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Winning tips from three youth and children’s charities

Originally published: January 2018

Whether you’re carrying out a full rebrand or refreshing your existing brand, it needs careful thought and planning. MissionBox speaks to three youth and children’s charities to find out how they gave themselves a new look and feel, and what they learnt along the way.

Brook: Involve your service users

In March 2017, sexual health and wellbeing charity Brook rebranded to keep up with changes experienced by its target audience (under 25s). Young people face very different issues today than when the charity was established in the 1960s, with the internet giving easy access to online pornography, social networking sites leading to an increase in online bullying and feelings of anxiety, and sexually transmitted infections on the rise.

Over five months, Brook’s three-strong communications team worked with the chief executive to deliver a new three-year strategic plan. This included a refined vision to give young people access to high quality sexual health and wellbeing support, from improved relationships and sex education at school to iPads in Brook clinics to help service users feedback on the services they receive (and later down the line home STI testing kits.)

The strategy then fed into the new brand which aims to “give a more trailblazing, relevant feel,” explains Brook’s communications manager, Isabel Inman. Her team appointed marketing agency Six Red Squares to create a new logo, strapline and colour palette, which was applied to the website and publications as well as the charity's 18 clinics in England and Jersey.

To appeal to under 25s the new brand needed to be visual and eye-catching. The communications team worked with a photographer to set up photo shoots with young people in Bristol, Liverpool and London. The aim was to feature people that the audience could relate to. “We’re sending out a message to young people that we do understand them and we’re there to support them,” says Inman.

Success factors

Young people played a central role in the rebrand by giving feedback on the existing brand. Their view was that the charity previously had a “clinical” and “dated” look, and that messaging was inconsistent.

“Their feedback directly influenced the way we moved forward and made sure young people felt involved in the process,” says Inman. In surveys on the new brand, many young people described it as “fresh”, “dynamic”, “clever” and “simple”.

Post-launch, Brook is continuing to review the brand and seek young people’s input. “We’re continually updating and expanding our case studies told by young people and refreshing our image library to capture the diversity of those we work with,” explains Inman.

Lessons learned

Inman says it’s important to find the right people to work with: Brook initially started working with one creative agency, but decided they weren’t the right fit. “They need to be passionate and invested in your charity’s values.”

The Mix: Let your brand evolve

In March 2016, two charities (YouthNet and Get Connected) merged to form The Mix, which provides information and support to people under 25 on issues such as work, housing, mental health, drugs and relationships.

“Both organizations were doing the same thing for the same reason [supporting young people] — YouthNet through web resources and Get Connected with a telephone helpline — so it made sense to bring them together,” says Chris Martin, CEO at The Mix.

The new charity supports young people through a range of channels, including social media, the website, a peer community, phone helpline and counselling services. Trustees and senior management were keen that the new brand would reflect the mix of channels that young people can use to access information. The new name of the merged organisations 'The Mix' and the colourful logo were purposefully chosen to represent the wide-ranging support package on offer to young people.

It was also important to create a credible brand that young people could trust. "A lot of our web traffic comes through organic searches (people searching on issues rather than brand),” explains director of brand and innovation, Zoe Bailie, “so it is important they see that our content is worth valuing over other sources and they keep returning.”

The charity (which has a five-strong marketing communications team) worked with marketing agency M Six on a pro bono basis to develop the creatives and collateral for the brand. This involved input from young people, staff, volunteers, trustees and senior management. The Mix also developed new key messages and values to describe what the organization does and what it stands for.

One of the biggest challenges was appealing to a very wide-ranging target audience: 11-24 year-olds. Gender specific colours, for example, or playful bubble writing would risk alienating a large proportion of that group. And as it would take time to build brand recognition, the strapline needed to be crystal clear. The result was ‘Essential support for under 25s’, which also evolved from researching how young people describe themselves when searching online. “Most people said they search by their age, so we avoided words such as ‘youth’ and ‘young’”, says Bailie.

The brand is more than just a logo and strapline; it’s also about how it’s brought to life. Every quarter, the charity launches a new campaign on a key issue or supports a national awareness event. Just after the new brand was launched, for instance, the mental health awareness campaign Heads Together kicked off and The Mix registered to be a charity partner. That was a big win, says Bailie: “People who weren’t previously aware of the Mix were clicking on our website. We got lucky as we didn’t have the budget to generate that amount of interest through paid-for marketing.”

