Published: 5 May 2010

Bringing your brand and your business strategy together

Dan Dufour reports on how Parkinson's UK managed their rebrand 

Aligning your brand with your business strategy is a smart move. Charities with this joined-up approach benefit from everyone not only working toward the same goals, but talking and hearing about them in the same, consistent terms – inside and outside the organisation.

When the Parkinson’s Disease Society rebranded as Parkinson’s UK, it was a natural time to review how it could make its brand work harder for the charity. Steve Ford, chief executive of Parkinson’s UK, outlined his organisation’s approach at the third charity Brand Breakfast. 

“More people needed to know what we stand for,” said Ford. “Although we’ve always been there for people with Parkinson’s, we had sometimes struggled to explain that in a clear, simple way.”

Getting staff on board 

Internally, people did not really understand or value parts of the charity with which they were unfamiliar. Local branches were expected to raise funds for local activities, and the national office was there to set the rules and raise money to fund its programmes. That created a divide, and resulted in a strained relationship.

The charity developed its Support for All programme to ensure everyone living with Parkinson's has access to the support they deserve. This required a significant increase in the numbers of locally-based staff, including a UK-wide network of information and support workers, who work closely with people affected by Parkinson's. The charity was moving forwards with confidence and ambition, but this important development to secure Support for All required an equally ambitious fundraising strategy.

“Because of all the work we were doing, what we’d called our brand was no longer appropriate and was holding us back,” said Ford. “We needed to refresh our strategy and reach out to everyone affected by Parkinson’s. We needed to raise more funds. A survey of our members also found there needed to be more urgency about the charity’s agenda.”

Research yourself

The first and most important stage, according to Ford, was comprehensive research.

“We had in-depth conversations with a range of different stakeholders: members, non-members, people who were newly diagnosed, politicians, health service staff, charity staff and the general public,” he said. “It gave the charity a sense of how people see the organisation now and how they wanted to see it in future.”

Establish your brand values

This research meant the charity could create a ‘brand platform’ outlining the brand values that define the way it talks about its vision, mission and core values throughout the organisation.

“Our brand values – short, simple, bold, bright and human – informed our creative approach to the new brand,” said Ford. “It came out of the research, which made it very much ours. The strongest aspect of the brand is the lives, the stories, the personalities, the courage and the sadness of people living with Parkinson’s – and the amazing staff who are doing great things.

Communicate your values in everything you do

The charity wanted to make sure the voice of people with Parkinson’s came through in everything it did. In campaign material and publications, pictures of people holding placards bearing the charity’s core messages are used. This is flexible and also gives the charity the feel of representing people in their own communities having their say.

“That’s what the stencil font is about,” said Ford. “It’s not a corporate brand, it belongs to people living with Parkinson’s and is part of how they get their messages across.”

Be consistent

Charities should take every opportunity to put their brand across, said Ford.

“Do that, and you will reach hundreds of thousands of people before you know it. There are lots of win-win situations. The brand gets local branches involved, it enthuses them and makes them more a part of things and binds them to this great charity.”

Set goals – and use your new brand values to explain them

The charity set itself the target of achieving six goals within five years, including the aim of raising more than £110m to meet the costs of delivering its ambitions. Staff, stakeholders, beneficiaries and the public can see these goals, and know exactly where they fit in.

“One of the most exciting aspects of the strategy is that you can go to a Parkinson’s branch in Barnsley, for example, and say: ‘This is the strategy – what’s your contribution to that?’ And each of these six goals is meaningful to them. What are we doing to fundraise? What are we doing to campaign? How can we get involved in the research? What are we doing to listen to people with Parkinson’s?

People really understand and are excited about the inspiration behind the charity because they can see their role within it.

Does your brand fit the bill?

The key issue for the charity’s board was not whether they liked the new brand for just how it looked. They wanted to know only that it had been tested and was fit for the purpose of giving the organisation an identity that would help it develop its strategy.

“We want to reach out to people living with Parkinson’s,” said Ford. “We want to raise £110m. We need a brand identity that will help us do that. Not a brand that absolutely everyone will like, or one that fits nicely on a badge, but one that will help us deliver our strategy.

“At the end of the day, that is what this is all about.”


Dan Dufour, brand strategist, The Team

Dan is one of the sector’s leading brand strategists. He has worked on brand development across all sectors including Rightmove, London 2012 and Cancer Research UK. He's best known for his award-winning work across all corners of the charity sector, including Shelter (Design Week Award), Parkinson’s UK (Design Effectiveness Award), RSPB (Third Sector Excellence Award) and Scope. Dan established CharityComms Brand Breakfast, proudly supported by The Teamand is an author of our best practice guides to branding and integrated communications.