Brand Canada requests bids for branding campaign

Steve’s breakdown: The government is asking marketing agencies to bid on the chance to work with the Privy Council office to come up with everything from new visual icons to music and colour schemes for a “whole of government” branding update, to renew the federal government’s image in everything from newspaper ads to Facebook pages.

No estimated dollar figure is in the documents, but bids are due Sept. 6 and the work is to be finished by March.

Down load the RFP document here => RattiReportRFP16

OTTAWA, Canada: The federal government wants to update its brand image for the modern socialmedia world, keeping symbols like the “Canada” wordmark, but competing better in a more crowded market of images and ideas.

The goal is “an exceptionally challenging idea” that will require unique co-operation among departments and agencies to work, says a veteran marketing consultant.

“It will require exceptional clarity about how we want to brand the government of Canada . and what we will do to live up to the promises the government is making,” said Josef Jurkovic, a partner in Ottawa’s Centre for Excellence in Communications, which provides training and consulting services to government groups and non-profits.

The outlines of a Privy Council Office plan to bring the federal government’s branding into the 21st century is described in bidding documents posted to the popular online contracting bulletinboard service called MERX.

The documents say the government’s brand symbols and rules for using them date from the 1980s (the wordmark itself is from the 1960s, though it was only used government-wide beginning in 1980) and might not be doing the job anymore. The only real update they’ve had in ages was in 2008, the documents say, when the Canadian flag in the wordmark was given a little animated wiggle when it appears in video ads.

“There is growing evidence that this approach may no longer best serve the public in today’s highly competitive advertising environment – in both the traditional media and the new and emerging communications environments,” the documents say.

“In the context of new technologies, where audiences are bombarded with a high volume of information, and based on findings from advertising pre-and post campaigns research, it has become evident that there is a need to refresh how the Government of Canada applies its corporate identity to paid advertising.”

That’s where the private sector comes in, with the government asking marketing agencies to bid on the chance to work with the Privy Council office to come up with everything from new visual icons to music and colour schemes for a “whole of government” branding update, to renew the federal government’s image in everything from newspaper ads to Facebook pages.

No estimated dollar figure is in the documents, but bids are due Sept. 6 and the work is to be finished by March. Cost only accounts for 20 per cent of the scoring system that’ll be used to pick a winner, with the experience and capabilities of the bidders making up the other 80 per cent.

“Given the scale and importance of this evolution in the Government advertising, the creative agency will work very closely with PCO and its stakeholders through the contract stages of development, testing, approvals and deployment,” the bid documents say.

Jurkovic, who was part of an effort late in the last decade to rebrand the public service as an employer and force for good in Canada, said the government is wise to keep its investment in recognizable symbols like the Canada wordmark, but branding goes far beyond graphics and jingles.

“It’s really all about the experience you have,” he said.

That’s a combination of the messages the government sends with all its communications – from prime ministerial speeches all the way down to pamphlets at employment centres – the way government offices and employees work when citizens need them, and the visual and sonic elements deliberately created by efforts such as this latest one, Jurkovic says. “People’s attitudes and perceptions of whatever that brand is are defined by their experiences.”

The government does so many things, and Canadians don’t look for the same qualities in their tax auditors, their sea biologists and their Statistics Canada employees selling packages of data derived from the census. Even in a domain like food, Jurkovic said, the people helping export Canadian wheat probably need a different image from the people inspecting what Canadians eat. Devising branding materials to serve all those purposes at once is very difficult.

“It is best to brand to specific audiences, taking account of their specific expectations and needs,” Jurkovic said.

That’s a creative problem. The organizational challenge is also huge, he said, with deputy ministers running their departments with a great deal of autonomy. Getting them all to get their thousands of workers to live up to the multi-faceted promises made by one government brand is very difficult.

And then when the government changes, there’s a seismic shift, he said. Conservatives think of the government differently from Liberals, who think of it differently from New Democrats, and somehow the established brand is supposed to change meanings abruptly. Kraft and Petro-Canada don’t have that problem.

Finally, Jurkovic said, most people already tend to see “the government” as a monolith (including provincial and municipal governments all in one mishmash of impressions), and urging Canadians on in that direction can backfire. For instance, an unpleasant experience with the Canada Revenue Agency can reflect poorly on innocent officials in the fisheries department who had nothing to do with it.

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