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RNID’s brand development journey

1 November 2020

Action on Hearing Loss underwent a brand development process, alongside their new corporate strategy, from summer 2019 to winter 2020 to become RNID again. No easy feat in the midst of a global pandemic.

But engagement metrics had been in decline, people didn’t understand the charity’s role in modern society and audiences were confused about who we were and what we stood for. Something had to change and that’s where our challenge began.

Timing wise we were also embarking on a new corporate strategy, so it made sense for us to also review the brand and how they aligned.

Why now?
The focus on the daily issues deaf people have faced during the Covid-19 pandemic, such as the barriers to communication caused by face coverings and social isolation, highlighted the need for a stronger brand, which is why the charity is changing now.

“Connectivity” has become one of the most powerful words in today’s world. With video conferencing and voice-enabled technology, we can connect more easily with people, wherever they happen to be. But deaf people or those with hearing loss or tinnitus shouldn’t be excluded.

So when Covid-19 came along, the new brand positioning we’d been working on stood up well to the changing social context around us and it was more important than ever to keep pushing ahead.

How did we do it?
With determination, research and lots of support is the short answer.

Firstly, we developed two options for our future brand positioning together with naming options, this was in August 2019 before the pandemic was even on our radar. We worked with brand strategist Dan Dufour who also laid out the process and engaged our key stakeholders. The two options were then researched with our core audience groups.

We researched new names, old names and the existing name, but all the research pointed in one direction – our former name: RNID. The name still had higher awareness, was more trusted and was more associated with our rich heritage of achievements, dating back to 1911. The research was a turning point for us and gave us a clear path to follow.

Upon approval of the brand strategy, we then held a two-stage competitive pitch process to appoint a lead creative partner SomeOne London.

Three design concepts were researched with key audiences. The concept taken forward was preferred by all audiences and particularly by supporters and deaf people. It also performed better on two key metrics: appeal (the imagery appeals to
people like me) and fits with the purpose (it looks like they want to create an inclusive society).

Rebranding in practice
It became apparent early in the brand development journey, that the charity’s audiences of deaf people, and those with hearing loss or tinnitus, have different needs and aspirations. So we made the diversity of our communities a strength, by embracing it and making it part of the brand solution.

The concept based on making life more inclusive was preferred by a significant margin; 77% found it inspiring, jumping to 82% for supporters. This led to our new brand purpose: Together, we will make life fully inclusive for deaf people and those with hearing loss or tinnitus.

A new logo was made up of the initials R.N.I.D. with the ‘D’ turned into a smiley icon to show the charity’s positivity and to celebrate diversity. The font was updated and the main colours of RNID were set as green, neon green and white to stand out in the sector. There is also a secondary palette of mixed colours, so the tone can flex.

Photography styles also enable RNID to tell our whole brand story from social isolation to inclusion. They range from day-to-day life to portraiture and truly represent our communities as they feature real people with real connections to the cause. It might seem obvious but it is much more impactful when there are real stories behind our photography.

Meanwhile illustrations are made up of a diverse range of people which will allow us to tell more impactful stories especially now that we can’t meet people face to face properly.

When all the elements are united, they project a unique personality of a “positive protest”. Which means, we want to show people RNID is reliable and impactful. That our communities, and the individuals within them, can trust the brand, and feel empowered to change society for the better and inspire change.

We decided, as a result of the pandemic, to take a phased approach, so not everything is perfect for launch. No only due to the volume of changes we would need to make and the resources we had through furlough but we want to learn as we go and amend our guidelines, especially with additional accessibly requirements and our language. So as a start, we will be publishing our Tone of Voice document so that communities can feedback to what we have right – and what we have wrong.

A clear theme
We’re in this together. The concept of ‘togetherness’ is in every part of the RNID brand. Not as a repetitive single word, but in the rich territory of teamwork.

It’s in our purpose, our words, through our tone of voice pillars and accessible language and in our carefully chosen images that represent and inspire the wide range of people who support us.

Togetherness is at the heart of RNID. We know we can’t change the world alone. So we’re here to lead a movement. To unite communities, experts, researchers, families and friends.

Top tips

· Talk to people
You will need people on your side. Understand their worries and concerns and address them head on. Find out what your audiences actually wants, not what you or other people THINK they want.
· Ask for help
The amount of people involved in brand redevelopment is more than the people on one team. You’re working as one charity so ask for colleagues’ support.
· Make mistakes, but learn from them
We made mistakes. Lots of them but each time we learned what not to do and how to interpret that into our brand. Acknowledge you’re not perfect and be transparent about it, internally and externally.
· Look after your team
Going through a rebrand can, be challenging and overwhelming. Your team need to be focused and resilient but making sure their wellbeing comes first needs to be a priority.

Rebranding in COVID came with its own issues so here are three things we have tried to stick to…
· One thing at a time
There’s a lot coming at you, but focus on getting one task done before you move onto the next.
· Make sure you focus on something else
It’s easy to work 24/7 in a pandemic when you are working from home. Have a cut-off point and stick to it.
· Be flexible
Give yourself time, it won’t be the end of the world if the social post goes out in the morning or if a team mate needs to cover childcare. Give people space to breathe and to talk to you when they need extra support.

Lastly, keep smiling and stay positive, it’s challenging but we did it, together.

This case study is part of the CharityComms Brand 360 Best Practice Guide.

Cheryl Hughes

head of brand, Action on Hearing Loss