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Building a brand to support a country grieving

14 December 2021

Grief.

It is a natural process, but it can be overwhelming. Which is why it is essential that when we experience grief, we can all get support.

Cruse has been the face of bereavement support for over 60 years and putting the needs of bereaved people first has always been at the heart of what we do. Even prior to the pandemic, we were focused on ensuring the support we offered was accessible for bereaved people across the UK. Our goal was to strengthen the support Cruse offered and ensure it was not only accessible, but was inclusive of all grieving people.

In 2019, Cruse, with the help of brand specialist Dan Dufour, embarked on a brand development journey, together with independent brand and creative agency Red Stone.

We researched and spoke to the people who mattered most: the bereaved people accessing support, the people providing the support, the 4,000-strong army of volunteers, the people behind the scenes at Cruse and the people who hadn’t yet heard of Cruse.

Brand strategy and positioning in the time of Covid

When the pandemic hit, the strategy had to pivot, like many brands. In fact, KPMG reported that 79% of CEOs reviewed their purpose as a result of Covid.

As the country faced death and grief on an unprecedented scale, Cruse was needed more than ever. Whilst service delivery was rightly the top priority, what became most important from a brand perspective, was creating something that was truly accessible. Spurred on by the disproportionate Covid deaths amongst the BAME community we wanted to be clear that we were a brand with Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at its heart. For people of all ages, from all walks of life.

At the start of 2021, Fiona Brydon, Director of Communications and Digital at Cruse, used the learnings of the pandemic to reframe the brand positioning around the idea ‘You’re Not Alone’ and the values Kind, Genuine, Inclusive and Ambitious. These new values tell people: Cruse’s helpline, trained volunteers, online chat feature and one-to-one sessions, are for everyone and anyone who is grieving. Grief doesn’t discriminate and neither does Cruse.

A Cruse Bereavement Support billboard with the message: When it feels like nobody else can find the words, we're here to talk it through

Naming

Starting out by running Cruse clubs for war widows, Cruse grew to help bereaved people across society and in times of crisis, such as after terrorist attacks. Now over 60 years old, Cruse is the leading national charity for bereaved people.

The word “Cruse” comes from a story in the Bible. During a famine a widow shared her last meal with a hungry stranger – the prophet Elijah. Because of her kindness, from then on, her earthenware jar – or ‘cruse’ – of oil was always miraculously full. Despite the origins of the story, today Cruse welcomes people of all faiths and those who are not religious.

During the brand development process we researched a range of names. Two things became apparent. Firstly, that the word ‘care’ in the name gave the wrong impression, as in the end-of-life sector it is commonly associated with palliative care. Secondly, with such a strong history there was a lot of recognition and affection for the existing name amongst existing volunteers, healthcare professionals, MPs and the media. To change the name completely would have been a risk. So a decision was made to make a subtle but significant shift to Cruse Bereavement Support, which is more descriptive of what the charity provides. The decision was to move away from the passive word ‘care’ to the active word ‘support’ – everyone can care about bereaved people, but support reflects the services delivered by Cruse. Now, we’re here to care for grieving people whilst also being here to listen, talk and offer practical and emotional support. Throughout the rebrand, we were adamant to ensure we were taking features from Cruse’s past that we are so greatly proud of, whilst also evolving to suit the needs of grieving people in 2021.

Cruse Bereavement Support brochures for 'Coping with loss' and 'Making a gift in your will to Cruse'

Creative

Using the brand proposition and values as a guide, Red Stone created a highly inclusive and accessible visual identity.

It was important the visual identity had a human touch, and so a logotype was created using a handwritten font aptly called Better Times. This is accompanied by a friendly serif font with rounded corners called Bitstream Cooper for headlines, and a sans serif font called Gilroy for body copy.

Accessible panels to house copy and photography, icons and underlining created by brushstrokes compliment the Better Times logotype.

Purple was retained as the primary colour. This has been accompanied by a palette of soft and vibrant colours, so the brand can flex in tone to express different emotions and from information and support to campaigning.

An example of some of the social messaging used by Cruse Bereavement Support. They read: 'I should be over it but I feel worse than ever', 'Grief can be overwhelming. You don't have to deal with it alone', and 'You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only option - Bob Marley'

Photography of people brings human warmth and authenticity to the brand. To show real life stories and the charity in action. Whilst abstract images of nature and textures can be used to convey more sensitive subjects, where using a photograph of a person isn’t appropriate.

Original commissioned illustration portrays people and objects, conveying warmth, understanding and empathy. Very much in-line with the values Kind, Genuine and Inclusive – we are showing individuals of diverse backgrounds who are not only white and able-bodied .

Another big part of the visual identity is a series of abstract shapes, which express different emotions and the complexity of grief that words alone cannot. They convey the idea that we experience different emotions, thoughts and feelings through bereavement. There is no linear process, or one size fits all solution. Everybody is different and everybody is entitled to support.

A brand for the future

Alongside the rebrand work Cruse also launched a redeveloped website using the National Lottery Digital Fund. The new site is home to new additional grief support, an online CruseChat feature for people to speak with a volunteer online – and a brand-new grief self-assessment tool.

Steven Wibberley, Chief Executive, Cruse Bereavement Support said:
“This is an important step for Cruse. As the UK’s leading bereavement charity, over the past 60 years we have supported hundreds of thousands of grieving people. As we emerge from the pandemic, the need for bereavement support will increase in the future. We now have a brand that everyone in Cruse can feel proud of. A brand that everyone had an opportunity to feed in to. And a brand that will leave a legacy of supporting and reaching more grieving people than ever before.”

This case study is part of the new Brand 360 charity best practice guide.

All images provided by Red Stone.

Dan Dufour

creative brand strategist, BrandDufour

Dan is specialist in brand purpose and 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, Parkinson’s UK, RSPB and Scope. Dan established CharityComms Brand Breakfast and is an author of our best practice guides to branding and integrated communications.

Fiona Brydon

Director of communications and digital, Cruse Bereavement Support

Fiona Brydon is Director of communications and digital at Cruse Bereavement Support and provides mentoring for charity communication professionals. She has been leading teams in marketing communications for over 10 years. Prior to joining the charity sector, she worked in theatre, film and television production, latterly at the BBC.