, interesting. And 19 years later, what do you guys most excited about with, what you're doing now? Yeah, so we've managed to stay true to that mission.
Um, 95% of our work is In the nonprofit or positive impact company space. The other 5% is um, you know, maybe we have a friend that works at a place that that needs something or it's just good, you know, it's just good work.
We we found that um, we found that doing corporate work helps keep a sharp for some of the non profit work. So we save some space for larger, for profit, non purpose driven companies. But anyway, so we've been managed to say we managed to stay true to that.
We have a lot of cool stuff going on right now. We um, for the past four years, we've been working with an organization that raises awareness for uh raises awareness, raises awareness to parents um whose child might have been born deaf or hard of hearing.
And we did um we did a huge ethnography with them and then a a large um strategy for a national awareness campaign. And then that thing started piloting and then we did all the creative for it. And that started piloting earlier this year and is going international launch now.
So that's pretty exciting. Um yeah, in the ministry space, we did a lot of work with bible study fellowship. If you know them. They had familiar. Yeah, they're cool. They're a 50 year old organization that um does these super in depth bible studies across across the world.
And because they've been around for 50 years, they needed some, they need some fresh thinking. And part of that we ended up helping them develop their first new product ended up being called word go. And so we've been doing, or we are doing a national launch campaign with them.
So that's been pretty cool. Um, finish up some work with the ministry called Many hopes. So, um, did some brandy work for them a couple things that sound like that awesome. Yeah, it's been good. Yeah, that's really cool.
Now. I wanna, I wanna spend some time today discussing with you brand, uh, the coax, the googles apples. Tesla's NFL's of the world. They figured out how to build brand right? They've developed brands with loyal customers brands, the brands I just listed, they've turned their loyal customers into advocates or brand advocates.
Can you walk us through your assessment of what makes these brands so successful? Um, yeah, I mean, I guess we have to define success and what we mean by that. I don't, none of those people you just mentioned, I would completely aspire to be like, um, I mean you're talking about companies who have spawned epidemics and diabetes, who um, employee Children to create their products, who are caught up in all sorts of anti privacy, antitrust things, you know? So I know that's not what you're saying, but I think just in that, like there's there's a loyalty and advocacy around those brands for the consumers of their products that is um, it's hard to ignore either good or bad.
There's a there's a to the point of in some spaces, idol worship of these brands, how, how they is there something that they're doing that we can learn from, even if there's there's there is a negative connotation to how these brands are structured? Is there something that we can learn from in the ministry space? Okay, there's there's an advocacy from their customers around that brand that mm.
Is there something that we can learn and start applying to the ministry space? Yeah, I think so. And I mentioned that stuff though, because oftentimes in the ministry space, or at least the people we've encountered, there's a mimicking or aping of that versus a thoughtful critique of it.
And so I think it's healthy and important to recognize what's actually happening before we see part of what we can learn is also like how to not do things to or why they're doing the things that they're that they're doing.
So, um, yeah, there's there's plenty, there's plenty we can we can learn from them. Um, but we have to be critical around what they're doing. I mean, we can't just say like, oh man, Apple's amazing, great brand loyalty.
Um look at all these cool commercials and ads are doing, let's just try to do that stuff. So I think so, what, so what can we learn from them? Is your is your point. Um, you know, books have been written about this stuff.
I think Apple is a good example where most of most of the brand you mentioned have been able to tap into some sort of cultural, Some sort of cultural moment, some sort of ideology that they've been able to tap off, you know, tap into our draft off of Apple is a great example.
They, you know, they did the famous Super Bowl ad in 1984. And if you look at what was going on during that time, computers were thought to be this thing that was going to turn us all into autonomous working drones.
We were going to be stuck in cuba farms and life was going to be really, you know, the life was kind of this dystopian or the world is this dystopian place where life wasn't going to have much much meaning.
