This Spring Blue Cross, the charity dedicated to helping sick, injured and homeless pets since 1897, launched a new brand to inspire a new generation of supporters. Dan Dufour, Head of Brand at The Good Agency, guides us through the brand development process step-by-step.
Blue Cross has an amazing history. Originally founded in 1897 as Our Dumb Friends League, it helped injured animals on the war fields of the Balkan, First and Second World Wars, conjuring up images of West End hit and Spielberg movie War Horse. It also established the world’s first animal hospital in 1906, which is still operating today in London’s Victoria.
Despite helping pets for 115 years the charity has low brand awareness (Number 50 in the Charity Brand Index), especially when compared to the Red Cross which is well known for helping people. It also has an aging donor base, like many charities.
Sadly for many people the blue cross is a symbol that represents a retail sale – like Debenhams – not help for pets. Until now. The charity has updated its brand identity for the first time in 60 years to put Blue Cross back on the map and in the public consciousness.
Debbie Curtis, Communications Development Manager at Blue Cross says: “In this competitive and uncertain economic environment we simply have to reach out to new supporters so that we can help more pets”.
Accessing the old brand and the need for change
The first step was to establish how much change was required. Was this to be a process or revolution or evolution?
Interviews were carried out with the charity’s Directors and Trustees to establish how they viewed the brand and to access their appetite for change. A communications audit of current materials was also carried out alongside an audit of other brands in the same marketplace, such as RSPCA, PDSA, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, Dogs Trust and Cats Protection League. The audit found that whilst Blue Cross had a consistent brand identity it was lacking in warmth and personality compared to other brands, which was desired by management.
Laying the strategic foundations
Perceptions based research with the charity’s main audiences – staff and volunteers, service users and supporters was carried out to inform the future brand direction. Importantly the process also focussed on the views of prospective future supporters. The charity has quite an old donor base, which is not atypical for charities, but has aspirations to broaden its appeal to pet lovers everywhere, including families and young professionals. A much harder sell if you know you’re fundraising.
The charity had prided itself on championing the relationship between people and their ‘companion animals’, terminology that it has used for many years. However, the research found that supporters’ didn’t really understand the phrase ‘companion animal’ and wanted a clearer focus on helping pets. This led to a new vision of ‘every pet will enjoy a healthy life in a happy home,’ and a brand essence of ‘healthy happy pets’.
Bring the brand to life creatively
Once the strategic foundations – vision, mission, values and essence – had been agreed the project progressed to creative development.
Research explored whether a name change was required to reach out to inspire and acquire new supporters. This established that the name was not a barrier to engagement and that knowledge of the charity’s heritage helped to build trust, a crucial element in building and encouraging support. The short and simple strapline ‘for pets’ was added alongside the name to add greater clarity as to what the Blue Cross symbol stands for.
Three concepts for a new visual identity (logo and supporting look and feel – colour palette, fonts, graphics and photography styles) and tone of voice (tone and style of language) were tested across all the audience segments, with particular attention paid to the views of the future potential support. The creative options were tested using more traditional qualitative (investigative) focus groups and a quantitative (statistical) online consumer panel to make sure the new brand would appeal to the right target audience segments.
One creative route came out as a clear preference across all audiences, including new ones. The new Blue Cross logo is softer and friendlier than before to reflect Blue Cross’ caring nature and to differentiate it from other pet welfare charities. The shape of the logo is used throughout designs to ensure the identity becomes instantly recognisable, even if the logo is covered up – a good test of a strong identity. There are three styles of photography within the guidelines to allow effective storytelling and fundraising – pets in need, Blue Cross in action, and healthy happy pets. The focus always being on the pet for emotion and to establish the important ‘aahh factor’.
Approval and Activation
Three Trustees sat on the Project Group together with key Directors and the Chief Executive and met with The Good Agency at key intervals. Having a small group of Trustees involved definitely helped when the new brand went to the full Trustees’ meeting for approval. Having the right statistical research data was also important to demonstrate the new brand could help achieve an increase in the charity’s market share and contribute to financial stability and growth.
The new brand identity built upon the values and motivations of donors has now been applied to a range of collateral – on and offline – and was launched at Crufts to widespread praise. A brand activation campaign is currently in development.
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Head of Business Development Nicole Parkinson
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