SALEM — The Oregon Department of Agriculture has introduced a new logo, colors and tagline as part of a major rebranding effort that began last year and finished in March.
The ODA hired a Portland marketing firm, Coates Kokes, in July 2019, to lead the initiative, including staff interviews, focus groups and design development. The final product was originally supposed to be rolled out in April but was delayed until Aug. 10 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Alexis Taylor, ODA director, said the department's previous logo had not been updated in 30 years and no longer reflected its vision and mission.
Over the years, different programs within the ODA also created their own logos and marks which made it difficult to recognize the department as a whole, Taylor said.
"A majority of our staff and stakeholders agreed our previous marks and logos were confusing and unprofessional to our local, regional, national and international audiences," Taylor said. "We may have many different programs and people working all over the state, but all ODA staff work under the same vision and mission. A unified brand makes that more clear to employees and to our customers."
Taylor said the rebrand coincided with the department updating its five-year strategic plan in 2018. The strategic plan outlines the mission for the ODA — to ensure healthy natural resources, environment and economy for Oregonians through inspection and certification, regulation and promotion of food and agriculture.
That is what the department wanted its new visual identity to reflect, Taylor said.
Coates Kokes submitted the winning bid of $54,460. Taylor said the ODA has only two full-time communications staff handling media relations, web content, social media and graphic design, which would have made it difficult for them to create and implement a new brand in-house without a drop in service.
In addition, Taylor said the department "wanted a neutral and experienced creative agency that could see and consider our work using an outside perspective."
According to a breakdown of the project's budget, the largest sum — $17,520 — was spent on conducting staff interviews and focus groups with participants from several agricultural commodity groups, whose members regularly interact with the ODA.
Jeff Stone, executive director of the Oregon Association of Nurseries, said he was pleased with the rebrand. The OAN represents Oregon's $995 million greenhouse and nursery industry, the state's most valuable agricultural commodity.
"It's been 20 or 30 years since this thing was last addressed. Agriculture has changed a lot since then," Stone said. "I think it's a great time to re-tell the story of agriculture."
Tammy Dennee, legislative director for the Oregon Dairy Farmers Association and incoming executive director of the Oregon Cattlemen's Association, said the rebrand was internally driven by the ODA. She praised the new logo as simple in design but effective.
"Everything that is represented in that new brand is important to all sectors of agriculture," Dennee said. "It's part of who we are as an industry, in total."
The updated logo features three distinct elements symbolizing Oregon agriculture that combine to form the shape of an "O." The top section depicts a rising yellow sun, which the ODA says represents the vast wheat fields and livestock ranges of Eastern Oregon.
Green leaves illustrate Oregon's "fertile valleys, diversity of crops, growth and renewal," while blue is tied to Oregon's oceans, rivers, rain and commercial fishing, according to the ODA.
The tagline — "Protect. Promote. Prosper." — underlines the agency's work to help farms, businesses and communities prosper.
In an email to members of the state Board of Agriculture, Karla Valness, a special assistant to Taylor, said the rollout will initially focus on updating the ODA's digital presence "with minimal or no costs."
Valness wrote the agency is sensitive to budget constraints, given the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
"That translates into making financially conscious decisions, such as using all paper letterhead in the agency before transitioning to the new version or adding the new logo to printed brochures until the current supply is used," she wrote.
Stone said he was asked directly by the ODA if now was a good time to debut the rebrand, and supports the decision 100%.
"We're in the middle of a pandemic. Having something positive to do, other than the steady diet of bad news, was a relief," he said. "I think it reflects how agriculture has changed, and is changing."