And if you look and then if you look at that advertising for other computers, computers during that time, they're all super features based. So the things you can do with it and Apple came long and they're like, man, our computers will help you break free from this imagined future, this fearful place that you you know, that has been presented to you.
And instead, we're here to help you create and to live a fuller life. So there was this. So yeah, so there was this ideology, there was this cultural moment in time where things were things were building up around the fear of this new tech, this new, our newer forms of this technology, and then you had this whole other sort of creative class that was rising up and they just hit that thing right in the middle and we're able to create a brand that said, we're not going to be this way that you're afraid of, we're going to be this, this other, this other thing too.
So, so one thing that every, every single brand that you mentioned does a great job being students of the culture that's around them and being really savvy and knowing how to respond to what they're seeing, find really nascent cultural moments and tap into them so that they can draft off of, um, they can draft off of the the success of that cultural moment.
You see that with the Apple shot on iphone campaign, right? Like everybody else in the space is focused on how many megapixels their camera has on their phone and Apple comes along and says, hey, this incredible image by this amazing photographer was shot on our phone.
We're not talking about the, the features of the phone or the functionality of the phone or the megapixels on this phone. This is just an image. Uh, and this image is going to tell a story that was shot on our phone.
Yeah. And they're and they're being consistent to what they always talk about, which is basically we can help you express yourself. So this photography, music, you listen to the apps, you use, the programs you use on your Mac book, all those things are they're all positioned to say, hey, you can, you can be your true self, you can express yourself with our product, we're just here to help.
So they're kind of tapping into this other thing. They do really well. They tap into this inner desire that folks have. Um, and they help you fulfill that inner desire and people will do that. I mean, you know, if christians know this and if you're not going to fulfill, you're not going to fill that Inner desire with God or the church or whatever.
Apple will help you do it 100%. Yeah. Um, so around this idea of brand and building brand, um, obviously these companies that we've listed are doing it really well for better or worse, um, within the ministry space, what, how can we help ministries move beyond? Just thinking about their brand as a logo and some design elements and into the space of building a brand around something stronger than just your brand is more than your logo? How can we help ministries shift that mindset? And have you seen areas or ministries or non profits that are doing that? Well, yeah, I mean, I guess let's talk, let's, if you want, let's define brand first.
Um It's always, yeah, always creates a little confusion. It's like, it's like cool, it's like, I don't know what that means anymore. Brand is sort of the same and you and I have used it or at least I have used it in two different ways so far.
I used it once like as a way to, to to describe a company, hey, this brand is doing that thing. Um and then we mean it in sort of the more direct sense, which is a branding uh, strategy or something like that.
So even you and I are using it different, it's just a super nebulous word at this point. So let's let's define it. Um There's a guy back in the day, I don't know when um named scott Bed Berry and he uh he was a brand architect at Nike and Starbucks.
And um uh and he he said that um brands are collection of perceptions in a consumer's mind and that definition is always stuck with me. And I think what I wrestle with is so that's true. A brand is sort of how people perceive you.
But then, but then you have to ask like what are the, what are the inputs or touch points that make up how someone perceive us? And so we talk about it In 2020 as there's four parts to that perception.
Uh and I think they all play into your question and how ministries can do this stuff better. The first is bias. So what do you believe? Um and I'm I think that all things have a bias. Um I know that's not, I know that everyone would agree to that, but I believe that everything has a bias.
I think how our organization is biased, whether it's good or bad, it has a bias and that bias consumers pick up on that and that start they start to perceive you based on what you actually believe that the core of your organization.
Mhm. The second thing is model. So how do you operate um the way you, the way you organize your business, the way you conduct business, um the way you price your goods and services, or the way you handle your donations or whatever the case may be, All of that, all of that is picked up on by the consumer or the audience or the donor or supporter or volunteer or whatever the case may be.
