Government Agency Marketing Case Studies
Exhaustive research of the public domain generated a single example of a successful government agency brand strategy (NASA, US), but it did not discover any preexisting analysis of best-in-class branding specific to government agencies, or additional case studies of successful examples. Overall, there is very little information available relative to branding in the public sector (i.e., government entities) for all four countries of interest; most of what is available is generalized to government branding as an umbrella concept. NASA is the only government agency whose brand success is highlighted in more than one reference; and though the available information cannot confirm NASA's example as 'best-in-class' due to lack of information, this agency's brand success is the most relevant information available. Below you'll find our research methodology and relevant findings.
We began our research by searching specifically for case studies of government and/or government agency branding, encompassing all countries of interest. This generated a case study of the Boston city government rebranding and multiple references to the most recent edition Smart Social Report, which tracks governmental social media use and engagement. It also generated several blog posts referencing NASA as a well-recognized example of branding success. It should be noted that we have included blog posts in the NASA example analysis because they provided the most granular analysis of NASA's brand strategy.
We then searched for relevant information from the global advertising and marketing industry, including via custom search engines specific to advertising. Our research through content marketing awards and marketing industry white papers generated reference to the 3CMA's Savvy Awards, which are specific to local governments. However, none of the entries on the 2017 or 2016 winner's lists for either 'Communication or Marketing Plans' or 'Community Visioning or Branding' were examples of government agencies. The only indirectly relevant examples were of city/town brand strategies, one of which is highlighted below with the Boston city government example.
Please note that multiple of our sources are more than two years old. This is both because the information available is scanty, and because these older sources contained the most relevant information available. Also, the majority of the information available specific to government agencies is relative to its social media activity, because this is the only information available. The content of each account is both too extensive and too diverse to permit an analysis of the content within a single Wonder request. For the purposes of this request, we broadly defined 'stakeholder' as any person who could potentially benefit from, have interest in, or work in tandem with, an agency.
NASA'S BRANDING STRATEGY
NASA's unique value proposition is "providing these fresh facts to a public with curiosity about the universe. They have cultivated a brand image and tone that is based on history, exciting developments, generating buzz, some professionalism and a nerdy sense of humor." Its tone throughout its 500 social media accounts is both consistent and relatable, which supports the extensive stakeholder engagement with the agency's social media accounts. It also follows the general social media best practice of using eye-catching imagery, for which reason it is reasonable to assume that its brand success is attributable not only to its unique content, but also to the fact that this content is presented both visually and textually.
While there is no existing analysis of NASA's brand presentation of its benefit to stakeholders, NASA has an entire page on its website titled 'Benefits to You,' which is a reasonable resource for assessing its presentation of brand benefit to stakeholders. The primary benefits highlighted on this page are:
- the multiple uses of NASA technology in stakeholder lives;
- NASA's role in researching and preventing ecological crises;
- NASA's role in assisting response to natural disaster events.
As noted above, NASA is extremely active across multiple social media platforms. This activity includes online and in-person events called NASA Socials, which provide a way for distant stakeholders to engage in real-time at a personal level. Participants go "behind-the-scenes at NASA facilities and events and speak with scientists, engineers, astronauts and managers," and registration is dependent on social media engagement. Some of NASA's many social media accounts include NASA, NASA Live 360, NASA Earth, @NASA, @SpaceX, and ExploreNASA. The content for each account is extensive; some accounts cover a broad range of topics or visual imagery, others are more focused on specific aspects of NASA.
GOVERNMENT AGENCY BRANDING VIA SOCIAL MEDIA ENGAGEMENT
The Smart Social Report evaluates social media use by governments across the world. This report requires registration to access, but multiple third-party analyses indicate that government agencies in Canada and elsewhere heavily use social media as a customer service tool. Though there is no granular analysis available, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is noted for using Facebook effectively for building its brand.
In the US, the White House has the most positive engagement; the IRS has the most negative engagement. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) operates a "must-follow Instagram account," (here) which is noted to be a significant pillar in its brand building strategy. In Australia, Tourism Australia's Instagram account is more popular than major sports teams (Green Bay Packers) and major brands (Ford).
Lastly, an article on government branding notes that "the distinction between government branding and branding in the private sector is that government branding always comes down to trust, whereas private sector branding is essentially about making a profit."
CITY GOVERNMENT BRANDING
The most relevant case studies and market research of government-level branding discovered in our research were specific to city- or town-level government branding. Two examples are Boston, Massachusetts and Hermiston, Oregon, the latter of which won a 2016 Savvy Award for its town branding.
In 2016, Boston city government partnered with Proof marketing agency to create a value proposition and brand which specifically highlighted the career and employment environment in Boston. Online content for this branding operated on a two-prong approach: some content focused specifically on individual stories, other content highlighted the community and neighborhood pride that Bostonians feel for their city.
In 2016, the town of Hermiston won a Savvy Award for its community brand relaunch. The town launched an intensive community feedback initiative after the rollout of the initial brand launch met with considerable pushback. The subsequent effort to engage stakeholders in the relaunch generated considerable changes to the original brand presentation and value proposition. Content in this instance was primarily limited to the town's brand logo and tagline.
To wrap it up: extensive research indicates that there is a consistent lack of available case studies on government agency branding success in particular, and a lack of analysis of best-in-class examples of such branding. However, our research did discover that NASA has the most widely-recognized and successful brand strategy of government agencies in the US, UK, Australia and Canada, based on the frequency of mention and the depth of analysis available. Other agencies which are noted for their brand building specifically through social media include the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the TSA (US) and Tourism Australia.