The Ministry Formerly Known as Crusade

July 20th, 2011
Campus Crusade for Christ's new name and logo

If it didn’t have all the medieval military baggage attached to it, crusade would actually be a pretty cool word. It means “marked by the cross.” But I understand why the parachurch ministry Campus Crusade for Christ is dumping itthe same reason Billy Graham’s organization has moved away from it in recent years. It doesn’t do much for cross-cultural relations, especially in the Muslim world.

Going forward, Campus Crusade’s official moniker will be one of its informal nicknames: Cru.

Campus Crusade didn’t change its name only for cross-cultural concernsthe organization expanded its ministries beyond college and university campuses years ago, so the old name really didn’t tell the whole story.

But neither does Cru.

The bad news is, they’re going to have to build a new brand from scratch in the mind of the public. But that could also be good news, depending on what kind of reputation Campus Crusade already has in different parts of the country. Sometimes it’s good to start with a clean slate.

When I was in college, I was involved with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, and because of the word Varsity, a lot of people thought we were an athletic organization. We’d shorten the name occasionally to IV or IVCF, but people didn’t know what those meant either.

Then there’s the United Methodist campus ministry, Wesley Foundation. It sounds more like a fundraising charity than a college fellowship group, so most people I know just call it “the Wesley” or some local shortened variation. Short form names are all the rage, especially with the Twitter generation.

Will Campus Crusade’s new short form name catch on? Probably. But I doubt they'll turn down a check made out to the old name.

It’s a little like IHOP. I’m old enough to remember when the restaurant chain was referred to by its long form name, International House of Pancakes. I guess people got tired of saying that, so “IHOP” was born. The company probably figured they’d just go along with everyone else and make it official. And IHOP has a lot more than pancakes on its menu now, so it’s a win-win.

There’s also DQ, KFC, and FedEx. Most Dairy Queens also serve hot food now, most of which is decidedly non-dairy. And Kentucky Fried Chicken changed its name to KFC in 1991, then brought the old name and logo back as a variation in 2007. If you go to their website today, neither name can be found at the top of the page, only a likeness of KFC founder Colonel Sanders. Perhaps the chain is taking a cue from Prince and wants to be known by a symbol now, not a name.

And is there anyone on the planet who still calls FedEx by the name Federal Express?

Names are a big deal, especially when you’re establishing a brand. But when a brand outgrows its name or the name becomes misleading, it’s time to consider changing it. With Campus Crusade, it was a little bit of both.

Question: What can established churches and denominations learn from businesses and organizations that have changed their names or re-branded themselves in recent years?


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