REQ Webinar Recap: A Fresh Look at B2G Branding

Experts weigh in on essential elements for successful B2G rebrands

Marketing to the government tends to be a lot less flashier than selling to consumers, but that doesn’t mean it has to be boring. Although most government agencies tend to like things pretty cut and dried, there are ways for your organization to stand out from the crowd.

Indeed, standing out is essential if you want to grow your business within the public sector. The question is how to differentiate your brand in a way that will appeal to your federal, state, and local customers.

REQ’s recent webinar, “Standing Out in a Sea of Sameness: A Fresh Look at B2G Branding,” answered that question and more. Co-hosted by REQ President Elizabeth Shea and Sue Kieth, corporate vice president of Ceres Talent/Landrum Talent Solutions, the event featured some of public sector marketing’s best and brightest minds. They shared insights, stories, and tips on processes and approaches for B2G companies looking to rebrand and break away from the competitive pack.

Let’s run down some of the top takeaways from the webinar, which you can also watch below.

Creating a Personal Connection

Rebranding is more than just designing a new logo or new colors and fonts. As REQ’s Creative Director Kenny Rufino put it, rebranding involves “an emotional connection and a reason to really believe in and feel connected to something. It’s about how customers and employees feel about an organization.”

Rikki Rogers, vice president of marketing at Voyatek, echoed that sentiment. "It’s important to keep in mind that your B2G buyers are still human beings, even though they might use exponentially more acronyms on a daily basis than the average human. When it comes to your brand content, website, sales collateral, and big picture messaging, keeping the messaging very human and appealing to emotion is still really important.”

Rogers’ rebranding journey started when her former company, GCOM, acquired OnCore and had to come up with a new name. They opted for an internal naming contest, encouraging employees to submit ideas. The contest made the renaming to Voyatek “feel like an organic decision that the company made together.”

Kathy Quinn, senior director of marketing at Everfox, also understood  assignment. “The most important thing that Everfox did in the process was to know from the get-go what were the core tenets or beliefs that we wanted represented in our brand and, equally important, knowing what we didn’t want to do.”

Fine-tuning Messaging for Different Audiences

Not all government audiences are the same. For example, messaging that might be appropriate for the military may not be right for civilian audiences. It’s important to customize messaging–and content–appropriately while keeping branding consistent.

“You can talk to different audiences, but it all ladders up to the overall brand, and the feeling remains the same,” explained Rufino. “A key deliverable for (REQ) is a messaging platform, where we outline how you talk to certain audiences, including internal to employees, and prospects–a base level that unifies and aligns everybody.”

Jordan Dilworth, director of marketing at Rise8, needed to ensure that Rise8’s messaging was consistent yet different for various customers, including government employees. “Fifty percent of our traffic is prospective employees, so we needed to appeal to multiple audiences, including various government agencies and departments. We felt it was important for our entire site to convey the same attitude and capabilities to all those different audiences, and the brand should appeal to all of them.”

“One thing we try to prioritize in our imagery is having images that are the customers of our customers, and representations of people that the customers we work with are serving,” explained Rogers. ”For example, in all of the messaging and marketing materials around our WIC (Women, Infants and Children) Product, we have pictures of moms and their babies, and we were really trying to avoid the traditional stock photography. I think that’s really important.” 

Activating the Brand

Branding is about more than messaging, words, or colors. It’s invoking about getting people excited about a company or invoking a feeling about what an organization represents. Those reactions come from a successful brand activation, which can take many forms.

“There are design components that are very important…(but companies need to) go beyond that,” said Rufino. “If you’re at an event, what does your presence look like? What kind of content might you have at that event? You can go through the exercise of creating a brand, but it’s the activation that brings it to life.”

Taking a page out of the B2C marketing playbook, Quinn and Everfox broke from B2G tradition and had some fun with the company’s rebrand. “We shared with employees stuffed animal foxes, with the Everfox kerchief on them–black and white, like our theme. We intended that to be a one-time use. (But) people have taken to the fox in a way that we did not expect. Now, our activation plan includes the fox.”

Everfox was formerly known as Forcepoint Federal. According to Quinn, creating the new brand was a “soup to nuts” operation that involved reconfiguring all collateral, including documents, videos, event booths, and more. “We had to rewrite a lot…because it is a different tone and different approach from our prior company.”

Lessons Learned

Rebranding is a major undertaking, and every project presents learning opportunities. Webinar panelists shared key takeaways from each of their efforts.

Quinn believes that keeping an open mind is essential to rebranding success. “When I first heard the name Everfox, I was like ‘hell no, I can’t ever see that being our company name.’  I was tempted to kick it out, but our brand company was like, “have an open mind,” and they were right.”

Being flexible is another benefit, according to Dilworth. “Since we broke up our (brand) evolution into phases, it allowed us in the RFP, to communicate that a single vendor might not get all phases. So that allowed vendors to play to their strength, and it was obvious on the RFP responses, that some were more interested in pieces of it, than others. This allowed us to evaluate vendors for each phase based on these capabilities.”

Rogers said that having a clear and firm process in place is important to keeping the rebrand on track. “If you’re choosing a new name, or even if you’re just designing a new logo, who is going to be the final decider? Who is going to be involved, and who is not going to be involved? I was really happy that we defined that early on in the process, and I think that is why we were able to come to a decision so quickly.”

Rogers also advised to “keep in mind that you really only control a portion of your brand. You can define your brand internally with look and feel and name, but ultimately your brand is determined by your reputation in the market and the work that you’re doing. You can have an amazing brand, but if you are performing really poorly in the market, or if you are not delivering results for your customers, your brand identity doesn’t really matter.”

To gain more of the panelists' insights and to watch a replay of the full webinar, please visit YouTube.

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