The benefits of staying on-brand

Complex branding that misses the opportunity to connect with citizens can hold government back, write Wayde Bull and Charlie Rose.

Wayde Bull

During the past decade, government has applied enormous effort to open itself up to citizens; to make its leaders, programs and services more visible and more accessible to constituents.

Despite these efforts, too often the complexity of department structures play out to the community at large making it difficult for citizens to understand and engage with the work.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Brand architecture – the practice of presenting organisation and structure clearly – can be a strategic ally in achieving citizen-centred simplicity.

Accessibility shift

At the heart of this ‘accessibility shift’ is rising expectation from using streamlined services such as Netflix, Uber and Amazon. These digital-first brands set the benchmark that government is compared to – whether we like it or not.

The ongoing development of effortless, citizen-centred service delivery will continue to be a tenet of good government. The more we can make government DIY with less interaction, the greater people are satisfied.

We see this trend at work on government homepages; what once was an internally driven list of services overseen by departments is now a useful portal that makes it effortless to find what people want, leaving them informed, heard and satisfied (most of the time).

By way of example, the current NSW Government homepage gives citizens remarkable accessibility, with prompts to effortlessly ‘have your say’ on current programs and the instant ability to contact the premier or the ministry.

Similarly, at the forefront of this change is Service Tasmania, a one-stop-shop offering access to government transactions, services and information. The platform took a citizen-centred approach to its services and enabled people to cut red tape and take control of basic administrative tasks.

Local government

This lens can also be applied at a local government level. When working with the newly amalgamated Northern Beaches Council, we took a citizen-centric approach to create the brand.

Charlie Rose

What we discovered was a strong pride of place shared in the community. By creating a brand that citizens and stakeholders could be proud of, we could strip back unwanted complexity and create a unified brand system which, in turn, created a simpler, clearer and more accessible government.

Another noticeable shift has government moving to an initiative or program-led mindset where individual multi-year projects take centre stage to build the perception that government is action-orientated and full of momentum and progress.

Brand architecture can also play a role in improving the community attribution to initiatives of this nature.

Case in point, in 2015 the Victorian State Government rebranded introducing a single brand system to improve community understanding of its initiatives.

By using the ‘Big V’ across all programs, a stronger connection to government was established, making it easier to highlight and aggregate what was new, different and noteworthy.

While this all might seem daunting, the first step is to review your governmental brand portfolio. Keep these timeless design principles in mind as you do:

Think outside-in not inside-out

Start the process by thinking about the needs of your citizens. What information and services do they require? How can you build a brand that delivers them and communicates what’s on offer with this audience in mind?

Don’t allow your organisational structure to hijack your brand architecture

They’re not one and the same so don’t become bogged down in the details that don’t matter to constituents.

Apply a jobs-to-be-done philosophy to content development

What is it that citizens are seeking to do – and how can we help them to get it done, cutting across internal hierarchies?

Simplify to clarify

By streamlining the brand, you will improve understanding of the good you’re doing which will generate much-needed support and buy-in.

Connect your diversity

Create a flexible brand system so you can connect your diverse initiatives. Build a brand with flex so that it can stretch to a range of projects and services, now and into the future.

Wayde Bull is a founder and planning director of branding agency Principals and Charlie Rose is an associate strategy director.

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