Our Views

What is the power of branding and communications to drive change?

On Friday 24 January, The Humblebrag founder Lucy, presented the launch of the book 'Branded Protest' written by Ingeborg and Klaus Kempenaars - and led on-stage dissections and discussions of the role of branding in protest movements. Here are just some of the insights shared.

“Branding can help to unify a movement and give protests a visual identity.”

On Friday 24 January, speaking to a sold out audience at Pakhuis De Zwijger, our founder Lucy von Sturmer had the honour of hosting the launch of the book: Branded Protest - created by designers Ingeborg Bloem and Klaus Kempenaars.

Setting the scene, Lucy opened with: 

“While the words branding and protest don’t necessarily sit comfortably together for everyone, the challenge for many cause-driven initiatives is how to bring many people together to unite and drive change.”

Branded Protest reflects on the collective use of symbols, slogans, logos, icons or physical actions that have allowed many people from across many corners of the globe to come together and express their collective discontent on an issue.

From Pussy Riot, the Arab Spring, Brexit, the Umbrella Uprising, Extinction Rebellion and Black Lives Matter, authors Ingeborg Bloem and Klaus Kempenaars emphasised the value of a coherent brand to drive a united voice.

The authors posit that to have effect and influence, you need others to amplify your voice, not just to hundreds or even thousands - but preferably millions. It’s all about reach.

One person can come up with a message, but what power does it have when no-one hears it? If you want a message to be heard by many, you need a group of people. Only a group can become the 'megaphone' for a message.

"You need to be recognisable for those who join, but also for politicians and fundraising," says Ingeborg. "That is where branding comes in; symbols, slogans, colors, type used in campaigns, multimedia, social media, on flags or on T-shirts." 

Incite action over hope

The evening called upon live case studies, framed around the theme of hope to inspire and drive change. First up was Extinction Rebellion’s co-founder Clare Farrell, together with Charlie Waterhouse, Clive Russell and Miles Glynn who outlined that asking people NOT to be hopeful, but instead demand action through rebellion, is key to their strategy. 

As designers, the original Extinction Rebellion arts circle offered insights on how - in such a short period of time - the brand has been able to travel to 72 countries in less than two years. 

“When we did the initial work, we had this all in mind. We needed to talk to people that normally wouldn’t support this kind of stuff. We intentionally created a framework that allows the brand to be picked up and run with, in many contexts and cultures.” 

A concrete example as to how they let the brand 'run loose’ whilst still retaining their bold, recognisable and consistent visual identity.

Build a brand on what you stand for - not what you’re against

Offering a different perspective, founder of Hope-Based Comms and Amnesty International’s former Head of Brand Thomas Coombes outlined why he acts as a guardian of ‘hope’ - not out of naivety, but as a smart strategy to inspire change. 

Thomas clarified that scientific research in neuroscience and psychology has proven that hope can lead to change, and told about how Amnesty adapted their communications strategy to build their brand based on what they stand for, rather than what they were against. 

“Our job in human rights is not to show people the nightmare, we have to tell them about the dream. We have to show them how things get better.”

A moment of perspective and the power of people

Creatives for Climate brand activist Mark Aink took the stage with an alternative message of hope. 

He posed that: “Our industrial revolution began only one minute ago, if the total existence of planet Earth would be scaled to 46 years - and this gives me hope. We have got the choice to do what we want to do with our next minute. And that’s our minute to choose and act.” 

Mark put in perspective the potential positive impact we all hold.

With that message in mind, authors Ingeborg and Klaus wrapped up the evening with a poignant statement for us all to take home:

“The power of the people is stronger than the people in power… and a good brand can help!”


Branded Protest is now available in-store or online here.

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