And they start to interpret you through that thing. So we have bias. We have model and then we have product or in this case offering. So the thing that we actually do people read into that obviously. So what so what you believe, how you do your work and then what you actually do starts to create that perception and then finally behavior the way you, the way you act in the world from um more traditional brand, things like your color, your photography, your typography, your logo all the way to your social post and what platforms you're on and things like that.
So bias model product are offering and behavior. Those four things I think are primarily what makeup uh, the group of perceptions. So so all of those things begin to influence what brand is or how it works.
And so then you have to figure out how to organize that and make it work functionally for your ministry. And so if the logo is like hyper way downstream, then what's way upstream are going to be our core values, um as a, as an organization or ministry.
So your reason for being your vision and your mission, your values, your strategy, those sorts of things. And then you have your brand strategy which might be um, you know, your audience, um your brand architecture, your positioning, statement, things that sound like that, and then you get into brand expression, which are your visuals, the experiences you create for people, the stories you tell things like that.
So I know that was a ton in that response, but I think uh sort of the answer is on purpose because it's super easy to reduce brand down to logo or what story are we going to tell? Or you know, should we be on facebook or not or Snapchat or Tic tac or whatever? And like that's like, I mean those are things you should discuss obviously, but you can't think of it in isolation.
It has to all work together. Yeah. And and once you've establish those core beliefs, those core principles that kind of flow in and through everything else you're going to say and do in the, in the public space, like you need to believe, yeah, why you exist, who you are, how you do, what you do, what you do.
All those things are going to permeate everything that you say and do to permeate the stories that you tell. So everything, everything on the public facing side is there's a your core purpose as a brand is going to be communicated in those things.
Even if you don't recognize that they are being back to that bias thing. Even if you don't recognize that they are being communicated, they are being communicated man, that's perfect. That's the point.
Whether you choose to do it or not, it's still happening. So you might as well be thoughtful and intentional about it. We've we've encountered a few ministries a throughout the years who don't believe in marketing um or branding.
It's like a, you know, it's a it's a bad word, it's the thing that a ministry shouldn't do. It's like, ok, well, cool, but you're still doing it, just not being thoughtful about it just because you're not you're just not just because you're not intentional with it, just cause you don't have someone there that does marketing, just because you don't have a brand doesn't mean people aren't categorizing you perceiving you in a particular way.
It doesn't mean they're not talking about you, they're not recommending you to your friends. So if you're not telling them what to think about you, they're just making it up based on how they experience you.
I think that would be a horrible lack of stewardship on any ministry leaders. For any any ministry leader, everything will be much better to steward the thing that you've been given. Uh Yeah, those things.
Yeah, intentionally. Yeah. And I think you know, um one other thing you you said I think is spot on. It has to, it has to all work together. We we we live in a time where your your volunteer base, your sponsor, your customer, whatever you do, they're really savvy, they know what's up.
Um They googled you, they've checked out your social feed. They um they probably looked at your, they've gone to charity navigator or guidestar and see how you're spending your money. They know what's up and if you are not, you're not being authentic all the way through the brand, um, they're going to recognize it and they're just gonna, they're gonna dump you and move on to something else.
This, this is why, you know, even though I kind of took a crack at apple and coke and those folks at the beginning, they're not consistent all the way through. And this is, this is actually one of the ways that the ministry or nonprofit can really get a one up and against larger brands.
Maybe not from like a market share standpoint or spending standpoint, but you have the ability to be true to who you are, all the way all the way through the essence of what you do, which I think is really cool.
Not everyone can do that. It breaks down. There's a spreadsheet somewhere at some company where this stuff has to make since C E N T S or they don't, or they, you know, they can't do it. The ministry has a little more flexibility, which I think is pretty cool.
You have the ability to be authentic through and in and through everything that you do and create an experience that is that there's uh donor is gonna look at that experience and go uh what they say and what they do, align with what they believe in or vice versa.
And if it doesn't, I mean you're gonna know, they're gonna know and and I mean I get that everyone thinks the thing they do is unique, but there's probably someone else doing out there doing something very similar and they're gonna they're gonna attack to that.
