The emotional support charity Samaritans unveiled a "humanised" logo this month to make itself appear more approachable to the public.
The charity started to consider refreshing its brand after internal research with Nottingham University in 2009 found that people were unsure when they could contact Samaritans. Chantel Scherer-Reid, its head of communications, says people do not have to be suicidal before they ring, despite the common misconception.
"We found that people have heard of Samaritans but are not sure when to call, which potentially alienates them," says Scherer-Reid. "This prompted us to look at what we're doing as an organisation."
She says that Samaritans, which comprises 201 federated charities under one name, also wanted to make sure it was acting consistently throughout the UK.
Samaritans commissioned Arthur Agency to conduct more research and help it develop new ideas. Rather than undertake a major rebrand it decided to have a brand 'refresh'.
"The research found that we're a highly recognised charity with a high recognition rate unprompted, so we did not want to change that," says Scherer-Reid. "Our volunteers take what they do very seriously and people get concerned when you start completely changing logos.
"We're not changing what we do - just making it obvious that callers will be talking to another human being who'll be listening and asking questions."
Much of the new visual identity was designed in-house to keep to an undisclosed small budget. The result is a deliberately informal logo with five treatments that look almost as if someone has been doodling while on the telephone - the charity name surrounded by brackets, with a line underneath it, encircled, inside a square and, for more restricted use on upbeat fundraising work, inside a starburst.
"We wanted the logo to be non- establishment because our volunteers are people like you and me - they are not professionals in uniforms," says Scherer-Reid. "We want to make people comfortable to call before they reach crisis - this logo conveys that we are a safe place."
EXPERT VIEW - SIMON MYERS, CO-FOUNDER AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE, FIGTREE
This is an attempt to 'humanise' the Samaritans brand through hand-drawn doodles and, in some instances, a handwritten font. It's a fair objective, but the execution falls short.
Both the doodles and handwritten font lack confidence and originality. They feel like apologetic accessories.
Because these changes do not consider the charity's entire identity, it is inevitable that they will have a limited impact.
It is doubtful whether they will help the Samaritans to be seen as "more relevant" or "more comfortable to call". There are more effective ways of achieving this, but they rely on more than minor graphic identity changes.
Why not get a British Olympic athlete who has struggled with the ups and downs of life to be the charity spokesperson? The recent Sainsbury's turnaround involved a new font - more importantly, it had Jamie Oliver.
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