Brand development is ongoing, with staff speaking to young people from different demographics every quarter to hear their views on the brand. “It’s about deepening that brand awareness and filling in the gaps as we go,” explains Bailie. “We said from the start the brand would continue to evolve and be built by young people.”

The new brand has made a mark in the industry in 2017, with the charity shortlisted as a finalist for the Third Sector Brand Development award and winning The Drum Do it Day.

“These award successes make us feel confident that we’re moving in the right direction,” says Bailie. And the figures say it all: when the charities first came together, there were around 1.6 million unique users accessing the different support services. By 2018, this figure will have reached 2.5 million.

Success factors

Bailie recommends using the “onion layering effect,” as she calls it, to develop a new logo and collateral. “We invited feedback from different groups of people one by one. Once we spoke to each group, we provided feedback to the agency and layered on a little bit more of a tweak, which helped to validate the brand for the next group we spoke to.”

Lessons learned

Bailie says it’s important to brief agencies clearly and give them set parameters to work with: tell them the new brand must capture X, Y and Z about your organization and explain what your charity does. “When they present their ideas to you, be clear about what you like and what you don’t like so they can evolve their ideas.”

Barnardo’s: Real-life stories make for emotive viewing

In 2016, children’s charity Barnardo’s launched the Believe in Me campaign to refresh its brand during its 150th anniversary year. The charity won the Third Sector Brand Development award in 2017 for its efforts.

“It was about bringing Barnardo’s into the 21st century and making it feel more relevant. We wanted to reconnect with the general public by repositioning the way people talk about and view vulnerable children — shifting the narrative from victims to heroes,” explains Barnardo’s former director of policy and communications, Gill Holmes.

Established in the mid-1800s, the charity had changed its name in 1989 from Dr Barnardo’s to Barnardo’s and added the strapline ‘Believe in Children’ to the logo, to make sure people understood it was a children’s charity.

Fast forward 30 years, and it was time to give the charity a “new lick of paint,” says Holmes. Barnardo’s put several questions to agencies as part of a tendering process, including: How do you make a 150-year-old charity feel more modern? How do you get the slogan to mean something and get everyone believing in children?

Barnardo’s appointed FCB Inferno in February 2016, and the agency came up with the campaign name ‘Believe in Me’ which the charity liked because it echoed its existing slogan. “It was a neat way of taking our logo and translating it into something very modern,” explains Holmes.

Central to the campaign was a 60-second TV advert which launched in September 2016. The charity was keen to move away from shock tactics it had used in the past — for example, the iconic syringe image which displayed children as victims. Instead, the ad celebrates the lives of five young people — a dancer, ballerina, footballer, musician and martial artist — who are doing extraordinary things.

“We wanted viewers to tap into the idea that you can overcome anything, regardless of what happened at the beginning of your life story,” explains Holmes.

The charity set up focus groups with young people — who were keen to share their stories — to get input on the ad and to make sure the voices were authentic. As well as powerful footage and music, the ad featured quotes from real-life case studies, such as: ‘I’m not my 17 foster homes’. The charity was aware that the public may not notice all these statements when they first watched the ad, so they also shared the video on social media.

“We could see that people were replaying the video several times over on social,” says Holmes. “It created a layered effect: first you get the emotional buy-in with the music and the children, and then the more you watch it, you see those smaller details.”

Success factors

Holmes says ‘Believe in Me’ was one of the most successful campaigns in Barnardo’s history, though it was also the first time they’d used paid-for social media in their campaigns. “The campaign touched people’s emotions and gave them something to talk about — I think that was key to the campaign’s success,” explains Holmes.

But what about brand awareness? The charity saw a 4-6 percent increase (measured through quarterly brand tracking delivered by research house MMR) in people recognizing the slogan and campaign name and linking them with Barnardo’s. “It was a clever tactic using ‘Believe in Me’ as people got it and understood it, and we now own that space,” adds Holmes.

Lessons learned

Be brave and stick with your convictions, advises Holmes. “When you’re a big organization with lots of voices it’s easy to lose sight of your original idea because you’re trying to do marketing via democracy. That doesn’t necessarily work.”

Photo credit: Barnardo's campaign to refresh it brand during its 150th anniversary year

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MissionBox editorial content is offered as guidance only, and is not meant, nor should it be construed as, a replacement for certified, professional expertise.

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