From an interchange on federal agency branding - blah, blah, blah

(From a round-robin discussion with colleagues - extracting some of my comments that may be useful.)

There is most definitely a sub-category of branding as a discipline that has to do with “what federal agencies can do” and even more specifically “how Congressional input affects federal agency branding.” 

That said, my perspective is a little more academic…I tend to think in more conceptual terms and also look at gov branding from the perspective of government as a business. (When it is of course much more complicated than that.) But at the end of the day, we’re all dealing with the same group of people we call “the public,” and if it doesn’t work for them, it just doesn’t work.

One way the differing frameworks play out is when you define what exactly is a brand. 

From an academic, conceptual point of view, that is if we’re looking at the “science” of it and not the policy, the brand is the symbol that lives in the customer’s mind when they think of you. If you have one, that is. 

Meaning: It’s not necessarily what YOU say, what the law says, what the seal says, and what the name is. It is only perception.

(And the truth is, none of us live in a perfect brand world…only a work in progress.)

In any case, some thoughts about why there’s always a fracture when it comes to agreeing on the unit of the brand. 

(For example, with the Amtrak crash last night, CNN is talking a lot about the “DOT” and some about the “NTSB” and not at all about “the government”…so which brand is the public expecting to see?)

1. Legislation creates new organizational units and dissolves others.

2. People use branding to stake a claim to turf.

3. It’s hard to get people to do the same thing consistently – they like to vary the communication to keep it interesting to themselves. (The audience prefers consistency, which can seem “boring” and “stifling.”)

4. Disagreement over communication methods, policies, etc. or ignorance about them leads to people going rogue.

5. Research is time-consuming, expensive, involves paperwork, etc. 

6. Lack of education about brand architecture – Nabisco vs. Oreos vs. Nutter Butters etc. 

7. Tendency to ask the communicators last.

8. Lack of attention to forward planning – tendency to be reactive.  

FYI (as always) not speaking for my agency or any agency here.