Scott Horvath

Regarding what Danielle said:

* Definition #1 is “creating an image” – more often than not through engaging the audience

* Definition #2 is “creating a name, symbol, sign…” – literally the word or the logo

I agree that many Government agencies have focused on #2 too much. I think this is a natural outgrowth of being able to connect with others through the Web (speaking circa 1995, right now). I remember building my first Government website for the Environmental Systems Branch at Ft. Belvoir in the mid 90s. I also remember the conversation was along the lines of “we need to tell people about us because no one knows what we do…we build AC units for Patriot missile batteries…who doesn’t want to know about that?!”

And since those days of internet-goodness and the ability to market like a Nike, it’s been an all out branding competition in Government.

We’re at a point, I believe, where agencies are realizing that #2 is not the right way to go…but it’s at the beginning of that realization. I do think you can show some brand strength for a product/service within your organization and still have strong brand strength at the agency level. The combination of the two has a better chance to keep Congress informed of what an agency does, as well as keep the public informed on where they’re tax dollars are being spent. At the same time, a good combination of agency and product branding can also lead to greater scrutinization of your agency’s efforts. That’s actually a good thing, though.

Take for example NASA. Outside of the fact that they have a compelling mission (space) and cool toys like rockets, telescopes, and wise-cracking rovers…from a branding standpoint they’re very strong. Take the Mars rover for example. It’s got a name…Curiosity. It’s got a personality of it’s own. It’s on Mars. It’s a very cool thing, no doubt. These things, amongst others, have really launched it into it’s own “brand” so-to-speak.

But I bet you any money every single person that’s ever heard of Curiosity knows exactly who’s running it…NASA. Why? Because NASA does a great job with their Agency branding…from products, to the Web, to TV, to the stickers and logos they stick & paint on every rocket and rover…they know that keeping a consistent brand of always having NASA attached to everything they do is important. The brand is so strong that even into the near future, if you even say the word “curiosity,” it’s almost guaranteed that “NASA” will pop into your head.

This just shows you a good combination of sub-agency branding, but always with parent agency branding. It’s very effective.

The question, though, isn’t how do we copy what NASA does…but it’s how do we copy the culture of NASA so that employees feel proud of the agency they work for, understand what their agency mission is, and can become our own brand ambassadors. Once they feel that sort of involvement then they’re more likely to stop thinking in terms of #2 when they’re discussing their work/programs, and starting to think along the lines of #1 and 1/2.