The Ten Commandments forbid the making of graven images, but a compelling corporate image is considered essential by Christian organizations seeking to survive and thrive.
In rare cases, ministries completely change their names. Last week, Colorado Springs-based HCJB Global, which was founded in 1931, announced that it is changing its name to Reach Beyond.
Most of the time, Christian organizations revise their identities by updating their logos or by changing their slogans.
David C Cook, a major Christian publishing house that was founded in 1875, changed its name to Cook Communications Ministries in 1994 following a series of acquisitions. But after a 2007 leadership transition, the company returned to the David C Cook name.
Designer Thom Hoyman has been helping to tweak Cook's image ever since. The "Who's Dave?" campaign summarizes and humanizes the company, which is little understood by millions of people around the world who use its resources. Even its local employees have struggled to articulate its work clearly.
Cook, which moved to the Springs in 1995, is a big company, selling $80 million worth of resources a year from its three major divisions: curriculum published in 150 languages for churches and Sunday schools; books on Christian living by authors such as best-seller Francis Chan; and music that includes Integrity Music, one of the world's larger Christian labels.
"When you have too many identities, you have no identity," said Hoyman in a recent presentation about the long-running rebranding project.
The company's new slogan, "Transforming lives together," was partially inspired by campaigns for The Home Depot and Lowe's.
"We see ourselves as a partner, not a peddler," Hoyman said.
The "Who's Dave" campaign explains that unlike many local nonprofit ministries, Cook is a for-profit company that uses profits to support a non-profit foundation that works around the world. CEO Cris Doornbos said Cook will donate $5 million to its foundation this year.
Hoyman's campaign explains this complex arrangement with an illustration about hybrid cars that run on both gasoline and electricity.
"This is part of what really inspires me to work for David C Cook," Hoyman said. "I love the fact that I work for a company that sells to the rich so it can give to the poor!"
2008 was a pivotal year for Focus On the Family. Iconic founder James Dobson had left and Jim Daly was the new president.
Rich Bennett, Focus' vice president of marketing and strategy, said the time was ripe for a ministry-wide "identity project" that allowed everyone "to step back and say, 'Who are we? What perceptions do we have today? And what do we aspire to be?'"
It was also time to update the logo design Focus had used for 30 years. Bennett says the new logo, which was tested in focus groups before being adopted in 2008, is warmer and features a "hand-touched design" that suggests families are unique and "imperfect."
At a recent media luncheon, Daly said he desires to be an "evangelist" who wins over hearers through dialogue and debate, not a "prophet" thundering judgment from on high. His kinder and gentler approach also can be seen in a more casual employee dress code.
Bennett says Focus' identity project has helped the $90 million ministry revise its wording and imagery, not its principles.
"It wasn't about us changing who we are or the values we stand for," he said, "but about how people's perceptions can change over time."