Rebranding a charity involves a complex process of consultation and research. David Law of SomeOne talks to CR about the work that went into its new brand identity for The Children’s Society and the issues it hopes to address
The charity sector is every bit as competitive as any other ‘marketplace’. YouGov’s CharityIndex has become an important measure as charities compare their performance to their peers. Currently, the top three positions in the ‘Buzz’ index, which measures “whether people have heard good versus bad news about a charity in the previous two weeks” are held by Macmillan, Cancer Research and Help for Heroes.
When The Children’s Society found itself sliding down these rankings, it conducted an eight-month research project among staff, supporters, volunteers, the Church of England (with which it has close links) and even some of the children with which it works in order to define its core values and what people most valued about its work.
One of the findings of the research was a belief that a more impactful visual identity (the existing one was created 16 years ago) would help the charity achieve its aims of improving the lives of disadvantaged children. The charity then invited several studios in to present credentials with SomeOne chosen to carry out the project.
According to SomeOne’s co-founder and ECD David Law, the studio began with an extensive research project of its own which included running workshops with some of the children who are junior trustees of the charity. The children were asked what they thought a brand was and asked to identify the values they associated with The Children’s Society.
“The key thing we learned was that there was no common consensus over what the charity stood for or did,” Law says. “They didn’t have a common, guiding philosophy and that created duplication of activity, some internal political conflicts – which is all very common.”
“We took that research and created five key positioning statements,” Law continues. “Then we did another piece of research with a different set of stakeholders, taking them through all five. There was one which resonated the most which was the idea of ‘hard truths’. It’s about that fact that they can expose and address the hard truths that children face in society. So they fight inequality at the highest level by lobbying government while supporting children through their children’s centres. That’s the core thought that underpins everything.”
Law says that the studio then “consulted a lot with everyone involved. We walked everyone through every step along the way. And that’s what built the identity. The real change was organisational – getting them to talk to one another. The work from then on was fairy simple.”
The Children’s Society’s new lock-up featuring Swift for the serif and Benton as the sans. Law says that font choices were partly dictated by the licensing costs for webfonts
The resulting lock-up (above) is a very simple black and white, geometric form which, Law says, resembles the frontispiece of a book as well as referencing the idea of a story – that the Children’s Society sees itself as helping to change the stories of children’s lives. The reversed-out white block can be used to carry the charity’s mission statement of “We fight for change, supporting disadvantaged children to have better lives” as well as oppositional statements such as “Rights” and “Wrongs”.
Gift Aid card
Is it too stark? “The brand has to be front and centre whenever it is applied because they don’t have millions of pounds to spend,” Law says. “It has to communicate very strongly”. However, there will be many instances in which it won’t appear on its own but will be used alongside photography and illustration, he points out. Law says that there will also be “a softer version of it in the children’s centres – if it’s too harsh it doesn’t quite work there”. But the key consideration is to be bold in contexts which will be most valuable in terms of getting noticed by supporters, commissioners, funders and other key audiences.
A lot of charities in this sector use childlike elements in their identities – handwriting fonts, for example, or children’s drawings – but Law says they felt those elements were becoming clichéd and that they were anxious not to talk down to children. Besides, in a lot of cases the brand will not be aiming to communicate to children but to adults.
The new identiy as used in campaigning messages on Twitter and for the Twitter icon
Law makes the point that one of the reasons he believes that SomeOne was appointed by The Children’s Society was that the studio had not worked with a charity before. It has certainly produced a scheme which is very different to the prevailing trends in the sector. Michael Johnson wrote about those for us back in 2013, particularly the move toward “active” brands that are using terms such as ‘action’ or ‘support’ in their names now.
The Children’s Society has retained its name, but the new scheme allows it to make some very clear statements about what it does. Its graphic language successfully delivers on the core ‘hard truths’ message, particulalry online where SomeOne worked with Manifesto to build a clear, well organised site that works specially well on mobile. Is it a little too austere? It will be intriguing to see how its ‘softer’ version works in the children’s centres and how the use of illustration (Law says SomeOne is working with a team of young illustrators on this) will work with the mark.The Children’s Society will be rolling out the new brand gradually over the next year in order to help keep costs down, put value for money at the forefront and make sure it is implemented in the most effective way, according to SomeOne.
When it’s combined with emotive photography like this the mark certainly comes across as simple, clean and strong. And a huge improvement on what the charity had before.