Many government entities, even today, can do a lot more to brand themselves successfully. The experience of governments in countries like Denmark has shown that appropriate branding results in a better functioning of some of the apparatus of a democratic society, such as public administrations and services, because the mission becomes clearer and government employees have a better understanding of their own roles, and of their customers.
Nongovernmental organizations, because they need to raise a broad awareness of their work and compete to raise funds, have had more long-standing experience with the process of branding themselves than State entities. Because they are motivated by causes rather than profit, they also tend to be “ahead of the curve” in focusing on issues such as environmental friendliness, ethics, animal rights, and sustainable development. This has an obvious impact on their operations, and also on their brands.
What about universities, churches, and museums? In Branded Nation, Professor James Twitchell examines the branding of these three types of institutions in the US. That they need branding as much as anything should come as no surprise. Universities, whether public or private, have multiple customers: prospective and current students; faculty and staff; alumni, who may donate money; and the general public, whose opinion of the school affects issues such as government funding, esteem for the professors and their publications, and how popular the school’s sports teams are.
A brand needs to address all of these groups. The school brand will be influenced by its location (or origin brand), the renown of its founders and leaders, the history and caliber of academic inquiry there, and (especially in the US) how well the football team does. Most schools measure academic performance factors obsessively, and the general public tends to follow the results with some interest. So in theory, marketers of university brands should have an easier job. But in practice the many stakeholders, and the general aloofness of academia concerning commercial things like brands, mean that anyone managing a university brand faces a big challenge.
It may seem odd, even heretical, to discuss the branding of religion, but in fact religious movements were some of the earliest adopters of signs and symbols, and religious leaders throughout the ages have had a good grasp of the correlation between a clear message and a loyal following.
Douglas Atkin, in The Culting of Brands, draws a persuasive (if slightly overstated) parallel between brand affinity and belonging to a religious group. The Bible contains a seminal lesson about idol worship that is instructive to brand managers: don’t bow down before the logo, but pay attention to the transcendent meaning of the brand and live by its dictums.
Recently, so-called megachurches in the US have found that ordinary branding, positioning, and marketing strategies work. There is nothing intrinsically different about a religious congregation that negates the rules of branding as they apply to any other organization.
Museums have many of the same issues, goals, and stakeholder groups as universities (minus the football teams, of course). They need to appeal not only to their regular patrons and supporters, but also to the general public, and to maintain esteem and funding in order to ensure that they continue to have the means of carrying out their stated mission of enlightenment. Some museums brand themselves as part of an establishment; others court controversy and try to keep their brand edgy. A clever few are able to appear edgy while reassuring the establishment.