Earlier this month, Boscobel turned 40 years young. As you might expect, this milestone has prompted a lot of conversations and reflections about what’s changed, what hasn’t and what it takes to thrive for decades.
For one thing, I’m struck by the accelerating speed of change we see today. In the early days, companies created brands (and even websites) that remained unchanged for years; decades, even. Today, government contractors are operating in a rapidly changing, tech-driven, mature market. You must be ready and willing to reinvent your company and refresh your brand to stay relevant.
Some Changes are Dramatic
Federal government has experienced tremendous change over the years – and it continues to evolve now more than ever.
Demographics, for example, are starting to shift for government executives. Baby Boomers are finally retiring from government service and younger professionals are (slowly) moving into the government workforce. Government still trends older than commercial companies, but the average age is starting to decline. This means your brand and messaging will need to resonate with younger decision makers and program managers.
Media has exploded over the past 30 years. In the 1980s, deregulation paved the way for the first media mega-companies, who favored competition over public interest. The internet and cable TV, including CNN, were born. Social media emerged in the 2000s. Today, the lines between print, radio, television, video and web are blurred – with a 24/7 news cycle populated by professional journalists, industry experts, interested citizens and bloggers. As the 2018 Federal Media and Market Study reminds us, there is a preponderance of government, business, technology and lifestyle media properties that reach government decisionmakers. But remember… the reputation of each media outlet reflects (positively or negatively) on your brand.
The government market itself has evolved and matured. In the mid-90s, large diverse conglomerates and telecommunications companies were featured prominently on the first Washington Technology Top 100 list of government contractors. As government increasingly adopted commercial technologies and best practices, commercial companies built out government practices and government contractors scrambled to build or buy agile development shops, cloud capabilities and cybersecurity solutions. What’s left is a mature market of relatively undifferentiated technologies, making brand consistency and authenticity more important than ever.
Some Things Don’t Change
Beneath headlines announcing federal market trends and industry developments, the fundamentals of branding and marketing don’t change. One truth is that government executives are people, too —with all the wonderful preferences, quirks and behaviors that come from being human. Your brand and marketing messages must speak to the human professionals who are meant to hear them.
Though media properties and marketing channels have vastly transformed over the years, you still need to know where your audience is. Even the most personal, well-crafted marketing message will do nothing if you fail to present it to the people who are meant to hear it. As Lisa Dezzutti, CEO of Market Connections, puts it, “The trick is to make sure 1) you have the right message and 2) you’re reaching them with the right tool. You’ve got to be where your customers are.”
Finally, your brand is still your foundation, the essence of who you are. It’s one of the first and most lasting impressions of your company. The strongest government contractors value brand consistency across all touchpoints – online and in person, internal and external, and across all marketing, business development, procurement, recruiting and executive interactions. As you adapt and reinvent your company, refresh your brand to accurately reflect your organization while remaining authentic.
Reinventions and Brand Refreshes
At least annually, audit your visual and verbal brand to make sure it’s aligned with your corporate mission. Is your logo contemporary? Does your company slogan accurately convey how you help your customers? Does your tagline connect with the people you want to inspire?
In our fast-moving market, an annual brand review may not be enough. You may need a brand refresh when your company:
- Hires new leadership that changes company direction
- Completes a merger or acquisition that introduces a new customer base, market or service capability
- Graduates from the 8(a) or a HUB Zone program
- Extends its solution set through strategic partners, acquired capability or organic growth
- Recruits or sells to a changed demographic
When appropriate, refresh your logo, update your corporate capabilities, build out your social graphics library, create video brand assets or other elements you need. Be sure your changes align with your brand hierarchy, to keep your brand authentic and compelling.
We all need to stay fresh and reinvent ourselves to remain competitive. When Boscobel was just 10 years old, I shifted the business focus away from business-to-consumer marketing and PR to a business-to-government focus. It’s been a tremendously rewarding journey and I couldn’t be prouder of our clients, our team and our many shared accomplishments over the years.
If you’re considering a brand refresh, please let me know. We’re here to help.