Poor Government brand policy will prove costly.
With the exception of creating a brand to attract tourism to our shores, the various layers of Government in Australia have never shown an understanding of the value of brand. When compared to the Governments of Europe and North America, as well as many of our Asian neighbours, the Australian and State Governments have shown a lack of insight, leadership and commitment to developing and encouraging Australian business to leverage the value of brand. In the same way that mining minerals and metals for export without adding value fails to capture their true economic potential, not taking a leadership position to encourage business to develop brands for the global marketplace also fails to capture their true economic potential.
The argument (or at least rationalization) is that branding and capturing economic potential is up to individual businesses, and not a role of Government. But many countries with political leaders more astute to the value of brand have seen the economic benefits of encouraging and mentoring business to greater financial success in the global marketplace.
Now, in a move straight out of the script of political satire; Utopia, the NSW Government has issued a directive to replace the branding on all State cultural institutions with their own Waratah logo. At some simplistic level, the idea of leveraging the value of these institutions back to the Government must seem like a tempting proposition.
This move would see some of Australia’s most recognisable destinations including; the Opera House, Taronga Zoo, Sydney Olympic Park, the Art Gallery of NSW, the Australian Museum and Barangaroo replacing their unique branding with the NSW Government brand.
The directive was issued by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, informing many of the state’s most famous and loved institutions the Waratah was to be “the only brand identity” used on all communications including advertising and signage.
The directive (delivered by email) stipulates the Waratah must be used “prominently” on all advertising, project signage and external communications, and its to be the only such logo used. The directive applies to all NSW government departments, state-owned corporations, statutory authorities, advisory entities, councils under the Local Government Act and universities, and compliance is “mandatory”.
Many of these institutions have spent decades and millions of dollars building the equity that now exists with their brands. Taronga Zoo, Sydney Opera House and the Australian Museum are just three organisations that have successfully built national and international brand reputation and awareness.
A Sydney Opera House spokeswoman confirmed the iconic destination was informed of the directive by email. “The Opera House brand is itself a significant NSW government asset, and the Opera House has worked over many years to develop a strong brand with significant national and international reach,” the spokeswoman said.
And whilst brands are much more than just the logo that is their primary identifier, the choice of mark that represents the brand provides the cues to the market that represent the many layers of brand meaning.
The Sydney Opera House brand is one with global recognition. The beautifully designed brand identity has come to reflect a venue that is a highly regarded and important part of the Australian cultural landscape. It represents, among other things, the integrity, quality and diversity of the art performed there. It is seen as a place owned by the people of Sydney who are rightly proud of its global standing.
By replacing the current branding with the NSW Government Waratah, this highly valuable brand reputation is put at risk. As a political organisation responsible for delivering a whole range of services to society including roads, hospitals, education, taxes, etc. the NSW Government cannot possibly provide the same ‘ownership’ and guidance to the Opera House. Many of the layers of brand meaning that are currently associated with the Sydney Opera House brand, cannot be provided by the new brand; the NSW Government simply does not have ‘permission’ in the minds of the domestic and international markets to be in charge of the Opera House. And whilst the Government might rightly state that nothing will change in terms of the running of the Opera House, brands work on perception, and in this case the perception will undermine and devalue all that has been built over many years of hard work and investment.
Unfortunately the cynic in me no longer expect Government to understand or take a leadership position on brand in Australia. However, even I am floored by the shortsightedness of the NSW Government and their failure to understand the economic impact of this re-branding edict. The government brand must be kept for governmental purposes – it simply cannot be used to represent the unique and wonderful destination brands of Sydney without damaging their reputations.
David is the founder of Truly Deeply, a brand agency with 25 years experience working with brands to position them for growth. His deep expertise is in the creation of high engagement brands that attract the attention of their audience and stand out from their competitors. David has extensive experience working with corporate, retail, food & beverage and entrepreneurial clients. Find out more here
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