Sarah Woolnough: Lessons learnt six months into a rebrand  

30 Aug 2022 Voices

Half a year since rebranding as Asthma + Lung UK, the lung charity’s chief executive reflects on what they have learnt so far

Asthma + Lung UK logo

To the outside world, rebrands often start with a big bang. 

28 February, the day we unveiled Asthma + Lung UK to the world with a series of social media, media, supporter emails and other activity, was a culmination of many months of planning and consultation.  But the hard work doesn’t stop once the new brand is revealed. Rebranding is so much more than a new visual identity or logo and pulling it off well is a long game. We know that greater brand awareness, bringing new and existing supporters on our journey and meeting our strategy’s ambitions are vital elements that are tough to crack.  

Like many charities in the sector, the past few months have not been without their challenges. These include ensuring we attract talent in a competitive jobs market and dealing with issues around events fundraising. The fundraising landscape is complex – more working from home has led to a reduction in office fundraising activities and there have been changes to people’s appetite about participating in sporting fundraising events, perhaps because of societal changes brought on by Covid-19 restrictions that mean people are less likely to commit to future events. 

For these reasons, it is even more crucial that we keep momentum up around our new brand – to ensure we continue to appeal to our fundraising audiences, to grow our income and to ensure our brand stands out in our recruitment so we have the right staff to help us achieve our ambitions.  

Responding to challenges

So, what have we done to combat these challenges and ensure that we continue to promote our new brand and strategy? 

We’ve worked hard to keep our events portfolio diverse, offering a range of inclusive activities for people to take part in, including virtual events. We’ve reviewed all of our recruitment materials (job ads, job specs, recruitment web pages) to ensure that our new brand is presented clearly to potential candidates and emphasises the exciting opportunities that being part of a new brand can provide – with staff being able to really shape who we are and what we stand for and we have expanded our reward policy to attract new talent and engage our staff, including a new benefits platform and pension scheme.  

We have been focused on continuing to bring people, especially supporters and beneficiaries, along on the journey of our new brand, including offering reassurance that we support people with all lung conditions, not just asthma. 

To convey this, we’ve shared content on a range of conditions on social media and through our pipeline of media stories, covering issues about women being worst affected by asthma because of the impact of hormones on the condition, promoting a new mesothelioma drug we have funded development of which could help people live longer, and showing that we’re keeping the pressure on government and local leaders to clear the air we all breathe. We’re proud to have secured more than 6,000 pieces of on-message media coverage in the past six months.  

We also ran our first integrated brand campaign, Breath Is Life. The three-month campaign, which spanned radio, online media and billboards, got our new brand name, logo and what we stood for in front of millions of eyes and ears, by encouraging people to celebrate breathing and the everyday things we do with our lungs. The campaign exceeded its planned audience reach target by 19% and its engagement (in the form of click throughs and video views from digital advertising) outperformed benchmarks, resulting in new audiences visiting our new website. 

Increase in donations

We are really proud of how our new brand and strategy seems to be resonating with supporters. We’ve continued to support people through our helpline – supporting more than 16,000 people with their enquiries since the beginning of the year. And we are seeing that people are keen to support us too. Our online donations increased substantially after we launched our new brand and the average online donation increased by more than 70% when comparing the period before and after the rebrand. Our daily online donations increased straight after the launch too, by more than half. We’re really proud that our hard work has been recognised externally too – we are up for five charity sector awards, including Change Campaign of the Year for the rebrand.  

Of course, ensuring staff are engaged and supportive of the new brand and strategy is crucial. Around 87% of staff recommend Asthma +Lung UK as a good place to work (an increase of 25 percentage points in the past two years) and that following the rebrand 90% of staff say they feel positive about the future of the organisation. We have been busy embedding our five new staff values, which include courage, pushing for better and working as one. Staff have been attending workshops which deep-dive into each value and allow staff to explore what they mean to them and how we can live, and breathe, our values in our work.  

We know also that it is vital that we continue to raise our profile and our brand with partners to help us achieve our ambitions. We’ve been working with politicians across all parties to help us tackle air pollution and seized the opportunity to give the new brand its first showing in Westminster, with a week-long parliamentary engagement event for our Clear the Air campaign. We’ve been fostering relationships with new and existing corporate partners, including introducing a new clean air programme specifically focused on how companies can improve air quality.  

As I reflect on the past six months, I’m proud we have gone as far as we have in embedding our new brand and strategy and raising the profile of not just the charity, but its cause. We have brought staff, partners and supporters on our journey, raised our profile through media relations and above the line activity and continued to provide incredible support to our beneficiaries. But we can’t take our foot off the pedal – we know we have to keep telling people who we are, what we do and what needs to change. So, we will keep on banging the drum that we are here for everyone with a lung condition and breath is worth fighting for.

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