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5 Ways Government Branding Is Harder

  1. Brand architecture: This is the discipline of assembling names and logos into a coherent framework. In the private sector it’s easier because your end game is basically profit. (The challenge there is to balance long-term investment in reputation with short-term gains in revenue.) In government it is extraordinarily difficult to pursue any sort of brand architecture strategy without involving many stakeholders with competing interests, and without invoking many levels of law, regulation, policy, and so on. Without a clear identity strategy that puts you in a context of related identities, the communication you provide is far less likely to be impactful. 
  2. Brand leadership: In the private sector it is generally more or less clear who is responsible for the development and the articulation of the brand. In government, the lines are frequently muddied as most initiatives are cooperative in nature. 
  3. Brand metrics: The private sector has relatively reliable formulas with which to measure the strength of a brand; fundamentally, you can examine the performance of one product as versus its competitors. Yet the government does not have competition, and its outcomes (e.g. a drop in crime rates) are difficult to correlate with brand success. The closest one can come is an attitudinal measure, such as perceptions related to trustworthiness, but again it is difficult to determine with certainty how those perceptions concretely add to or subtract from performance. 
  4. Brand confusion: In government the term “branding” is frequently confused with “logo and tagline development,” and this activity is distinguished from “advertising,” “marketing,” and so on. In the private sector there is a far greater understanding that all activities connected with image are connected, and so even seemingly humdrum materials like an employee orientation manual are seized up on as an opportunity to develop equity. 
  5. Brand boredom: For all its glamorous associations, branding is usually a very ordinary and even boring activity because it fundamentally requires consistency: doing the same thing over and over again. In the government, when a new program is launched, there is frequency a desire to show it off — thus the trademark image of “ribbon-cutting” that can be seen in so many official publications. Instead of muddying the water with shiny new pennies every now and then, there is a strong need for government to get used to the idea that great brand work is about as humdrum as can be. 


All opinions my own.

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