They're going to go to that. Yeah. Yeah that's that's really good. Um So your brand process when you guys work through a brand development process, it's very there's more than just the design process going into it.
You you guys are working with your clients through thinking through the things that they believe in, why they exist as an organization. You're talking about their messaging and their strategies around that to make sure that is in line uh and consistent and and in line with their beliefs and biases and what they say and do before you get into a design process with a client.
Yeah. You know, it's good to talk about. Two is the word design. So um we we we hold a pretty um we hold the word design pretty in a pretty lofty way. And and and there's this guy named Herbert Simon Back in the day, I don't know when 50s maybe.
Um and he uh he defined design I think it was in his book um The science of the artificial, something like that. That might have been the book, I forget. But anyway, he defined design as anything that moves someone from an existing situation to a preferred one.
Now I'm paraphrasing, but that's the basic idea. And so we hold design is like a way of thinking now, it has a visual expression for sure. But when you can really what I think ministries can really tap into is the power of design to actually help solve problems, to assess systems, to um have a way to to look at and talk to their stakeholders and beneficiaries.
And I think design is actually a thing that can be used to make the ministry stronger, not just look better. So to your point, we go all the way upstream in our in our design process, capital D I guess.
Um And we start at the core values of the organization, and we poke around at those to make sure they're gonna hold up under the strain of whatever is going to come next, which is the scrutiny of this brand.
So yeah, we start all the way up at reason for being or you know, you might have heard it said it's like a wise statement. Um and then get into vision and mission and things like that. We don't always do that work, but we definitely make sure it's been done and is on point and working well.
Uh now you've written at length on the topic of narrative or story and this is a bit of a shift in topic. But um you just to plug your book, you've got a book called the culture bending narratives. Can you walk us through the difference between narrative and story and how they kind of work together? Uh Yeah, so I think the best way to walk people through this is through a story ironically, uh my grandfather um at the height of World War Two walked into his local Mhm Army recruiting um Office and told him he was 18 when he was 17.
So he lied about his age and he enlisted in the military and um he served overseas, came home, married, married, my grandmother, opened a little grocery store in the centre of town, had three daughters.
Um and then eventually sold the grocery store and became a a postal worker until he retired. And he in essence live the american. He lived the american dream and the american dream is a great example of a narrative.
Um A narrative in essence it helps define, it, helps explain and make sense and give meaning and context to our surroundings into our environment. So why why are we fighting? Oh what we're fighting for this bigger thing called the american dream so that we can have freedom so that we can have a nice house so that we can do all this stuff.
And so that narrative gives us the promise of something bigger than ourselves, the american dream, it gives us the hope that something is um waiting for us, there's something around the corner um if we participate in the promises of the dream that we can then we can partake of the promises of the dream, if that makes sense.
So, so my grandfather was a story, yahoo, you know, he had a where he had a what he had to, how he had a win. If I had told it in a more compelling way, I would have had a dramatic arc, it would have had all of the elements of a story, but all that story was doing was proving up this bigger thing called a narrative.
Um and there can be counter narratives also like that, there can be there could be narratives that push back against the dominant narrative. So we have the american dream, but right alongside the american dream, we have uh freedom now Black Power, Black Lives Matter, things that sound like that and they're doing something completely different.
They're saying hey this american dream thing you're talking about, I'm not totally sure here's a whole other narrative that pushes back um pushes back against that. So we have stories their this sort of snapshot to explain who, what, when where and how and then you get it and you know you have like a George Floyd and Trayvon martin and they prove up this counter narrative called Black Lives Matter.
Meanwhile you have my grandpa and you know, hundreds of thousands of other people, millions of other people that are living out this other thing called the american dream and the stories that are just supporting that narrative or counter narrative and and probably um the big difference as it relates to kind of branding and marketing and our audience and things like that is but stories already happened.
