Should Government Spend Taxpayer Dollars On "Branding"
Once upon a time branding referred to: A process by which companies sought to "stand out" from their competition by establishing positive and specific customer perceptions. That is the original meaning of the term, but it's gotten lost, as "branding" has become the "buzz"word of the new millennium.
Governments are jumping into the branding fray with renewed vigor, but the question that is often lost with government process is WHY?
In a time of fiscal struggles, why is government so concerned with it? Does it "fit" for public agencies? How does government branding actual benefit citizens?
We'll look at the arguments, but you should know that buzz words usually come with the majority of comments supporting the "buzz".
The Pro's Of Government Branding
Since I'm against government trying to act like a private company, due to its different role and mission, I'm not the person to ask, so if you want a discussion on why government should be branding, look at this discussion on govloop.
The Argument Against:
If branding was free, and did not cost resources and actualy money, it wouldn't be an issue. Unfortunately, it does cost signficant money. Here are some reasons why government should NOT be spending money on this.
- There is generally no competition for government services. RIght there, since the definition refers to "standing out from competitors", there is no reason to brand, unless there are competitors.
- One argument put forth is that governments need to establish brands to "help" citizens identify reliable sources for information -- i.e. so that government is the "go to" guy for information. It's a reasonable argument until you realize that citizens already know where to go for government information -- to government sites. Since government installations are easily find in search engines, and identified as such by the *.gov extension, branding is unnecessary.
- There's probably no question that NASA is the best branded government agency (along with the FBI). People know both. The know what they do. They know how to find them. So, WHY? Who cares? One could argue that NASA needs branding to justify its budget, but that's not branding. That's about lobbying, and public relations which is different from branding.
The ultimate question we have to ask, and should always ask in government is WHY. If government can't answer this question in a way that relates to their fulfillment of their mandates, they have no business spending more money on it.
The Exceptions: When Government Should Brand
There are a lot of exceptions -- and those exceptions make sense because there is a clear why.
- Government Sponsored Events: When government sponsors events, particularly those that compete in the market place for citizen participation, and when those events create revenue flow, branding satisfies the requirement that there be competitors from which one wants to distinguish oneself.
- Government Related Locations: Governments run various public parks, for example, which compete for citizen involvement and participation. The branding of those -- often tourist attractions, makes sens, because it helps those facilities "stand out".
- Local & State Governments That Compete WIth Each Other: It's odd to think that governments actually compete with each other,but they do. For example a ski resort in Aspen competes for tourism visitors with other locations. By branding, or standing out, governments work to bring money into communities. Likewise, branding can work for local and state governments looking to attract industry and economic development.
Available Information About Branding In The Public SectorGovernment's Crucial Employer Brand - Importance of Branding Government - by PATRICK IBARRA
Many state and local governments are hiring again, working to rebuild workforces depleted by the recession's layoffs and hiring freezes and to prepare for the coming wave of public-sector retirements. As they do so, they need to pay close attention to their "employer brand." Many government officials and managers still may feel uncomfortable with the idea of government as a brand, reasoning that this term from the competitive world of business shouldn't apply to the public sector. But it should, and it does. In the business of applying knowledge to achieve results, which the public sector is most certainly all about, the fundamental difference separating an extraordinary organization from an ordinary one is the collective ability of its workforce. (Views So Far 347 )
Branding is Marketing | Marketing in the Public Sector - by Jim Mintz
Branding in the commercial sector is pervasive and fairly easy to understand and recognize. However, branding in public and non-profit sectors is not as common but is becoming more popular because of its ability to create visibility effectively and ensure memorability. Many members of the public and non-profit sectors are hesitant to recognize that they face stiff competition and they fail to see the need to put an emphasis on branding and positioning. However, this view is slowly changing as more leaders in these sectors are recognizing that they are in a competitive market with limited funding. This realization highlights the fact that strategic identity and branding can significantly help organizations achieve increased program awareness, utilization and satisfaction. (Views So Far 335 )
Government Branding Basics - by Leigh George
A short article exhorting government to brand. Take a close look at the "benefits", and notice that there is NO mention of WHY those "benefits" are important to better government or benefit citizens. (Views So Far 355 )
Communication - Not Branding - by Dannielle Blumenthal
If you communicate well you are building a brand anyway. But it is possible to build a brand without communicating. Without honesty. Without connecting. I don't do that. So I have decided to get away from the term "branding." Although the end goal is really the same - an excellent image based on delivery of benefit - the mechanism is no (Views So Far 260 )
You Tell Me: Why Does Government Brand So Much? - by Dave Hebert
Lively discussion on government branding. Notice the lack of WHY, in terms of what the job of governing involves? (Views So Far 265 )
Is Government Branding 'Just Wall Paper' or Does it Enhance Product Acceptance: Conceptualising Brand Influence in Social Marketing - by Joseph Sibbick and Josephine Previte
READ IT. Indepth and thoughtful analysis, not just about government branding, but about social marketing in general (Views So Far 193 )
Branding for Government? Gov 2.0 Demands It - by Michael Perkins
Attempt to justify branding in government via the argument that it increases awareness of government and building trust. Sadly, the latter is more about propaganda than anything else. (Views So Far 340 )
Branding the Government As An Employer of Choice - by Neil Reichenberg
Here's a good example of good thinking on government branding, and a topic where branding makes sense: Branding government as an employer of choice. Since government competes for talent, branding makes sense here. (Views So Far 273 )
Branding In Public? Waste of Money? - by Edwin Colyer
Yes, governments and public services are getting up to speed with branding. They have seen that it works for business. They understand that their clientele-citizens-live in a branded world. It would be strange if governments didn't move with the times. Ignoring branding would be like rejecting the Internet, mobile phones, and globalization. Or would it? While public bodies have a mandate to work on behalf of "the people," they have to be responsible with their finances too, demonstrating prudence with the public purse. So can investments in branding programs be justified, or is the public sector merely following a marketing fad? Indeed, is branding even appropriate for public services? (Views So Far 289 )