Dementia poses one of the biggest challenges we face as a society
A view from Vivienne Francis

Dementia poses one of the biggest challenges we face as a society

Alzheimer's Society's director of marketing explains why the charity is finding a louder, more distinctive voice in its new brand campaign.

Most movements for change tend to be characterised by a sense of injustice that certain rights are being overlooked or not upheld. This sense is typically articulated at first by the few before, as others pick up on it, momentum builds which galvanises more people to help. And so it was for us.

During the rebranding of Alzheimer's Society earlier this year, I picked up on a sense of injustice among people affected by dementia which was building in intensity.

People were calling not only for the needs of those living with the condition to be better met, but for a wholesale transformation in the way that dementia was spoken about and regarded.

In simple terms, they wanted participation free from stigma and on their terms, and they were looking to Alzheimer's Society for a sense of fighting spirit.

I listened to pleas from one of our most ardent supporters, a woman called Shelagh Robinson, for a revolution in perception and a call to arms.

She argued passionately against society’s view of dementia as a condition to be hidden away and stigmatised and in favour of a new social acceptance that would empower individuals to be open and honest and champion those who say: ‘Yes, I have dementia and I’m OK.’

Her words often came back to me as we went through the rebranding process with our agency, Heavenly. And it was important to me that we reflected what Shelagh so clearly articulated. We spoke to countless other people living with dementia, too.

And these conversations informed the change from our old identity – one which, though trusted was viewed as institutional and cold – to our new one which is engaging, confident and clear-voiced with a sense of resistance imbued by our new, graffiti-inspired logo.  

This week, following our rebrand, we are now taking our next major step as a charity committed to driving forward the dementia movement with the launch of our "United against dementia" campaign – the biggest and boldest campaign in our history.

Our aim is to make dementia impossible to ignore. And our call to action is for everyone to set aside their differences and unite against a condition that is now set to be the 21st century’s biggest killer.

Developed by McCann London, the campaign is a natural extension of our rebrand and borne out of the sense of change and coming together encapsulated in the strapline.

The campaign spans TV, press, digital and social media, but an ad directed by Oscar and BAFTA-nominated Daniel Barber and voiced by acclaimed actor Bill Nighy sits at its heart.

This ad was conceived in a post-Brexit world. It plays on socially divisive issues including age, gender identity and whether people voted "in" or "out". But coming together of opposing pairs to join forces against dementia is what it is really about.

The campaign was also informed by research we conducted which revealed worryingly prevalent public misunderstanding of dementia and lack of understanding of the sheer scale and urgency of the issue: one third of people wrongly believe there is a cure, and only 22% of the population realise that dementia leads to death.

We also know that many people feel nothing can be done about dementia and there is a prevailing sense of apathy and hopelessness. One person develops dementia every three minutes – but so many are left to face it alone. But now we need to shift this mindset to one of hope and action.

Everyone has a role to play in the dementia movement. We need people to donate, fundraise, volunteer and campaign; to become Dementia Friends, and to work to create dementia-friendly communities.

Throughout the rebranding process, people affected by dementia have actively encouraged us to be more distinctive to propel this neglected condition into the spotlight. For me, this is the rallying cry and the voice of people living with the condition shines through in our new campaign.

Today more than ever, organisations need to stay true to those they represent. At Alzheimer’s Society, this means giving voice to some of the most vulnerable and neglected.

But it also means never giving up because big or small, there is something we can all do to defeat dementia. This is our clarion call: please unite with us against dementia today.

Vivienne Francis is director of marketing and external affairs at Alzheimer's Society