Um and so stories are fantastic, wonderful tools and everyone should learn to tell better stories, but it's happened in the past, a narrative is ongoing and so when it comes to branding and marketing, a narrative is something you can invite your audience into, they can participate in it.
Uh and because they can participate in it, they they can they can find and attach meaning to it in a way that a story that they can't get out of the story. Story gives them empathy story might draw them into the narrative, it might prove the narrative to be true or false.
But you can't really live into someone else's story. The narrative gives you something that you can move into or live into. So narrative more than story allows a customer to attach themselves to a brand much more strongly because they are living into it rather than just hearing something that happened in the past.
Yeah. Yeah that's right. A narrative has a narrative inherently has an invitation to be a part of it to participate in it. So we'll just keep picking on the american dream. Um you can't live into the american dream unless you live in America or come to America or um uh you know pull yourself up by your bootstraps and work hard.
Um you know things that sound like that so you can hear about the narrative but and it's there for you, but you you get to participate in it. So the narrative promises you something, but in order to yeah, received that promise, you have to you have to actively participate and I think that's the difference and that's the power.
So if a ministry is going to one, I think it's difficult to find ministries that are just storytelling period, but it's a of ministry is storytelling really well, how do they, how can they take things a step further and and start creating a narrative? Or or does the narrative kind of have to come first with some of those things we talked about earlier around your core beliefs and your messaging and your structures around those things? Yeah, you can you can start with your stories and work backwards so you can reverse engineer into finding the narrative.
I think if if you're doing storytelling and you look across the stories that you are communicating, there should be some common thread there and they're all proving up something. So that would be that would be a fine way to do it.
Another way to do it is to start at the core values or the core belief system and see what you actually stand for. Uh and then what what what is in there that you can offer people that are going to bring them into what you're doing.
And so that narrative that narrative could easily come out of out of that, that that core belief system um and what you're looking for is you're looking for some greater purpose. That then invites someone to um to live into that purpose allows them a chance to participate in it on some level, and then collaborate with others who are doing the same thing and then that creates this sort of cycle.
So once they're invited into it, once they're participating in it and once they're collaborating with others, then they're finding purpose through that work. Which then allows more invitation, more participation, more collaboration.
And so it's kind of creating this big is kind of creating this big circle um this this this loop of um okay, it's creating this it's creating a loop for the person that isn't one ended its ongoing. They're always they're always participating in it.
And and again, I think that's part of the power of the narrative. It's something that they're doing over and over and over again because they're so drawn into what's going on. That is not a one time story.
Wasn't that cool. I gave $10. Good luck. Mm. And and do you like storytelling in the marketing space, both nonprofit and for profit has been over the last handful of years. This thing that was thought to be like, this is going to be the silver bullet of marketing.
And it's turned out that that's not quite what we thought it was gonna be. Is that narrative piece, the piece that's missing for those that are finding that storytelling isn't quite what they hoped it would be.
They're missing out on that narrative, taking things a step further and inviting people into an ongoing participant Participatory element. Yeah, I mean that's definitely part of it. So storytelling is not, nothing is a silver bullet.
Neither is narrative anyone that has a silver bullet is probably probably selling you a book or a conference or something. So I do not believe it doesn't mean it's not good. It's just not going to do whatever you think it's going to do, I'm not gonna do that one thing, that's probably that's probably true for anything in life.
Uh the Diet that's gonna do it, the workout, that's gonna do it. Uh I think the same is true. Same is true with this. Uh so stories are a tool That you should have in your brand marketing communication tool box.
100%. But the thing is though, that if that story is not attached to something larger than itself narrative, then you're not getting as much mileage out of that story as you as you could, and you're not giving um you're not giving your audience, your supporters are volunteers or whatever, You're not giving them away to um participate fully in in what you're doing.
Um So I think story is part of it, for sure. I think narratives part of it. Absolutely. Um but but really there's this, there really has to be some sort of strategic overlay to all of this um where you are working against your organizational objectives and Kapisa mission and everything and you're kind of your daily grind of whatever you're doing from a marketing standpoint or brand standpoint is all ratcheting back up to that, bigger the bigger organizational goals, and so that's what a strategy does.
