Brand Development for Government Departments

by smartamarketing

Brand Development (is Harder) for Government Departments

Dr Brian Monger

Can a Government Department Successfully Develop a Brand Over Time When The Politicians in Charge Want to Make (Short-Term) Changes?

Brand is as important for government departments as it is for any commercial organisation that wants to achieve good results from its activities.

Certainly the basic strategy of developing a successful brand remain the same:

  1. Understanding the target market
  2. Developing Goals and Objectives that are in line with the target market
  3. Positioning the Brand
  4. Credibility
  5. And (importantly) a Long Term Sustainable Position (Consistency)

However, given the regular short term objectives of many politicians in charge of departments is very often to make themselves look good (for re-election) this can make items 2-5 rather hard – especially 3., 4., and five.

Political Myopia

In this context, myopia means narrow, short-term thinking. Such a mind-set can threaten a Department’s activities.

How can a department effectively market unless they have established an effective Brand? How can they develop a Brand over a period of time (it doesn’t happen immediately) when the Government and Departmental ministers do not understand the Brand and its benefits? And even if they do, it is not their own priority?


Many people (including politicians) believe their Department does not have a brand. Nothing could be further from the truth. A more accurate assessment would be that their departments have failed to develop and manage their brand. If it is not managed, client/constituent experiences occur by chance or randomly rather than through a tightly integrated, promise-driven, and planned approach, a brand exists, but it suffers from neglect.


The development of successful branding, as applied to Government Departments, is usually different from branding in the commercial sector, because there is potential conflict between the Politicians (and especially their political advisors) and the folk trying to develop the marketing mix and the brand.


Political forces have a much greater impact on public sector organisations than on private organisations. Popular elections, political appointments, and the political agendas of elected officials tend to have a destabilising effect on government departments because political consensus and program and resource priorities can be changed frequently. This adversely affects the implementation of marketing activities such as mission and objective specification, long range planning, budgeting, pricing, program prioritising, and general operating procedures. Private organisations are not nearly as impacted by the destabilising events that regularly occur in the government arena because, in the private sector, professional managers control resource allocations and tend to be guided by consistent long-term objectives.


Most notably, branding in government departments (GD) is about who they are, what they stand for and represent to their market and is not limited to what any particular Product, except in a very broad sense. A government department brand is often equated to their reputation. Think of a GD brand as being synonymous with the institution’s personality— congruent with its mission, defined by its values.


Benefits of Branding

A strong Brand offers many advantages including:

  • Enhances Recognition and Trust
  • Helps Build Brand Loyalty
  • Helps With Product Positioning
  • Aids in Introduction of New Projects/Programs/Products


The values-centric approach inherent in developing a Brand provides a Department with an anchor to guide long term (sustainable) strategy responses to constituent needs and expectations. The brand is defined by where the organisation’s values and the constituents’ expectations intersect. The brand becomes the filter through which everything is vetted (e.g., strategic directions, resource allocations, hiring decisions, marketing communications and program/Product development). It serves as a lens to strategically focus the institution in the midst of fluid internal and external pressures as well as opportunities.


Perhaps the most significant benefit of Brand in for departments is the focus it will bring to the organisation, resulting in a more effective (performing) organisation.


For example, The Australian Tax Office. OK very few people “like” the tax man, but (as I suggested to them some years ago when consulting) if more folk appreciate what the ATO does for the nation and is more generally seen as often being helpful and reasonable, then they are likely to find it easier to do their job and will likely bring in more money. Tax payers are less likely to be resentful and cheat less.


Another example would be many GD’s who need to get their target market to trust them in order that they can more effectively deliver their services.


Interested in this topic? Check out the The Australian Government:
Community and Marketing 2014


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