|Break on through to the other side|
|Tuesday, 08 September 2009 12:44|
Charity is a competitive sector; cancer, one of its most crowded sub-sectors. So can a brand in the most competitive sub-sub-sector – breast cancer – penetrate the public consciousness? Robert Lester found out:
The charity sector is as competitive as it is compassionate, with thousands of organisations all desperate for donations and each cause arguably as worthwhile as the next. A strong brand that stands out from the crowd is vital, particularly when you are one of several charities campaigning in a very specific area.
That was the challenge facing Breakthrough Breast Cancer, a charity set up 18 years ago dedicated to the prevention, treatment and ultimate eradication of breast cancer.
The disease is now the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK with almost 6,000 women and about 300 men affected every year. As well as Breakthrough, Breast Cancer Care, Breast Cancer Campaign, Walk the Walk, Breast Cancer Haven and The Pink Ribbon Foundation, plus larger cancer charities such as Cancer Research, all campaign on the same issue.
Eighteen months ago, Breakthrough decided it needed to work harder to promote itself as an organisation. It found from its research that it had a large potential market but that the awareness and understanding of what it was and what it did was relatively low.
So it came up with a five-year strategy that included a defined set of objectives and quickly realised that it needed to improve its brand to help it achieve those aims.
Director of marketing and communications Fiona Hazell says: “A strong brand is important, both in terms of galvanising support from donors and for things like education and campaigning. We’re a fairly young charity and we’d done no work around our brand. It felt like the right time to do it – almost like a coming of age.
“We started off as a charity that was funding a dedicated research centre for breast cancer. We’ve gone from that to a £20m charity that’s funding groundbreaking research that has delivered five new treatments. We had a lot to say and our old brand didn’t do the job that we needed it to do.”
Breakthrough appointed consultancy Brandsmiths to develop a brand strategy in January 2008 following a three-way pitch. Hat-trick Design was then brought in last summer to develop a new visual identity for the charity.
Amy Frengley, a partner at Brandsmiths, says it soon became clear that the Breakthrough brand needed to be modernised: “They had been doing the same kind of thing and looking he same way for 10-odd years. While that was appropriate for the time, it was a fairly dusty and staid brand. There was some fantastic stuff there – the characters involved with the organisation and the supporters. We wanted to pull out those strengths again and bring people’s attention back to that. It just needed to be formally articulated.”
Brandsmiths initially had an open mind about whether to change the logo, which at the time was a purply-pink and featured a crocus – the first flower of spring – to signify renewal and revival. Frengley adds: The trouble was no one could discern that it was a crocus and were not aware of its meaning. It ended up being an accessory that wasn’t working.”
Brandsmiths and Hat-trick considered changing the colour of the logo entirely but research found that pink was a very strong signifier of breast cancer as a cause and it was agreed that it would be “too risky” to change it. However, the findings also indicated that people thought there was a “sea of pink” out there and that it was difficult to make the distinction between different organisations.
It was decided to use a bold pink to mirror the determined and optimistic brand values, attitude and personality that sit at the heart of the charity, and to cross the word ‘Breakthrough’ through the words ‘Breast Cancer’ at a 38-degree angle.
Creative director at Hat-trick Gareth Howat says: “We’re big believers in making sure the visual identity matches up with the strategy and we put a lot of time, effort and research into doing that. It was important that this idea about Breakthrough being bold came across in the visual identity.
“From a practical point of view, Breakthrough Breast Cancer is quite a long name. The idea of crossing out came directly from the name and the fact that they have a pro-active attitude – they are not a soft touch.”
Hazell feels that the dogged determination and never-give-up approach of everyone involved in the organisation did not come across in the old identity. “We wanted to bring alive that attitude, which is uite literally stamping out breast cancer,” she adds. “The angle is important because it represents our approach to how we tackle breast cancer.”
But the rebrand is about a lot more than just a logo change. Brandsmiths and Hat-trick came up with new language to be used in the charity’s literature and striking black and white imagery featuring breast cancer survivors, campaigners and staff.
The two consultancies devised a set of guidelines to ensure the message remains consistent and web development agency Torchbox was handed a brief to bring the brand alive online by revamping Breakthrough’s website. The new site includes interactive content and inspirational stories, and invites users to engage with the charity in a multitude of ways from fundraising to campaigning.
Hazell says: “We weren’t telling the stories of the millions of people out there who are affected by breast cancer. We needed to be a little bit prouder and not be scared to shout about what we’ve achieved.”
Another issue Breakthrough had to contend with was the fact that breast cancer is such a high-profile cause. Research found that because it gets so much attention, there was a danger that some potential donors would look to give their money elsewhere, meaning that it was essential for Breakthrough to have an effective dialogue with its stakeholders.
“Because breast cancer is quite widespread [as a cause], people are naturally attentive but that doesn’t always convert to donations,” says Frengley. “Some of the old literature was quite inconsistent and not very compelling. The imagery didn’t speak to supporters and started to feel like generic charity imagery, and people don’t respond well to that.”
The rebrand was delivered through a comprehensive review and development process, with each phase of work being tested on stakeholders, including supporters, potential supporters, volunteers, scientists, policy makers, MPs, healthcare professionals, staff and trustees.
“Our brand is about our organisation and we wanted to involve everyone,” adds Hazell. “We wanted to bring it alive both internally and externally and we did that from day one.” An advertising campaign featuring the new brand will run during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October.
Breakthrough’s five-year strategy aims to work towards the following outcomes: more people will be able to recognise the signs and symptoms of breast cancer and will receive an accurate and timely diagnosis; more people diagnosed with, or at risk of, breast cancer will be able to access the treatments and services that are most appropriate for their condition; treatments will be more effective – for more people the condition will not be life-threatening; patients’ experience of treatment and services will be improved and their quality of life maximised; more ways to prevent breast cancer will exist and more people will take measures to reduce their risk.
But the agencies felt that all of those messages needed to be encapsulated in one simple, clean and compelling new brand identity. “Quite often in the charity sector you get different people pulling in different directions,” says Howat. “We said you need to be quite single minded about this and get across a single message with the new brand. Charities often try to throw 10 messages at you rather than one. We think it’s about keeping it simple.”
Frengley adds: “Breakthrough have got a brand, in so far as what it stands for, that they can be really proud of. The new identity does a much better job of packaging and representing what the organisation is all about.”
Robert Jones, Wolff Olins
“I like the stridency of this. Too often, particularly in this field, charities feel they should look soft, polite and vaguely optimistic. This is different. Like our work with Macmillan Cancer Support, this identity says that cancer is not a taboo, that you don’t have to talk in a whisper, that actually it’s a subject to shout about. And the angled type – 38 degrees, apparently – will become a very recognisable asset of the charity, as you can already see on its website.But apart from a new logo, what’s new here? What is Breakthrough doing that’s new and different? People these days believe reality, not image, so any rebranding needs to be backed up by tangible new services or campaigns.”
David Gilbert, Nucleus
“The pink ribbon is now recognised and understood as a generic visual icon for breast cancer. This is both a blessing and a curse. When brands look the same and sound the same, how do you differentiate yourself from your peers?
The Breakthrough brand has retained that visual heritage with the use of pink, but opted for a breakaway proposition based on its pioneering values and outlook. It wants to be seen as hard-hitting, bold and determined, and to a certain extent it achieves that aim, especially online.
However, it is not yet a mould-breaking brand. Macmillan proves that it can be done, but it is still the exception. The Breakthrough brand has the potential to ature into something that is really memorable and perhaps even inspiring, but much hard work lies ahead.”
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