Part of that strategy would be narrative storytelling, et cetera. Um it's kind of funny, I think about this this morning, they fast company or someone sent out an email, like they do, where it's like, you know, Bill Gates Top Five books or whatever.
Uh you know, what is Bill Gates Reading, I gotta get Smart. Um and one of them was this book, one of them was this book called Range, which I happen to have read by David Epstein, so at least 1/5 as smart as Okay.
Yeah, but and so I went back when I read a book, I don't uh uh anything, I want, anything, I like it and I end up transcribing. And so I have all of my have all my full quotes typed, so I was just kind of reading through the through the notes and I sent this quote from the book to the team, so it's really top of mind.
But uh the guy that wrote Range says, oh whether chemist, physicist or political scientists, the most successful problem solvers spend mental energy figuring out what type of problem they are facing before matching a strategy to it rather than jumping in with memorized procedures.
And I think that's what happens in marketing land and brand land is there's uh there's something that someone told you to do and you do it, there's some template, I mean you can google value, proposition and brand promise and stakeholder mapping, and you'll get all of the tools that you need.
But you're really, when you do it that way, you're really prescribing uh solution before you're attacking the problem. Um and so we're kind of moving away from the idea of narrative at this point, but but really what I would encourage folks to do is um don't just do a brand or brand project or marketing project for the sake of it, like really get specific about the problem you're trying to solve, really understand that problem to find that problem with hyper clarity and then figure out how you're going to measure whether you're solving that problem or not.
So that when you get way downstream to something called a story or a logo or colors or tiktok, you know, if that thing you're doing is actually working or not. So if, if I'm a mystery leader and I'm listening to this and I'm going, okay, this is, these are all like high level, 30,000 ft for you ideology type, very big picture type conversation.
How do, how do I around the narrative topic? How do I, how do we bring it down to something tangible? Well, maybe let's do this. If I'm a donor, what would that narrative experience with a ministry brand? What could that look like? What's, what's a way that, that could play out? Uh, that's a good question.
So, um, I do want to say one thing before I answer that, that, that you started to get at, um, I don't know how we're meaning the word story. I've been using it pretty literal, like, you know, the hero's journey sort of story thing.
Um, you know, narrative arc, all of those things. Um, and obviously you should do that I think within a ministry or organization. Yeah. All of it is a story. Every touch point that you have with your donor base or your supporter or whatever.
You're actually telling a little bit of a story. So the Ux of your app, the the online giving form when they come to visit you at your office, the t shirt that you give them and where it was made and how it was made.
Like that's all part of the story you're telling. That's why I kind of was camping out on some of that stuff at the beginning of the conversation around model and biases and things like that because that gets all in there eventually.
Oh, wait, you say you are helping impoverished Children in developing countries, You just sent me a t shirt made in china by Children. This does not this does not line up. Um and and so that, so that all of that stuff is a story, it's not a traditional story, you're not gonna, you know, eat popcorn and um you know, watching on Youtube or whatever, but it is a, it is a form of a story.
So I think that's super important to know that like you're telling the story all of the time and that story has to ratchet back up to uh to hopefully this narrative, but also your purpose and all of it has to align and work.
Okay, so to actual questions, I mean, most of the time, narrative ends up working um out in some form of messaging campaign. Um and so often times it might get distilled down into, I mean, a tagline is a little reductionist, but um certainly that that is a way that it could get distilled down.
Um Nike is kind of top of mine right now because I was doing some shopping for my uh son who is a sneaker head right before this call. Um they have a they have a narrative that basically says anyone can be an athlete.
Um so back in the seventies when Nike was coming on the scene, an athlete was something that you, you know, that was something that was that was a person that did a thing as a as an extreme thing that you did.
