ZSL, London Zoo and Whipsnade Zoo
Helping ZSL step out of the shadows to take its rightful place on the world stage.
As an international conservation charity, ZSL have been building stronger connections to wildlife for 200 years. Through their zoos, conservation work in the field and world-leading research they protect critical species, restore healthy ecosystems, collaborate with communities around the world and inspire support for nature.
But for such a global player, known within the sector as a leader in its field, their brand wasn’t able to match and support the impact of their work. The brand had become unbalanced, supporting some areas of the organisation better than others, leaving external audiences unsure of what ZSL stood for and internal stakeholders at odds with the brand.
Internal research had highlighted the need for change in 2019, but our own in-depth consultation showed the problem went back further, at least twenty years. There was a clear and urgent need to deliver a tangible brand for ZSL capable of raising awareness and uniting the whole organisation together.
Research showed that as the organisation struggled to rebalance the brand, and support all areas of activity, they had fallen foul of brand soup, creating separate competing brands for every activity and initiative. A natural reaction to this would have been to re-centralise.
“As an organisation we are trying to preserve difference and diversity on a global scale, let’s do it internally too. Let’s not suppress difference, let’s value it.”
This quote drawn from an early staff engagement session proved to be a turning point for the project. It showed that a simple centralisation of the brand wouldn’t reflect the team’s needs, we had to define a brand purpose capable of providing a unifying anchor to the organisation, while providing different teams the freedom and tools to communicate in the right way for them and their audience without breaking the link to that anchor.
“What do you mean ‘you can’t see yourself in this’? You’re a conservationist just the same as me, everything you do supports conservation.”
This dramatic exchange proved a defining moment within a cross team co-creation workshop and a breakthrough in finding the central idea that could hold the organisation together.
As the original science-led conservation organisation ZSL had a unique perspective on both what conservation means and what it should deliver. To ZSL conservation isn’t a backward looking approach, preserving the world in aspic as it once was. But instead, a powerful movement driving forward to find ways to help us live better with wildlife and recover the wonder and diversity of nature.
That idea of conservation as a movement allowed the whole organisation to see that no matter what their individual role, from keeper to scientist, campaigner to marketeer, all could play their part in conservation as an enabler, driving recovery, together.
The more we drew out this uniqueness in ZSL's attitude and approach the more it became clear that to successfully shift perceptions of the brand, the team would need a new shared way to communicate, using emotive language and compelling storytelling. A new recovery focused narrative and flexible messaging platform empowers everyone at ZSL to speak with one voice.
With a clearer sense of what the brand stood for, ZSL needed an identity equally as unifying. We reconnected the organisation with its proud, shared heritage, using elements from past identities but injecting them with fresh energy and meaning to create a new logo as iconic as ZSL’s past and as bold as their future ambitions.
This new logo takes you through the sky, down past the canopy, across the ground and into the ocean. Every element of the ecosystem coming together, just as ZSL does, to drive forward on a journey of recovery.
The new ZSL identity was just the start, London Zoo, Whipsnade Zoo, the Institute of Zoology, conservation programmes, high-level partnerships and publications all needed fully updating to work within the new brand ecosystem.
A set destination, a shared vehicle, but different ways to get there – brand narrative, graphic system, colour palette and tone of voice all work to this principle. One font that can be soft and inviting, or precise and hard hitting; a personality full of warmth, care and passion but sometimes more full of one than another. And a hierarchy that sets out ZSL’s role clearly across every touchpoint, building stronger relationships between every facet of the brand.
Together these elements deliver a brand with proven impact. Initial testing shows audiences feel the brand is three times as impactful as the sector average. Impact that will be vital as the organisation looks to help save the natural world we love and depend upon.
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“At ZSL our unique insight and evidence-based approach underpins everything we do, RBL have helped us bring the same insight and innovation to our brand. As the crisis facing our natural world becomes more urgent, and the challenges more complex, it will take all of us working together to solve them. Our new identity, brand and storytelling approach will help us unite the conservation movement of today and inspire a life-long love of wildlife in the conservationists of tomorrow.”
Chief Marketing and Engagement Officer ZSL