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Public engagement with food and drink

Colin Gifford, Design Director of Blast, describes ‘The Crunch’, a new initiative by the Wellcome Trust aiming to make people think about how our food, our health and our planet are all interconnected.

So much of the work of marketeers is founded on gaining a clear understanding of the audience. Once you have that understanding you can tailor your messaging, creative and distribution channels to that specific niche. But what do you do when there is no niche? How do you create a brand, a visual identity and a marketing campaign that can engage and inspire an audience that ranges from a four-year-old child to a leading food scientist?

This was precisely the challenge Wellcome Trust faced with ‘The Crunch’, a major new public engagement initiative about food and drink, which officially launches in March 2016. The Wellcome Trust’s Marketing Communications Project Manager, Lynn Huynh sees this as a significant new initiative, not only for the Trust, but also for the 15 project partners, and indeed for the UK as a whole. It will encompass the entire UK and will run throughout 2016; it involves communicating complicated topics to a very wide range of audiences, many of whom, for very valid reasons, do not have environment, nutrition and health as a high priority.

"Throughout 2016 The Crunch will reach a wide range of audiences across the UK."

Inspiring a nation

The future of food is one of the biggest challenges on our plate. Our relationship with food is changing, affecting our health and the world around us in new and uncertain ways. The Crunch aims to encourage the nation to explore these changes and connections to inspire us all to create a recipe for a happier, healthier future.

Throughout 2016 The Crunch will reach a wide range of audiences across the UK. It will produce and distribute more than 33,000 experiment kits to every school and FE college in the UK. It will reach more than 130,000 people through face-to-face events and thousands more through digital experiences. Interactive dialogue sessions will combine theatre and discussion, and it will develop a network of ambassadors, who will be empowered to deliver more grassroots activity.

The Wellcome Trust wanted to create a name, brand, visual identity and messaging style that would unite all involved and become even more than the sum of its parts. It wanted the name, look and feel to be contemporary, relevant and fun, allowing us to convey a serious message and inspire people to care about the issues surrounding food and drink.

The challenge

The team at Wellcome Trust brought in Blast, a creative design consultancy, to help them create the name, brand guidelines, visual identity, messaging and, together with digital partner agency Itineris, the website and all digital assets. Right from the outset it was clear that the core brand would need the flexibility and cohesion to be understood by audiences with very different levels of experience. It would need to use language that can be understood by the youngest and least informed without alienating the experts.

The danger with such a project is to settle on the lowest common denominator and so create a brand which is understood by all, but which is too simplistic or childish to inspire the more educated elements of the audience. The Crunch needs to be more than merely comprehensible, it also needs to engage and inspire; what excites a four-year-old is very different to what excites a food scientist.

Finding common ground

The first step is to identify the essence of the initiative that needs to be communicated to all audiences. For The Crunch this is the connections between our food, our health and our planet – elevating our thinking about our food and drink choices beyond our next meal and focusing on their wider implications. The next step is to create the key elements of the campaign, which will be used to engage people – the name, messaging, tone of voice and the visual identity. For example, ‘The Crunch’ as a name is fun and foody enough to appeal to children, but also has a second meaning around reaching the time for action on a serious topic, which also engages the adult audience.

Finding this common ground is not an easy or quick process. The team at Wellcome Trust and Blast had to think long and hard about the objectives and outcomes, consulting and communicating with all of the stakeholders, listening carefully to their views on the initiative and the essence of the brand.

"The Crunch logo is formed of three overlapping circles – representing food, health and environment - with a bite taken from it."

Crafting a flexible brand system

Once the core idea behind the brand is clear, the next step is to create a brand identity system and assets that communicate this idea and can be deployed in different ways to engage different audiences. All elements of the brand convey the concept of connections in some way. The Crunch logo, for example, is formed of three overlapping circles – representing food, health and environment - with a bite taken from it. It is a simple enough idea for children to understand, but it also offers the flexibility needed in order to deliver the concept and its messages in a more sophisticated way for the adult audience.

The resulting visual identity comprises hundreds of icons which can be used in combination to communicate everything from simple ideas to complex concepts. This flexibility not only helps to communicate the multitude of themes and topics covered by The Crunch, but importantly provides a flexible kit of parts – including illustrations and infographics - for all 15 delivery partners to use to communicate directly with their audiences.

People will experience the initiative through a range of events and online interactions and so the level of quality in the outputs is also very important – the detail makes a difference to how people perceive things. The Crunch’s brand elements, from the messaging to the visual assets, have been crafted to ensure that they appeal to a wide audience.

With the initiative running throughout 2016 it is early days for the brand and the project partners are now busy developing engaging content and provocations for their audiences. To kick it off Blast created a launch film to help to explain the initiative and the importance of the subject to the UK public. The film demonstrates the potential of the brand to communicate the key messages in a way that appeals to everyone and also shows its flexibility to work across all media.

Positive response

Creating a flexible, yet cohesive, brand is no mean task. Our stakeholders are responding very positively to the brand. Even at this early stage people are beginning to feel inspired by what The Crunch can achieve. We are looking forward to bringing even more people into this exciting and important conversation and are aiming to reshape the way we think about food, encouraging people with a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences feel informed, inspired and ready to act.

Colin Gifford is Design Director of Blast, 5 Hanover Yard, Noel Road, Islington, London N1 8YA 
Tel: +44 (0)20 7359 7422 

Partners in The Crunch: Aardman, At-Bristol Science Centre, The Eden Project, Itineris, Opinion Leader, SciChem, Theatre of Debate, University of the West of England, Bristol, Association for Science and Discovery Centres, Blast, Hopkins Van Mil, Look Left Look Right, Pearson, Sustain, University of Reading.

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