The an athlete was a very defined type of type of person and they came along and said actually we believe anyone can be an athlete. Um and then they started so that I would say that was their narrative, or is their narrative that anyone can be an athlete and then they start rapping messages around that.
Um Just do it obviously is the most famous one. Um so you can be an athlete, you just have to do it. Uh find your greatness was one they had. Overcoming adversity was a thing. That's why you see um Colin Kaepernick, uh no finish line, you're always going.
So all of those messages start to reinforce and can communicate the idea that anyone can be an athlete. And if we think back to some of the things we're talking about with regard to how a narrative works, you can find purpose in the idea that you can be an athlete, you can be greater than who you are, You can actually be this other thing.
Then you're invited into that, um uh Nike invite you into that through their ad campaigns through, you know, and all of the tactics around that. Ultimately they invited they actually to participate in it by buying their stuff and then um you can collaborate with them and others through digital platforms and things and and races and things they sponsor in order to um to then fulfill that purpose of um now an athlete.
And so if we attach that narrative cycle back to what's Nike is doing, you can see in a really tangible way that um this sort of underlying narrative, anyone can be an athlete gets translated down into their messages.
Um, okay, you can see it in their identity where they have this sort of like a motive stuff happening, the stories they tell it all starts manifesting itself. So, practically speaking, I would say that most of the time your narrative ends up getting reduced into the messages that you're signaling to your audience.
Mm well, and the ministry sector is I think, a bit unique from, like, a Nike in that most ministries have this like, preinstalled predetermined core purpose. Whereas Nike has to communicate, like, beyond selling a shoe.
We're going to try to help everybody being athlete. We want every we believe everybody is an athlete, we're gonna help you achieve that. That's that's a we have to communicate that core purpose beyond just this product, the shoe product that we're selling.
Um, uh, whereas in the ministry space, like a child sponsorship organization, a human trafficking organization, they have, like, this pre built in purpose or cause, built into the fabric of the organization, in the fabric of their work, the fabric of their existence as a ministry as an organization.
So how can, um how can ministries take that preinstalled purpose, uh, that the for profit organizations are trying to achieve when in creating these narratives that are bigger than whatever product that they're selling or service that they're offering and communicate that clearly and make sure that it it does drive and inform the stories that they tell permeate through everything that they do all of their brand touchpoints and the content that they communicate to their audience.
Does that kind of makes sense? Yeah, I mean, yeah, ministries, nonprofits, whatever they have a huge leg up on this stuff too. I mean, the way you said it was great, the purposes just woven into the fabric of what they're doing.
The problem is that, um, these people were talking about Nike's and apples and things like that. They kind of stole all of this from, from religion, basically, because they saw how religion was used to get people to act in certain ways, and they kind of stole some of this stuff and use it on their own.
And now we're sitting here talking about how we should steal it back. Um So I think we should I think we should steal it back. Um and I think we should Stewart and use this stuff for good not to sell.
She was made by Children and planning or whatever. That's positive thing. So yeah, they have a leg up for sure. Um and I think they have some stuff, I think ministries have some stuff, they have to overcompensate for two um like he can do a lot of things in the advertising and we'll use Nike as a metaphor.
Um uh you know, I don't mean Nike specifically anymore, but Nike metaphorical. Nike has a lot of things they can get away with in advertising space and that that ministries should ignore or not get away with.
Um And and this goes back to that point of brand perception around your behavior. You know, when you're, when you're running advertisements, when your retargeting people, um, when you're making me feel a certain way on instagram, when you're slapping a banner ad in the middle of the new york Times article and trying to read.
So I get my head around the election or whatever you're doing something. And as a ministry, I would hope that your hyper thoughtful around what you're doing to people when you're placing that ad where that add sits, um, what kind of ad that's doing, Mikey doesn't have to think about that at all, metaphorical Nike.
