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Owning Your Brand


The Center for Adaptive Solutions has been sitting in on talks with a group of public agencies that…well…that are marketing challenged.

Public agencies being marketing challenged is the norm, though. A city I know hired a marketing agency to promote that city nationally. That marketing agency were real good artists, not good marketers, the city remains pretty much unknown and the marketing agency is gone. But not before they got a whoppin’ good paycheck, though.


The usual flaw in public agencies’ marketing plans is that they don’t get the concept of owning their own brand. This doesn’t surprise me as public agencies aren’t marketers. Their concept of marketing is usually “Well, we show up as #1 on Google searches so we must good”.

While true, being found in a Google search does not a marketing strategy make. Showing up as #1 in a Google search is great if people are specifically searching for you. But what if people need what you do and don’t know who you are? And are people finding you by knowing you or finding you by clicking on a bunch of links and then saying “Oh, how come I didn’t see this before?”

The marketing strategy question has more to do with “When people think of you, are you the first thing they think of?” And I’m intentionally ignoring issues of organic versus inorganic, market penetration, media consumption and such. For this post I’m assuming the public agency wants to own their brand and be in the center of their audience’s consciousness.

The “what does your audience think of when they think of you” question is best demonstrated by a concept map.

click for larger imageThe figure on the right is a concept map for “NH Citizens Health Initiative” (NHCHI). What we learn immediately is that this group’s website isn’t at the center of its own brand. New Hampshire Purchasers on Group (NHPG), a group affiliated with the NHCHI but not the group itself, is where most people are learning about it.

And notice those thin blue lines? That means there’s weak connections between the other places people go for information on the NHCHI. Most scary is that NHCHI’s own website is tucked down in the lower right hand corner and not even directly connected with the NHPG. People only connect the NHPG with NHCHI when they first think “payment” and “important work”.

click for larger imageWhat about “New Hampshire Citizens Health Initiative”? It’s still off to the right, still isn’t at the center of people’s thinking when they want information about it, … The moral is that this public agency (as an example) doesn’t own their own brand. This means they don’t control their own messaging, their “eye” space, how the public perceives them, …

Just FYI, there are times when you don’t want to be the center. If people find you by what you do and there are strong links between what you do, what you’ve done and you, Great! Unfortunately that’s not true for most public agencies, either.

Solutions to these types of marketing problems are simple enough and can be done organically (less expensive, takes more time, your message lasts longer in public awareness) or inorganically (more expensive, takes less time, generally the message is lost more quickly without constant reinforcement). The organic method typically involves some site work, some search engine work, exercising your online and offline social networks and generally can be done by any group willing to put in the time and effort. But make no mistake, time and effort will be involved.

The inorganic method involves going outside your group for the required expertise or hiring that expertise. You’ll get results quicker but there’s the initial financial overhead for the basics then continuing overhead to maintain your brand space (unless you learn from the experts as you go).

That “unless you learn from the experts as you go” points to the middle road and is excellent for public agencies with good ideas and tight budgets; get experts to help you with the basics and guide you periodically. Lower costs although not minimal costs, takes longer than inorganic methods although no where near as long as straight organic methods. One, you get your marketing jump-started fairly quickly and two, you learn without making public mistakes (at least not obvious ones).

RVMsmallfrontcover.jpgI cover these topics in Optimal Blog Post Frequency – NSE Social Media Research Paper #1, Impact (The Use of Colors and Color Imagery in Direct Response Marketing and eBranding, Designing an Email Newsletter for Maximum ROI and Reading Virtual Minds Volume 1: Science and History. Regular An Economy of Meaning readers can get 25% off the list price by entering ECOMEAN1 when they purchase.


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