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Battersea's journey to brand revitalisation

Battersea is fortunate to have a much-loved brand and such strong recognition, particularly with an older demographic who have grown up hearing references to ‘the Dogs Home’. So why the need to review a brand that already stands out amongst so many other charities? 

The simple answer is a need that many charities will identify with, and that’s the need to inspire new people to engage with us - to rehome from us or donate to our cause. Research showed that prompted awareness of Battersea was 99% among over 55’s but significantly lower for younger ages.  

Modernising an established brand 

Established back in 1860, Battersea has gone from one home in London to three rescuing and rehoming centres around the country, growing in size and ambition to care for over three million pets in need. Our brand had not however, grown with us. The word ‘Home’ in our name played a role in compounding out of date perceptions, evoking a single physical building and a permanent sanctuary for animals. It didn’t represent everything we do as an organisation today. 

Among our existing audiences, understanding of the depth and breadth of Battersea’s work – from campaigning on welfare issues through to fundraising – was limited too. We’d last changed our logo in 2005 when we incorporated ‘cats’ into our name for the first time but our brand was not flexible enough to work on many digital applications that had emerged since that time.  

We were considered ‘established’ and ‘traditional’, reflecting our heritage, but less ‘positive’ or ‘modern’ than our competitors. It was high time to review how we connected with our audiences and bring people’s understanding of Battersea’s work up to date to increase our impact for dogs and cats that need our help. 

An agency collaboration 

Animal welfare charities, like many other charities, are investing in their brand in order to stay relevant, and we chose to work with Pentagram, an agency who brought a wealth of specialist expertise in brand strategy and identity design and had worked with a variety of not for profits. 

From the beginning Pentagram sought to get under the skin of Battersea, interviewing our volunteers and shadowing different functions of our organisations to gain a real insight into the work we do and the views of our own people. Independent, qualitative research was carried out with focus groups across the UK to find out what people think of Battersea. 

We worked with Pentagram to develop a brand strategy, tone of voice and visual identity that presents Battersea as both a compassionate caregiver and a leading authority in animal welfare, putting the charity’s multi-faceted offering at the centre of its story. 

A simpler approach 

Our approach was to strike out against some of the negative connotations associated with the language and tactics of the animal welfare sector, which often leans into a world of shock tactics, and euphemistic and sentimental language. Instead, the new Battersea brand deploys honest and straightforward language, expressed by a tone of voice that speaks with joy, principles, expertise and endeavour. 

A strategic decision was taken to drop the ‘Dogs & Cats Home’ descriptor from the majority of our communications. Taking ownership of the name Battersea allows us to describe a way of doing things rather than a place. It allowed us to be clear that our purpose goes beyond rehoming and a single location. Research showed that most people know us as Battersea in any case, and our website is battersea.org.uk.  

We placed emphasis on the charity’s commitment to unconditionally care for all dogs and cats, and developed a brand line that acts as a steadfast manifesto for Battersea: ‘Here for every dog and cat.’ 

Our visual identity 

The dynamic visual identity created by Pentagram is intended to be contemporary and impactful with broad appeal. It uses a “family” of hand-drawn watercolour illustrations to humanely emphasise Battersea’s commitment to care for every dog and cat. Retaining Battersea’s signature blue, the watercolours—made up of five dogs and five cats—are used in varying combinations, giving Battersea the flexibility to tell a rich and diverse story across all of its platforms online and offline. 

It goes without saying that a rebrand is far more than a logo change – it’s about creating a whole identity that filters through every aspect of your organisation. A key focus while developing our identity was to create a brand that could flex and adapt based on the audience. This is particularly useful for Battersea’s public-facing programmes and fundraising initiatives, which lean into the joyful part of the brand personality. ‘Muddy Dog Challenge’, a fundraising event from Battersea, takes a playful spin on the master identity and uses tongue-in-cheek headlines to engage with its audience. We created a playful hand-drawn typeface to reflect the energy of the event.  

A positive outcome 

Rolling out the new brand at Battersea has been a huge exercise with brand inductions across the organisation still taking place at regular intervals, new photography shoots to expand our image library and retail applications being rolled out all the time, but early results show that our new brand has the individuality, impact, and flexibility needed to succeed digitally, as well as excite our existing supporters and engage more people to support us. The brand is starting to demonstrate its value as an income driver and we’re seeing improvements in the performance of a whole range of activities, from challenge event sign ups to direct marketing mail outs.  

Our charity saw our highest position on the YouGov Charity Index ‘buzz’ rankings in 2018, up three places from 2017. This is proof that our new identity is resonating with those who can help us achieve our vision, to be here for every dog and cat. 

Written by Sarah Matthews, Director of Marketing & Commercial, Battersea 

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