Why it works series - Crohn’s & Colitis UK’s brand identity
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Why it works series – Crohn’s & Colitis UK’s Brand Identity

Inflammatory Bowel Disease is a pain in the ass. Literally.

Encompassing a number of conditions that cause inflammation in the digestive system, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (or IBD) has two main forms: Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis (UC). Both Crohn’s and UC are chronic (or lifelong) conditions with no known cause or cure.

Each of them affects slightly different areas of the digestive system, with symptoms varying from person to person, though the most common include diarrhoea, stomach cramps, and having to endure terrible jokes about how IBD is a pain in the ass.

I was diagnosed with UC in 2014, then re-diagnosed with Crohn’s several years later. As anyone with either condition will know, IBD becomes a part of your identity, whether you like it or not. One organisation that understands this better than any other, and even incorporates it into their own identity, is Crohn’s & Colitis UK.

Founded in 1979, Crohn’s & Colitis UK is the UK’s leading charity for people with Crohn’s and UC. They provide information and support for people affected by IBD, fund research into its causes and treatments, and campaign for better healthcare for IBD sufferers. With over 40,000 members across the UK, and many thousands of non-members using their services, it’s clear that Crohn’s & Colitis UK are successfully attracting an audience in meaningful ways.

What is brand identity and why is it important?

Crohn’s & Colitis UK attracts such a large audience thanks to its brand identity. Now, ‘brand identity’ is a fairly vague term, so let’s get specific.

First and foremost, it is not your logo! Or rather, it’s much more than that. Pretty much anything that someone could know about your brand is part of its identity: name, values, website layout, the list goes on. If that sounds like a lot to consider, don’t fret! We’ve narrowed it down to two key components:

  • Visual Identity: not just how you look, but why you look like that
  • Tone of Voice: not just what you say, but how you say it

As we will see, Crohn’s & Colitis UK nails both its visual identity and its tone of voice, creating a brand that is identifiable, trusted, and sought-after.

Brand name and logo design

Let’s begin with visual identity, and two of its most recognisable aspects: brand name and logo design, shrewdly combined here for clarity and efficiency.

Image via Crohn’s & Colitis UK, with thanks

First, the brand name: Crohn’s & Colitis UK.

Simple, direct, informative. There’s no ambiguity here, no confusion over what the organisation is about or concerns itself with. For someone like myself, who contends with uncertainty every day (from when the next flare-up kicks in, to whether or not there will be any accessible toilets at hand once I’ve left the house), anything that tries to be transparent, to remove uncertainty even a little bit, has my appreciation.

It immediately engages the brand’s target audience (‘Crohn’s & Colitis’), and informs them about the scope of the charity’s operations and support networks (‘UK’). (‘UK’ also adds a sense of authority, don’t you think?) And how about that beautiful combination of syntax and alliteration? Any potential blandness is nullified for a name that is both pleasant on the ear and memorable.

Crucially, the name ‘Crohn’s & Colitis UK’ is immensely discoverable. It contains keywords its target audience will likely search when looking for information online. Indeed, a quick Google search shows Crohn’s & Colitis UK as the third and fifth top result when searching ‘Crohn’s disease’ and ‘ulcerative colitis’, respectively.

That’s all bases covered in the name alone!

The logo, like the name, is straightforward and explanatory, and follows the popular ‘wordmark’ trend of combining two usually distinct aspects of visual identity. Google and Netflix, for example, two of the world’s most recognisable brands, also combine their brand name and logo design.

The rounded, sans serif type is equally modern, and the muted purple colour scheme easy on the eye. Together, they communicate calmness and professionalism, anticipating the majority of Crohn’s & Colitis UK’s online audience: newly diagnosed IBD sufferers and their relations, anxiously searching for information about a scary and often embarrassing condition.

By appealing to the needs and experiences of their target audience in this way — and I speak from experience here — Crohn’s & Colitis UK ensures potential members, donors, and service users naturally gravitate towards their brand.

Website design

Let’s imagine one of those potential service users winds up clicking their way onto the Crohn’s & Colitis UK website. Yep, you guessed it: more brand identity, this time in the form of website design.

Website design includes everything from a website’s layout to its content to the ease of navigation through its pages. Often it’s overlooked or ill-thought out. Let’s have a look at how Crohn’s & Colitis UK gets it right, shall we?

I mean, look at that homepage — excellent stuff! It’s clear and navigable, bright and accessible, and brimming with information without feeling ‘busy’.

Best of all, though, the layout of the homepage prioritises that anxious, newly-diagnosed user (i.e. me, seven years ago) by emphasising helplines, instant support networks, and links to useful information. Right beneath the logo, for example, we see a page headed ‘About Crohn’s and Colitis’ — not an ‘About Us’ page or a donate button, but a page containing useful information about IBD.

Such carefully considered website design demonstrates Crohn’s & Colitis UK’s compassion for their audience and, as with its brand name and logo, an understanding of their audience’s wants and feelings. By putting people first, they are able to foster relationships rooted in trust and empathy.

Brand guidelines

Which leads us nicely to brand guidelines. Values, vision, and mission statements can all fall under brand guidelines. Crohn’s & Colitis UK addresses all three, but let’s focus on just one: its values — the principles the charity lives by and the standards that shape the way it works.

On its website, Crohn’s & Colitis UK lays out three core values:

Ambition, compassion, and being stronger together. All very admirable, for sure, but more than that, they are actionable.

The research the charity funds and conducts is testament to its ambition; the grassroots campaigns it spearheads attest to being stronger together. And if you needed more evidence of the charity’s compassion, here they are creating a safe and educational space for IBD sufferers to share their own stories:

Tone of voice

And while we’re here, why don’t we analyse the tone of voice in those brand guidelines?

In just three short paragraphs about the charity’s values, I feel reassured, calmed, and that I’m not alone in this struggle — and not only because of all the talk about expertise, listening, and community. There’s a wonderful balance here between the conversational and the formal, one that’s friendly but also authoritative.

They’re not afraid to be flexible with tone of voice either: in the charity’s mission statement, for example, the tone is bold and empowering (‘we are leading the fight against Crohn’s and Colitis’); in its information videos it’s more sensitive while remaining optimistic.

What this fluid tone of voice tells me is that there are people at the other end of this website, people running this charity, people who understand the nuances and complexities of my condition and experiences.

And because of that, I believe them when they say they’re here for me.

What can your business learn from Crohn’s & Colitis UK’s brand identity?

  • Brand identity is multifaceted. Yes, there’s lots to consider. But if you address every aspect of your brand’s identity, and understand how they all relate, you’ll soon see your hard work pay off.
  • It should reflect your audience’s needs and feelings. Think about your audience every step of the way. Even something as simple as typography can engage your audience in meaningful ways.
  • People respond to people. By showing the people behind the brand, you can begin to build relationships rooted in trust and empathy — all of which helps your business thrive.

Want to get the most out of your brand identity?

We can help! Brand identity is kind of our thing — from tone of voice to website design to the scary stuff we haven’t mentioned here like user experience, our services cover them all. Feel free to reach out to us, or check out the Helpful Stuff we’ve got over on our blog.