Published: 1 May 2020

Parkinson’s UK’s industry changing ‘Find a cure’ rebrand

Parkinson’s Disease Society was rebranded to Parkinson’s UK in 2010 with a new brand and corporate strategy, in one of the most successful brand projects of the last decade. Winning a Design Business Association Design Effectiveness Award for its impact surpassing all expectations for their five-year growth plan to raise more than £122 million. It’s ‘find a cure’ emphasis also changed the charity branding landscape and spurred a shift towards charity’s becoming seen as social movements.

Rooted in perception-based research which focused on finding out what existing and potential audiences thought and felt about the charity, what it did and stood for as well as how it presented itself. The findings informed a new brand strategy, vision, mission and values. Which in turn were built upon with a new five-year corporate strategy and goals.

As research showed people were confused about what the charity stood for and were much more interested in research that had been anticipated, and supporters said they ultimately wanted a cure, the charity used this insight in its rebrand. It became the first to use the word ‘cure’ and incorporate it into its vision statement and strapline (change attitudes, find a cure, join us).

From a creative perspective the charity became one of the first to evoke the attributes of a social movement, as part of their rebrand work with The Team. And inspired by the camaraderie of the Parkinson’s UK community the stencil typeface and placard photography were adopted to actively involve people in the branding. A move that has seen drawing design inspiration from protest graphics become a common feature of charity brand design ever since, from Alzheimer Society’s graffiti forget-me-not in 2017 to the unavoidable Extinction Rebellion in 2019.

Building on ‘find a cure’ further with 2020’s brand refresh 

After record growth Parkinson’s brand strategy had become a list of things the charity did accompanied by their brand guidelines, as people added new layers with corporate strategy reviews. But over the last couple of years the charity paused and took some time to realign their brand and new corporate strategy once again with a refreshed purpose, personality and proposition.

As brand marketing lead Zohra Vermani explains: “We had changed a lot since our rebrand in 2010 – we had a tenacious and pioneering spirit that we used everyday but we never showed. Brand leadership meant showing the organisation the rewards of re-building our brand in an authentic and powerful way, and to use this to grow brand appeal with new audiences.”

So how did they do it? Well, the charity started its brand refresh by creating a new attitudinal and behavioural audience segmentation to identify which audience segments could provide growth potential. This was done by conducting a quantitative survey followed by focus groups and the insights used to develop two brand positioning concepts (Pioneers of Progress and The People’s Revolutionary).

Zohra says: “The prevalence of Parkinson’s is relatively small compared to other conditions, so we began to explore whether there were new audiences we could inspire without forgetting our core. We found out that 47% of people who know us, and what we do, aren’t affected by Parkinson’s. This dispelled a commonly held belief that only people affected by Parkinson’s would ever support us. This showed there was a growth audience we could try to convert.”

Using this fresh research enabled Parkinson’s to finesse and turbo-charge their brand strategy, underpinned by key insights to ensure the brand strategy is authentic and differentiated. Something they continued to build upon when they also refreshed their visual identity with www.studiotexture.co.uk. This was then all put together to develop a clear brand personality and creative platform in the form of the core idea: ‘Breakthrough Force’. Demonstrating the gutsy and tenacious spirit of people living with Parkinson’s, who get on with their life against unimaginable barriers and the chairty’s own attitude towards finding a cure. ‘Breakthrough force’ takes the stencil font; breaking it up and cropping, it so the resulting shapes show people breaking out of them. Combined with an updated tone of voice that gives the Parkinson’s brand more energy and urgency the charity has been able to build on all the solid work from it’s former rebrand to refresh the organisation for the future.

Photo: studiotexture.co.uk

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


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.