A look at government branding

Dafydd Vaughan on 20 November 2008

A selection of UK government brandsA few days ago I came across an article about the branding of the Dutch Government. It appears that they are fed up of having different brand for each of their 200(ish) departments and ministries. Instead, they are developing a single ‘Government’ brand that will be used for everything the government does, irrespective of the government.

This strikes me as a great idea – not only could it save money by just having one brand instead of 200, but it could help people recognise the work that government does.

After reading the article, I decided to take a look at branding used by our government here in the UK. I surprised to learn about the sheer scale of central government and the huge number of brands in use.

The UK Government is comprised of around 45 departments & ministries (such as the Department for Transport and HM Treasury). It also has approximately 72 executive agencies – these are organisations that have a degree of autonomy but are still linked to a particular department (such as the Food Standards Agency, Office of Fair Trading and the Crown Prosecution Service). In addition to these, there are at, last count, 827 Non-Departmental Public Bodies (source: Cabinet Office, 2007). These are agencies that are sponsored by government to deliver a particular public service such as the Environment Agency, the various arts councils and the British Potato Council. You can find lists of the various departments / agencies on wikipedia (1 & 2).

It should be pointed out that this is just central government – it does not include local government (county councils etc), or the regional governments of Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland (or their associated public bodies). Furthermore; it does not include organisations such as the Police, Fire department or the NHS.

A large number of these organisations have their own branding – that’s nearly 1,000 different corporate images. The amount of money spent developing; maintaining and re-developing these brands must be astronomical.

The cabinet is regularly re-shuffled, which sometimes brings with it department splits, mergers, disbanding and creation. In the last few reshuffles for example, the Department for Constitutional Affairs merged with some parts of the Home Office to create the Ministry of Justice; the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) was split in half, becoming the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS); the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) was created; and the Office of Deputy Prime Minister became the Department for Communities and Local Government. Quite a few changes!

With each of these changes, an old brand has been retired, and new brands created. Gone are the Department for Constitutional Affairs, Department for Education and Skills, and the Office of Deputy Prime Minister. Now we have five new brands in government.

If the Government just had one brand – “HM Government” or “UK Government”, with just one logo, one typeface, one style, the amount of money that could be saved during each reshuffle could be huge.

Now I’m not suggesting that we replace all 944 brands with just one – that would be a bit draconian, however, a substantial slimming down of brands within central government makes a lot of sense. What do you think?