You can put a add on the back of your airline food tray and not worry about twice about it. Um, and clog your head space all the time. The ministry has to steward that power in a way different way. So, so in one way they have this great tool and that they have purpose built right into the fabric of everything they're doing and in another way they are behind the eight ball because um, they know that they have to Stewart the responsibility of brand and advertising, they have to Stuart branding and advertising and responsible way have to be so much more careful, so much more careful, so much more thoughtful.
Like infinitely more careful and thoughtful. Um, just because they just because they can do it doesn't mean they should do it. And so so in some ways they're kind of stuck to so they don't, they have, they have this really awesome tool, they can use it in a way better way.
But the places and spaces and types of ways that you can use it are really bound by some theology of marketing and advertising that they're applying to it. That Nike doesn't have to do so to kind of, you know, they kind of have one hand tied behind the back also.
Mm Or for any for ministry leaders listening. Like if you take nothing else away from this conversation, the fact that you have to you can't be following what everybody else is doing just because Nike is doing it.
Or even within the ministry space just because world vision or compassion or I G. M. Is doing it doesn't mean one that those big organizations are necessarily doing it right. And to just because they're doing it doesn't mean it's going to work or make sense for your ministry, your organization like there every single ministry is unique.
Even though you might be offering something similar. There's going to be a uniqueness to how you communicate. Uh, and and we have to be careful that we're not just doing all of these marketing practices because the boat brands are doing it and, and we want to be like them.
Yeah, I mean, I get all kinds of crazy calls from people saying they want to copy this or that of the other. And it seems like it seems like nonprofits and ministries are really good at aping what they're seeing around them.
Um, and I mean that probably as harsh as it sounds, I think, I think any any ministry leader should be developing a theology of branding and theology of marketing that they can apply to their organization.
So what God's norms direct us to believe about how we take photos, What are God's norms? Direct us to believe about how we um measure ourselves, what God's norms direct us to believe about, where we place ads, what God's norms direct us to believe about.
Um the way we tell our story is is it too manipulative? You know? And I think, I think if I think if we could spend a lot of time talking and thinking and developing those ideals, then we get downstream.
We won't be mimicking what we're seeing. We'll have a really unique and beautiful way of communicating what we're doing. Um and that's what I would love to see. I would love that. That's awesome. I want to end on that point.
I think that was so good. Uh Jason, this has been, this has been awesome. This has been uh really for me this has been a really helpful conversation. So I appreciate your time. If people want to learn more about what you're doing with Five Stone, how can they get a hold of you follow along with what you're doing? Yeah.
Thanks. This is awesome. I could talk about this stuff all day um uh digresses pretty quickly, but I love talking about it. It's really interesting to me and I think um I think figuring out how to be thoughtful in the space is really, really cool conversation.
So thanks for thanks for allowing it. Um you can go to our website which is five stone. Uh so like the number F I V E Stone, S T O N E dot com. We have a newsletter. There'll be an awesome way to keep up with us.
We send it out once a month, kind of normally has a little something to think about. Um and then um you know, keeps people up to speed with with what we're working on, so that's probably the easiest way to do it.
Thanks for asking. Yeah, of course. Can I pray for you and your company? Yeah, that's awesome. Thanks man. Of course fathers lift up Jason and five stone and pray that you would just continue to help them be thoughtful and how they lead the ministry and nonprofit space, uh, and the for profit space there for profit clients as well.
Father that they would just be a leader in the space helping ministries, nonprofits, their clients. I just think through how to be, um, how to do marketing, well, how to build brand well, how to be thoughtful and how they, um, think about these things and pray that you would be adjacent and his team that he would lead his team well that you would give him guidance and direction.
Is he as he leads this company, father? We thank you so much that we get to be a part of what you're doing, that you've invited us into this redemptive story and we love you so much in jesus name. Amen.
Hey man, thanks Jason man. Thanks for so much for being on the show. I really appreciate it. Yeah, it's really fun. Thank you so much. All right, thank you for listening to this episode of the Ministry Growth show.
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