Lately, there has been criticism regarding rebranding efforts in government agencies, highlighting the waste of taxpayer money. I found myself on a live national television show discussing this topic. We passionately ask ourselves, is it really that bad?

Rebranding government institutions

But wait, what is it all about, anyway? Rebranding government agencies is a process where state organizations renew their visual identity, message, and service image in order to better meet modern needs and expectations. This can include changes to the logo, color scheme, design elements, and communication strategy.

Each project has its own background, explaining why any change is being initiated in the first place. Reasons may include an outdated image, changes in the scope of activities, or expansion.

Such projects often last for a couple of years. First, problem areas are defined in collaboration with a creative agency, then changes are implemented, and finally, it is checked whether the work has had any impact on the original situation. Although the results of government agency rebranding strategies are often seen through a new name or logo, it is actually just one part of a larger project. In fact, branding primarily entails internal organizational change. For example, the motivation for undertaking the work may be to improve the efficiency of the institution, clarify its vision and mission, and help employees better understand why they go to work in the morning.

Different examples of government institution rebranding

Recently, the renaming of the Haigekassa to Tervisekassa has sparked a lot of debate. With a cost of over €30,000, the rebranding raises the question of whether changing the name is really worth such expenses. However, the principle is that people understand why the change was made and whether it has adequately addressed defined problems. The logic behind rebranding the Health Fund involves replacing the mentality of “fixing diseases” with an emphasis on investing in health. In that sense, the project makes sense. However, it should be understood that changing the name is often just the tip of the iceberg, and many of the changes are not immediately visible.

A similar situation occurred with the planned merger in 2022 between the Estonian Crop Research Institute and the Agricultural Research Centre, resulting in the creation of METK (Rural Knowledge Centre). The rebranding of METK may seem like a mere name change, but it is actually a reflection of a broader branding strategy. These changes are perceived as necessary from within the organization.

Rebranding is a long-term process, and the impact of changes may not be immediately visible. However, experiences from the private sector have shown (for some reason, changes tend to manifest much faster there) that rebranding and new design are justified over the years and decades: target groups’ interests and needs are better taken into account, and the brand is positioned in the context of a sustainable market segment, resulting in increased revenue.

It should also be noted that when rebranding, it must be done systematically. If, for example, the brand’s vision is out of place or confusing, it must be constantly patched and modified, which can be a real hassle. And it has to withstand the test of time in the long run.

Key aspects of government institutions rebranding clarifying objectives

  1. Clarification of objectives: Before starting rebranding, it is necessary to clearly define why it is needed. Is the goal a more modern image, greater transparency, easier understanding or something else?
  2. Involvement of target groups: All important stakeholders such as officials, employees, civic associations and citizens should be involved. Their feedback helps to identify the institution’s strengths and weaknesses and what changes are needed.
  3. Updating the communication strategy: In addition to the visual identity, it is also important to consider the communication strategy. How does the institution deliver its messages and what channels does it use?
  4. Creating a visual identity: This includes developing logos, color schemes, design elements and other visual material. It is important that the new identity reflects the institution’s values and goals.
  5. Involving and informing citizens: Introducing the new identity to citizens is important so that they understand the changes and continue to feel connected to the institution.
  6. Monitoring and collecting feedback: After rebranding, it is important to monitor how the new identity is received and what its effects are. Collecting feedback helps to make adjustments if needed.
  7. Sustainability and adaptability: The new identity should be sustainable and able to withstand changes in the environment and society. This means that it should not be too trendy or temporary.
  8. Budget and resource management: Rebranding can be an expensive process, so it’s important to plan your budget carefully and allocate resources efficiently.
  9. Learning and adaptation: Rebranding is an ongoing process and the institution should be ready to learn from its experiences and adapt its approach as needed.

Bad examples of public institutions rebranding can include situations where the changes do not advance the agency’s goals, or where they create confusion, opposition or inefficiency, such as:

  1. Excessive spending and excessive complexity: If rebranding becomes too expensive or too complicated, it can create dissatisfaction both within the organization and among the public. For example, if creating a new visual identity requires too many resources or becomes too complex, it can be ineffective.
  2. Inadequate communication and engagement: If an organization does not communicate clearly and engage enough stakeholders, rebranding can create confusion or opposition. For example, if a new visual identity or message is not explained well enough to all interested parties, it can lead to confusion and opposition.
  3. Loss of identity or conflict with an existing brand: If rebranding results in the disappearance of an institution’s former recognition or the loss of connection with its previous identity, this can upset citizens and cause opposition.
  4. Unsuccessful visual identity: If a new logo or visual style does not convey the message of the organization or does not speak to the target group, it can be ineffective and fail.
  5. Conflict with public expectations: If rebranding does not adequately address public expectations or needs, it can create opposition and negative feedback.
  6. Poor timing or unclear reasons: When rebranding is poorly timed or there are no clear reasons why it is necessary, it can lead to questions and skepticism.

These examples show how poorly thought out rebranding can lead to negative consequences both inside and outside the organization. Therefore, it is important that the rebranding is well thought out, justified and involves the stakeholders.

Is rebranding needed?

Do state institutions need branding at all? Public institutions need branding for several important reasons:

  1. Credibility and transparency: Strong branding helps create a credible and transparent impression of government institutions. Citizens and businesses need assurance that public institutions operate transparently and reliably.
  2. Identity creation and differentiation: Branding helps public institutions highlight their unique features, values and services. This helps them stand out from other organizations and create a clear and recognizable identity.
  3. Communication and messaging: Strong branding helps government agencies communicate their messages clearly and effectively. A well-thought-out visual identity, logo and communication strategy allow institutions to reach their target group more effectively.
  4. Engaging citizens and gaining support: Strong branding can help create an emotional connection with citizens. If the institution’s brand is positive and important to citizens, they are more likely to be willing to support and contribute to the institution’s goals.
  5. More effective service and communication: Clear branding helps public institutions better shape their services according to citizens’ needs. This can improve the quality and efficiency of services.
  6. Impact on public opinion: Branding of public institutions affects public opinion and image. A positive brand can help reduce negative feedback and increase trust and support.
  7. Positioning the country internationally: If the country wants to be known on the international scene or to attract foreign investors and talents, it is important to have a strong and positive brand.
  8. Long-term sustainability: A strong brand can help institutions maintain their reputation and support in the long term, which is important for the stability and success of public institutions.

Strong branding helps state institutions to create positive communication with citizens, companies and international partners and to ensure their sustainability and efficiency in society. Provided it’s done well and professionally, which Identity offers its customers.

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