Published: 1 May 2020

Rebranding Scouts for a digital age: planning and managing a brand project

You’re a big charity brand. Everyone’s heard of you. But what happens when you’ve been around for so long and do so many different things that people no longer have a clear idea of who you are and what you do?

That’s the position Scouts found itself in, back in 2017. Our last major brand review had taken place in 2001, in a pre-digital age, before Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and since then the landscape had changed and we hadn’t changed with it. As a result, audience testing produced some sobering feedback: ‘Scouts are something from the 90s. They’re a bit invisible now. Kids are into other things.’ Ouch.

There were other challenges too. Visually, our brand was designed for print. Our logo didn’t work well at a small size or on social media. We were using a restrictive commercial font that lacked impact and clarity. Across our groups, districts, counties and nations, our identity had also begun to fragment. If we were going to continue to extend our reach, improve our relevance and reputation, then it was clear we would have to reimagine Scouts for a digital age.

Discover your benefit

We started with a single, fundamental question. Why did we exist?

We put a number of propositions out to test. Was our role to help people in the community? Was it to help young people make new friends or develop strong values? In the end, one proposition towered above the rest. We were there to help young people develop ‘skills for life’ – the employability, practical and character skills they needed to succeed.

We called ‘skills for life’ our rationale benefit – the tangible outcome you get from being a Scout. But there was something else too. It’s just as important that you uncover the emotional aspect of your brand. What makes people tick? What draws them to the brand? For this, we identified ‘belonging’ as our emotional benefit.

When there are more than 185,000 charities in the UK, it’s vital that your benefit is clear, and that your brand and strategy is built around this.

Engage, engage, engage

But an insight into your benefit alone isn’t enough. It’s vital that you take people on the journey. Under the expert guidance of our Director of Communications and Marketing, David Hamilton, we made time to consult with every part of the movement from running sessions with our trustees to visiting groups of six-year-old Beaver Scouts. Your brand has to ring true to people’s experience on the ground. Were young people learning skills to help them speak up, step forward and play their part? In short, yes they were. A key learning is not to use ‘brand-speak.’ Talk in plain terms about what you do and how you help people.

We formed a project team made up of staff and volunteers, and made sure that our nations were represented too. It was essential that we were seen as a single family of Scouts, while retaining some distinctive elements.

Preserve your heritage but think ‘digital first’

Finally, we looked at the visual identity. For this, we worked with a small but quite brilliant agency called NotOnSunday, supported by our Head of Creative, Kevin Yeates. They knew the challenge was to preserve our heritage, but make it feel contemporary and compelling too. We knew our iconic fleur de lis symbol would have to stay in some form. But it felt heraldic and antiquated. Thanks to some brilliant thinking, it was simplified into something that was still highly recognisable, but felt at home on a smartphone too.

A clear, accessible Google font (Nunito Sans) a bold set of colours and a conversational tone of voice (developed a little later with the tone of voice experts, We All Need Words) completed the package. Crucially, we were able to create a single, unified brand for all parts of the movement in the UK.

Align your strategy and brand

Long in advance, we’d fixed a date to launch our new strategy. But we agonised over the best moment to launch our new brand. Would putting it out on the same day be a distraction? Would the day simply become a conversation about a logo? In the end we chose to launch them together, and I’m glad we did. Your brand is a vehicle to deliver your strategic messages to your target audiences. Ideally your brand and strategy need to be perfectly aligned. Our strategy was also called skills for life and the day soon became about this simple, clear message.

Make it easy

You can have the best brand and identity in the world, but if you don’t make it easy for your members and supporters, you’ll struggle to embed your brand. We created a brand centre with templates, videos, images and a logo generator so Scouts could easily update their local assets, facilitating a self-service culture where people could create professional communications. We also built in a substantial transition period to minimise cost and disruption to local groups, while promoting the benefits of adopting the new brand.

Our results

The results really speak for themselves.

Our research told us parents would be 44% more likely to volunteer, based on seeing the new brand compared with the old, while those from BAME background said they were 69% more likely to send their children; and 14-18 year olds said they were a third more likely to get involved.

In the end, not only did our membership increase in 2019-20, but we saw a significant jump in our relevance: 61% of the public now believe we play relevant part in today’s society compared with just 47% back in 2017 (nfpSynergy). We picked up several accolades, including both Gold and Bronze at the Transform Europe Awards 2019 as well as a Special Commendation in the Third Sector Awards 2019 for Best Charity Rebrand. And the real test… whether it’s helping us achieve our aims and helping reach new and different people? So far, so good.


Chris James, brand and ambassador manager, Scouts

Chris is Scouts’ Brand and Ambassador Manager, and part of the team that developed and delivered the new Scouts brand. He’s presented at various charity conferences and events on the power of brand and influencers.