How the Alzheimer's Research rebrand 'got the juices flowing'

A reworking of its logo and of its messages appear to have improved awareness, writes Susannah Birkwood

The new logo
The new logo

In 2014, when Alzheimer's Research UK decided to launch a £100m, five-year fundraising appeal, the charity knew its brand was not up to the job.

It decided to launch the appeal anyway because it had to capitalise on the growing interest of the Prime Minister in the disease. So when Downing Street offered to have David Cameron announce the campaign at a dementia event being held in London in June 2014, the charity leapt at the chance.

It was only after this that ARUK realised it would need to rethink its brand if it was going to have a hope of raising the money by 2019. It embarked on a nine-month-long rebranding process, which ended in March 2014 and cost £150,000.

"Research is a tricky one to communicate at the best of times," says Tim Parry, the charity's director of communications and brand. "When you're talking about an area of health that people don't understand anyway, it's a real shot in the dark to try to get people to support that."

Focus groups

To shine some light on the public's perception of the charity, it hosted a series of focus groups with supporters and non- supporters, including people who had a connection to dementia.

"People felt that we were very scientific and we were credible, but they weren't really energised by us - we didn't really get their juices flowing," says Parry. "We also worked out that some of the arguments we were using for the existence of the charity don't actually work that well for people. For example, we know that the economic impact of dementia is huge - it's £24bn in the UK - but that number doesn't really mean anything to people."

What followed was a redesign of the charity's logo - introducing orange and bright blue in an attempt to convey more positivity - and a reworking of the messages the charity uses to talk about itself.

Parry feels that message-testing was one of the most valuable parts of the process. "I would advise all charities to have a look at what they're saying in their press releases about what the charity does and what ambitions it has," he says. "I thought I was telling our story in the most effective way for a number of years until I tested some of this stuff with the public and they said 'that doesn't make a lot of sense to me'."

ARUK also commissioned the polling company YouGov to carry out a survey of people's opinions of dementia. Only 23 per cent of respondents correctly stated that it was a disease that affected the brain. "Most people don't get what we're trying to deal with here," says Parry. "If people believe dementia is just a by-product of ageing, they believe there's nothing you can do about it."

The charity has since tried to communicate its cause area in language people can understand. In January it ran a YouTube campaign called #sharetheorange, fronted by the actor Christopher Ecclestone, which used an orange to illustrate the difference between a healthy brain and one affected by Alzheimer's.

"The difference between the brains is typically 140g - the weight of an orange," says Parry. "This showed people that it is a physical disease and helped to turn upside down the misconception that dementia is just a symptom of ageing."

Positive signs

ARUK has not yet carried out research on the impact of its rebrand, but the signs are positive one year on. The charity reported a 22 per cent rise in donations in the year to August 2015 and, Parry says, in January it made it into YouGov's annual CharityIndex, a list of the top 10 charity brands, coming two places above the Alzheimer's Society.

"We feel that we're now communicating about dementia in a way that no one ever really has before," says Parry.

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