Samaritans rebrands: 'It's not just about modernisation – its about relevance'

Samaritans rebrands: 'It's not just about modernisation – its about relevance'

Suicide prevention group, The Samaritans, has rebranded to better capture the mood of the nation, and extend the reach and relevance of the charity.

To deliver the new brand and website, the charity's in-house brand and design teams worked with agency Spencer du Bois on the brief. For the last 18 months, the team quizzed audiences: volunteers, callers, donors and supporters to find a relevant new direction that would increase the reach of the helpline, increase funding and appeal to younger audiences, in addition, to communicate how to deliver (or receive) support before a 'crisis point' is reached.

Although the charity was founded in 1953 by Chad Varah, today its volunteers answer a request for help every six seconds. However, in its previous form, it admitted that its relevance was waning, particularly with young people.

It landed on the green branding to symbolise positivity and hope, accompanied a modern and relevant font.

Speaking to The Drum, Max du Bois executive director of Spencer du Bois, said: "With an organisation with such an important history and that plays such a vital role, the consequences of putting a foot wrong are no less than catastrophic. One of the key challenges was extending the appeal of the brand to people with very, very different perspectives.

The views of existing - and potential - audiences influenced the design. The 'power of human connection' was one particularly relevant theme that resonated with both.

He noted that it had a "great, if dated and narrow, set of profoundly strong perception and a huge level of trust and integrity".

There was a desire from supports to see the charity do more messaging around 'stopping' or 'preventing suicide'. Du Bois pointed out that this could drive away those at crisis point looking to talk to the helpline.

The phrasing of the brand has been sensitised for modern tastes too, the brand mantra to ensure that 'that fewer people die by suicide' has been reframed to seeing 'that fewer people take their own life'.

The brand had to live on social to use the platform's reach to touch down with people in need. Du Bois said: "Creating a wider range of well-targeted messages and more engaging visual brand with greater visual impact and a wider range of assets allows the brand to be adapted to each campaign or opportunity or channel."

He concluded that the rebrand wasn't just about modernisation for its own sake – but increasing the relevance of the charity. "Bringing hope to life, with the life-affirming power of human connection, works on so many levels – it's a powerful positioning that so many people can engage with. It's a sad fact that in this increasingly 'digitally connected' world people are more disconnected, lonely and sad than ever before."

Claire Biscard, creative director of Spencer du Bois, discussed how the team had to navigate an extremely sensitive subject matter and "multiple highly opinionated and passionate stakeholders".

Her brief was as follows: "The perception is that the Samaritans is just a helpline. We broadened this out for a wider range or roles while increasing the strength and appeal of the 'listening service'."

Going forward, digital will play a big part in the brand's outreach.

"The concept of 'connection' flows throughout every detail of the brand – from the connector graphic in the logo to the layering of the system and the openness of the language. Positive qualities of humanity inspired the patterns and quirky details in the typeface (we created) reflect individual personalities.

"The system is designed to move and animate across all environments – whether it's a platform to tell your story on film, a framework to help re-connect with life-affirming moments on social media or physically building 3D environments to help us connect face to face. The layering of the system uses the connector graphics to build, grow and expand (a flexible, ever-changing kit of parts)."

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