How do you brand government?

Government has two main functions— to take care of the people they represent and to make things happen.  It develops policies and  funds projects. There is little competition. After all, where can you get a driver’s license other than the DMV?  An effective government means that it delivers quality services;  responsibly manages public funds and represents the best interests of the people.

Unlike public corporations, Government does not prioritize  profit margins, sales benchmarks and stockholders. Public officials, elected or appointed, are concerned about constituents.  When the people do not like the status quo, they organize and  things can change.

What does this have to do with marketing and branding?  Everything.  Efficacy boils down to perception. How a government organization, a municipality or  a public service is viewed by  stakeholders  lays the foundation for its overall  sustainability and  well-being.

Here are some of my favorite government logos and my interpretation.

New York: a City where dreams come true

Amsterdam: A City that celebrates diversity

NASA: A government organization that is devoted to space exploration and science

How do you brand government?  The starting point is to identify the institution’s core values. What does it represent?  In the case of municipalities, what do residents pride themselves upon? What is going to lure tourists and business (Salman, 2008)? It’s a communication dance – synchranizing different audiences to generate a worthwhile message.

By implementing integrated communication strategies,  governments can attract and maintain a viable reputation. Through digital channels,  public sector marketing needs to  do more than publicize policies,  services and events. It can  foster vibrant communities. Through  interesting stories of  stakeholders,  sharing photos and memories  of its landmarks and distinctiveness,  social media can help reinvent the government brand. The sky’s the  limit. Afterall, nothing is certain but death or taxes.



Salman, S. (2008) Brand of gold. Retrieved from

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10 Responses to How do you brand government?

  1. Regi says:

    Hi Diane,
    I am a government employee and used to wonder or assumed brand didn’t apply to them. I finally realized the message and interaction we shared with the public was our branding, in addition to activities and marketing to keep up with technology and changing times. We were concerned about the perception the community may have when implementing various mandates and performing field work. The agency went through great lengths to ensure the employees understood the importance of our stakeholders, that we represent the agency and its’ message and how we are perceived when interacting in the public. Very interesting blog.

  2. Violet Ward says:

    Hi Diane,
    I agree with you. Government should work on branding themselves. Branding could encourage a sense of pride, ownership, it could also assist in stimulating business and improvement within government entities.
    This topic reminds me of a California commercial that I saw years ago, Visit California. If I recall correctly, this commercial received positive feedback. Looks like the branding was effective. I found the commercial on YouTube. Here is a link:

  3. Stacy says:

    Hi, Diane,
    Interesting post! It made me think about my own city and how the government brands it. I live in the “City of Brotherly Love” (literally, that is the translation of Philadelphia from Greek). The famous love statue is worn on necklaces of many of my friends. However, Philly has a bit of an identity crisis. After all, this is the city that famously booed Santa during a 1968 NFL game. I have also heard people call it “Filthadelphia” (we have bit of an issue with litter bugs) and “Killadelphia” due to a high murder rate. What I think I realize is – cities can brand themselves however they want but it is up to the people in that city to live up to that brand and make it real. Thanks!

  4. Paula Manuel says:

    Hi Diane,
    I agree that government branding is important. Not only does it generate revenue for the city or state by way of tourism sales, but it also evokes a sense of pride in the residents. Every time I am at a Dodgers game and “I Love LA” is pumping through the speakers after a win, my chest swells with pride! Great job!

  5. Krystina Francis says:

    We had a great example of small town branding in Japan’s Yubari courtesy of CMGT 541 –

    The branding most major cities have built around their branding is usually the reason I end up visiting. So Venice is supposed to be historic yet romantic and I think this perception helps to drive tourists there year after year.

    • Diane says:

      Thanks Krystina for sharing this video of Yubari’s success. What a great story of brand success and a coup for the advertising agency.

  6. Elia Sanchez says:

    What an interesting topic! I live in beautiful Los Angeles and every week on KNX 1070 newsradio, there is a segment called “Ask the Mayor.” the audience can call in and ask Mayor Eric Garcetti any question that they would like. However, in recent months given that Mayor Garcetti has been pursuing the Olympic games, each time that I listen to him on the radio, he is constantly pitching Los Angeles. He speaks about why it makes the most sense to bring the Olympics to Los Angeles. You are right in that governments market their cities, counties, municipalities to attract tourists. At the end of the day, they too need to draw in profits to ensure that there is funding for major infrastructure restoration needs and public services.

    Great blog!

  7. Erika Najera says:

    Your blog post hit home with me because a couple of days ago I spent 2 and a half hours at the DMV and we all know the infamous reputation of the DMV. After patiently waiting my turn to be helped, my time finally comes and the person who helped me was terribly grumpy and unhelpful. Long story short– I left thinking about how sad I thought it was that no one enjoys going to the DMV and the people who work there clearly do not seem like they want to be there and the DMV is the one and only. The DMV has no real positive branding and I feel that because the DMV is the one and only, why not make more of an effort to make everyone’s experience at the DMV the least painful!
    Thanks for sharing!

  8. Nathan says:

    When I first started working in US Army Psychological Operations, which involves marketing and advertising, I too was curious about why we don’t brand our own government. As with your NYC and Amsterdam examples, cities are branded through the tourism industry, and America’s brand of values is well known around the world through a variety of public sector industries and international relations initiatives. However, the idea of the US federal government attempting using persuasion tactics or propaganda on Americans to achieve US national objectives is actually illegal.

    Many other countries have state controlled media, but this is a conflict of interest with America’s constitution (freedom of speech, etc.). If we did allow the government to do this then it’d ultimately be used improperly to interfere with our democratic election process as well.

    That being said, individual government agencies do tend to become politicized when certain federal initiatives are up for votes. I’m not a lawyer, but public and private figures are treated differently according to our laws, so you would think that maybe there’s a loophole where they could be used to discuss a government agency rather than the government branding itself to achieve US national objectives. However, it’s even illegal for the government to develop a campaign to influence the decisions of American Senators to achieve US national objectives.

  9. Lia says:

    Hi Diane
    I enjoyed your post – thank you for the insight! It spurred some interesting dialog and I believe that several cities are in sore need of re-branding. Having been raised in a Detroit suburb, I grew up with the city’s ‘branding’ and image struggles for decades – without any successful solutions. Unfortunately I don’t have an answer either, but I’m hopeful they’re slowly heading in the right direction.

    While on the topic of government branding, I can’t help but also think of the importance of branding with our political parties. Would “branding” help their communication messages or does that head us down too far down the identity politics path and divide us even further? Lots of ways to take this topic! Thanks again!