Government agencies carry reputations in the public imagination. Agency names, images, and icons help form a brand that conveys information about that agency’s competency in a given area of public policy. This article brings the concept of consumer-based brand equity from business marketing to public administration research on agency reputation. Like their commercial counterparts, public organizations may enjoy positive brand equity that provides political leverage and facilitates effective management, or negative brand equity that weakens an agency politically and frustrates administration. Just as different commercial products appeal to different kinds of consumers, an agency’s brand value might differ with various segments of the public. We adapt a classic model of consumer branding to the public administration context, developing a framework for analyzing citizen-based brand equity for public agencies. A series of experiments embedded in a national survey is then used to gauge brand favorability for four US federal agencies as first-order test of the concept. We find consistent evidence that agencies’ brands positively affect support for federal management, but also that partisanship conditions agencies’ brand favorability.
Unlike private firms, public agencies’ branding efforts are inexorably political. Consequently, the effects of branding on public perceptions are subject to the perennially potent partisanship that shapes public opinion in the United States.
Teodoro, Manuel P. & Seung-Ho An. 2018. “Citizen-Based Brand Equity: A Model and Experimental Evaluation,” Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 28(3): 321-338.