After unifying all arms of the charity and rebranding last year, Sue Ryder is testing the water with its first brand-focused campaign to raise awareness of the services it provides.

By Lucy Tesseras, Marketing Week

Care charity Sue Ryder is launching its first ever brand campaign as it looks to raise awareness of the services it provides following the introduction of a new five-year strategy last year.

As part of the strategy, which is about providing more care to more people, Sue Ryder has rebranded and added bereavement to its mission, alongside palliative and neurological support.

Through the campaign, which poses the question ‘Why don’t we talk about death?’, the charity hopes to remove the taboo and encourage people to discuss their wishes before it’s too late.

“Death is an inevitable part of all our lives but in our society people are quite distant from it and don’t want to talk about it, so we’re hoping we can open up that conversation,” Angela Cummings, Sue Ryder’s deputy director of marketing, communications and digital services, tells Marketing Week.

“Because we don’t talk about death openly in this country, when someone dies people are not very well prepared. People told us there were questions they wanted answers to, but they didn’t know where to turn to get them.”

Part of the issue Sue Ryder discovered when assessing its brand was the fact people suffer from “charity shop blindness” and didn’t realise the full scope of the organisation. It has been working with Good Agency, which also created the campaign, to unify all aspects of its service under one strategy for the first time.

“Because people see us on the high street, when you ask them what we do [most people] say we run charity shops. We’re really keen to help people understand that we’re experts in dying and death and bereavement and that’s where we can add value.”

Sue Ryder provides palliative and neurological care from its specialist centres and hospices but this was seen as quite separate until recently.

“Our five-year strategy is about us providing more care to more people. In order to be able to do that – to get more support, more donations, and so that we can actually care for more people – we do need to strengthen our brand and we do need for people to understand that we’re experts in this area,” Cummings explains.

“We want people to know that if they are bereaved or they need support  they can actually come to us. I’m not sure at the moment people know that, unless they’ve been cared for at one of our hospices or neurological centres, so it’s just getting that message out there.”

Testing the power of marketing

The campaign, which is being tested in three locations across out-of-home, radio and digital, directs people to download a guide from the Sue Ryder website. Called ‘A better death’, it offers guidance on how to broach the subject, information about what might happen when people are close to death and things that can be arranged in advance, like planning a funeral and power of attorney. “All those things people perhaps don’t think about until they are very close to the end of their life,” adds Cummings.

The launch of Why don’t we talk about death? is the result of extensive research to understand what people who have lost someone would have wanted to know prior to their death.

“We tested out quite a number of headlines and posters, some of them were quite lighthearted and some of them were more hard hitting. My expectation was that people would probably prefer the more lighthearted ones but overwhelmingly people told us they just wanted us to be straight, to use the words ‘dying’ and ‘death’, not to be lighthearted about it – it’s going to happen to everybody and we need to talk about it really frankly.”

Sue Ryder will be assessing the impact of the campaign ahead of rolling it out on a wider scale to see whether the message is landing, if people are downloading the guide, whether any tweaks need to be made and if it drives awareness.

“Success would be if people are engaging with us through social media, if we get lots of downloads of the guide, if the research shows people who perhaps weren’t aware of what we did before are now more aware of what we’re doing,” she says. “Even if it’s only quite an incremental increase [to awareness], that would be a success for us and show that the campaign is something we’d want to roll out more widely.”

Anything that takes money away from the frontline, such as ad spend, has to be assessed incredibly thoroughly. “Our services always come first, we have to keep our services running so there is a balance and that’s why we’re not investing heavily [from the outset]. We’re testing this to see whether it works before we think about rolling it out [more widely],” she concludes.