Samaritans is one of Britain’s best known charities, widely admired for its work in preventing suicide.
But early in the new century, it was hitting a wall. It wasn’t reaching the people most at risk of suicide, younger men. It had no big corporate sponsors. It was fragmented - it is in fact 203 separate charities. And it wanted to do more to break down society’s taboos around suicide and depression.
To break through these limits, Samaritans reinvented itself, from suicide helpline to emotional health charity. This wider and more positive remit was designed to broaden its appeal, unify its own people, and deepen its influence. Wolff Olins helped make this aspiration a reality, by updating the Samaritans brand around the idea of ‘stronger together’.
We developed a new way of communicating, showing what people can achieve ‘with Samaritans’, and a new look that took Samaritans out of the shadows of suicide, making it brighter and more central to everyday life. As part of the new brand Samaritans developed new services, providing for example emotional support to people in high-stress call centres.
On the strength of its new brand, it recruited 3000 volunteers in year one. The volunteer numbers have increased steadily by an average of 6% per year, reaching 18,000 in 2008. The new brand attracted big sponsors who would never before have wanted to be linked to Samaritans, including Royal & SunAlliance, Channel 4 and Vodafone.
The new Samaritans has received support from 34 high profile companies. Samaritans has successfully broadened its image: in 2007 80% of its users did not express suicidal feelings. It received just over 5 million contacts and generated an income of £9 million in 2008.