RNIB on breaking down barriers so people see the person not the sight loss

The charity saw its 150th anniversary as an opportunity to shed its  “institutional” image with a humorous new campaign and strategy that will see it become “an agent for change”.

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) is relaunching its brand as the charity overhauls not only its look but also its core values.

The charity campaigns for blind and partially-sighted people, provides advice and training to help with employment, and has an online community to connect those with sight loss and those closest to them. There is no plan for any of this to change but with the RNIB celebrating its 150th birthday this year, it took the milestone as an opportunity to reassess its motivations and goals.

The charity’s director of relationships, Sophie Castell, tells Marketing Week: “Sometimes a rebrand can be just changing a logo but for us this is really about looking at our vision and how can we shift from being a traditional service provider to being a gamechanger that empowers people.

“We took a step back to see how the world for blind and partially-sighted people has changed over the last 150 years and what our vision for the future was. Looking at us as an organisation and a brand, we are seen as a little bit institutional and old fashioned. For our 150th anniversary we asked, ‘How do we reintroduce the RNIB to the public?’. We wanted to communicate ourselves in this more modern, dynamic community-led way.”

A new strategy was developed around three pillars: equipping blind and partially-sighted people with skills, connecting communities and changing society’s attitude towards those with sight loss.

Castell explains: “We’ve come a long way over the last few decades but if you look at the facts – only one in four people of working age with sight loss is in employment, four out of every 10 blind or partially-sighted people feels cut off from society – there are still a lot of barriers that need breaking down. Part of that is encouraging broader society to see them as people first. We are saying see the person not the sight loss.”

The RNIB is also using its anniversary to launch a renewed focus on empowering the community. The new logo was created through a series of workshops with people with different sight conditions to ensure the logo is easier to read for a variety of different disabilities.

We wanted to able to portray a positive picture of blind and partially sighted people. Also to point out that not everybody who has sight loss has no sight.

Sophie Castell, RNIB

She explains: “The community needs to be spearheading what we do as well as being at the centre of it. We did consultations with our community to understand what their needs and aspirations were. Even down to the nitty gritty of developing the brand identity we started with blind and partially-sighted people.”

Alongside the rebrand, the charity is also launching a light-hearted campaign, created by The&Partnership, with posters that show that sight loss is not what defines someone nor does it stop them living their lives. Examples include: “I don’t get out much. Don’t blame my sight. Blame Love Island”.

The charity had two main goals with the campaign; firstly to make the cause of blind and partially people top of mind (and in turn the RNIB themselves) and secondly to dispel some of the myths around sight loss.

Castel says: “Humour felt like a very good angle to take on the type of messages we wanted to give.

“We wanted to able to portray a positive picture of blind and partially sighted people. Also to point out that not everybody who has sight loss has no sight. We wanted to be memorable and generate some talk value,” Castell says.

The organisation has also changed its tagline from ‘Supporting people with sight loss’ to ‘See differently’ to highlight its new focus.

She explains: “Our old tagline does what it says on the tin but in the context of our new strategy —where we want to be seen as this agent for change — it’s quite a passive line. See differently captures the dynamic gamechanger we want to be.”

Why a brand is a promise

Castell spent 11 years with Coca-Cola prior to joining the RNIB. She says that both commercial companies and charities have a lot to learn from each other but marketing can all be boiled down to the Jeff Bezos quote: “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

She explains: “I learnt my craft at Coca-Cola and I feel very strongly that a brand is not just a logo. For me that brand is how you express yourself and your reputation and your promise to people. I think that in the charity world there are more stakeholders that are involved but the essence of it is the same.“

Castell says “there is a lot of change in the air” when it comes to the charity sector, largely to do with baby boomers.

She explains: “They’ve invented every life stage – teens, work, and now retirement. That generation has high aspiration in terms of service and in turn an expectation of how a charity interacts with them. It’s less about the transaction. People don’t say, ‘I give you a donation and go do good work with it’ instead people want to feel more engaged and see exactly where it is going.”

Ultimately, she says that changing the way people see disability is why she gets up in the morning.”

She concludes: “People need to see beyond the disability at the person and that’s why I get up in the morning. In the end we all have our own unique strengths and weaknesses and it’s about society as a whole realising that.”

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