Public Power Magazine

What’s In a Brand?

From the July-August 2016 issue (Vol. 74, No. 4) of Public Power

Originally published July 1, 2016

Going Public
By Meena Dayak
Vice President, Integrated Media and Communications, APPA
July 1, 2016

For about three years now, there’s been a raging controversy over whether the Washington Redskins should change their name. I am not about to take sides or get into whether the name is indeed offensive to Native Americans. But, what if the NFL’s team name was to change after 79 years? The team was born the Boston Braves in 1932 and became the Washington Redskins in 1937. I asked a few diehard fans, anticipating strong reactions.

To my surprise, the loyal fans did not protest as vehemently as I expected. I heard comments like:

“I wouldn’t like the name to change because it has a lot of history behind it, but it wouldn’t make me less of a fan.”

“I wouldn’t like if they changed it. But I would still be a loyal fan and would love the team the same.”

“It wouldn’t change the way I feel about the team. Fan for life!”

“They’d still be my team, by any name. But I’d always think of them as the Redskins.”

“It would be tough for me to wrap my head around a name change, but I would continue as a fan. The team is bigger than its name.”

“Bigger than its name.” Well said, Toby Sellier, APPA’s director of communications and media relations. And that is really what a brand is. It’s more than a name, logo, colors, or a tagline — which are all your brand’s identifiers. However, the brand itself is the essence of your organization. The brand is the promise you make to customers — and how you deliver on that promise.

When Southwest Airlines promises “Transfarency (low fares, nothing to hide),” it rings true because it defines the airline’s core philosophy. But few other airlines could get away with a similar claim, right?

A brand identity — whether it’s a team name or a tagline — becomes strong only when it’s built on a solid promise and foundation. Edith Bullard, senior VP of marketing and PR at PCI Communications said, “Strong brands build on strong foundations. It’s having clarity around the foundation that creates brands that last — like Coke, FedEX, etc. These brands set a course, and they don’t waver. The brand foundation can certainly be tweaked, but if the hard work has been done, it shouldn’t change significantly.”

You build a strong foundation based on brand differentiators — the unique features and/or benefits of a product or service that set it apart from the competition, Bullard said.

What is the public power brand differentiator? There are probably a few to choose from — affordability, reliability, customer service focus, environmental responsibility… At APPA, we’ve been doing a lot of research on branding and strategic thinking about the national public power brand. Our work has led us to believe that the key differentiator is community. We are in the community, by the community, and for the community (read Sue Kelly’s column on page 4 for more).

Once you identify your brand differentiators, you need to turn them into actions. If being environmentally responsible is your key differentiator, you’d want to invest in energy from renewables and offer energy efficiency programs. If customer care is your brand differentiator, you’d want to offer 24/7 access and multilingual services.

While these and more differentiators may all reflect your utility’s core values, you’d do well to zero in on one key differentiator upon which to build your brand identity. What would that differentiator be? We at APPA would love to hear what you think. And about what you’re doing to build your brand in your community. And about your suggestions for a new name for the Redskins. (OK, just kidding!)


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Joe Nipper, Senior Vice President, Regulatory Affairs and Communications
Meena Dayak, Vice President, Integrated Media & Communications
Paul Ciampoli, News Director
Jeannine Anderson, News Editor
Laura D’Alessandro, Editor, Integrated Media & Communications
Robert Thomas, Art Director




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Public Power (ISSN 0033-3654) is published six times a year by the American Public Power Association, 2451 Crystal Drive, Suite 1000, Arlington, VA 22202-4804. ©Copyright, 2015, American Public Power Association. Opinions expressed in articles are not necessarily policies of the association. For permission to reprint articles, contact Periodical postage paid in Arlington, VA, and additional mailing offices.