Case study: ReachOut.com
Australia’s leading online youth mental health service, ReachOut.com, helps young people under 25 overcome life’s obstacles, from the everyday, to the significant. The non–profit organisation delivers practical online tools and actionable information, making it easily accessible for young people to help themselves and their friends. ReachOut.com now attracts over 1.4 million visitors each year to it’s flagship website, by leveraging technology in innovative ways to attract and engage young people.
The design problem
In early 2011, there were a number of issues that warranted moving ahead with a rebrand.
In the decade since ReachOut.com launched, the upward trend on mental health advocacy had seen rise to a number of organisations, services and even brands, dedicated to seeing an improvement in the health and wellbeing of young people. ReachOut.com amongst this landscape was starting to lose it’s relevance, particularly as a voice relevant to youth culture. The design and user interface of the site was also becoming increasingly outdated.
A review of research and survey data identified that only 30% of young people experiencing mental health disorders were currently seeking help. The findings promoted the need for a redesign of the service, to ensure ReachOut.com connected to and engaged more young people, particularly young men. The culture of ReachOut.com has always been to collaborate with young people to create a service that is relevant to them, so, through extensive research and youth participation workshops, ReachOut.com arrived at a new service proposition and target market. The biggest change to ReachOut.com’s brand position, was a move towards focusing on the benefits of doing something positive for your mental health and wellbeing, not the pain, that comes with experiencing a tough time. The workshops concluded with young people requesting ReachOut.com make them feel accepted, confident, hopeful, relieved, motivated and reassured, by providing them with actionable help and advice, so that they could take control and do something positive themselves, about their mental health and wellbeing.
To increase the relevance, reach and impact of the service, ReachOut.com redirected their target audience to reach the 70% of young people that currently were not seeking help. Predominately this is young men, whom face a high degree of stigma towards mental health disorders, followed by young people who may not be experiencing a mental health problem, but could find the service useful for themselves or a friend, at some point. ReachOut.com concluded that to reach these people, the brand should present itself as the persona of a 25 yr old male friend – the casual expert – someone who gives solid advice, but delivers it in a way that is relatable and easy to understand. He lets you take control while promoting positive action.
Visually communicating the new ReachOut.com was in large, a response to the new service proposition – focusing on taking positive, actionable steps that would make the audience feel accepted, confident, hopeful, relieved, motivated and reassured; engaging a new, slightly male skewed audience – whilst helping to remove the stigma associated with mental health disorders; and regaining more credibility within the context of youth culture and the brand’s online presence.
A positive and approachable visual style was explored and developed to communicate the new proposition. Through a mostly bright, uplifting colour palette, complimented by celebratory, spirited typography / graphic elements and a sense of fluid movement in all of the brand’s assets, the identity shifted, from focusing on the negative aspect of a difficult situation to embracing the positivity of taking control.
To connect and engage with young people not seeking help, ReachOut.com also needed to communicate itself as an informative, yet approachable, casual expert – a slightly older mate who reassures you – he knows what you’re going through. Visually representing this persona was achieved by striking a balance between the above positive, approachable visual style and creating authoritative, male–friendly elements. Typefaces were selected to evoke confidence in the information presented and the masculinity of the persona. A shift from bright hues towards slightly more subdued colour hues was done to signify authenticity. Introducing navy and a warmer black to the palette were to convey empathy and knowledge. Gradients were removed as a way of reducing the softer feminine feel of the previous identity.
It was clear to me in reviewing the old identity and researching current trends in youth culture that ReachOut.com needed to modernise the way it visually expressed itself towards young people. The current generation are connected, creating content and communities with like–minded people across the globe – they respond to collaborative engagement with brands that are a creative, genuine and relevant voice. I responded visually by creating brand assets that were contemporary in style – illustrative, hand–made and tangible. Creativity and imaginative delivery were paramount to the brand look and feel appearing authentic and relevant. I wanted the audience to feel as though the elements were a tangible object they could pick up and rearrange – a collaboration of sorts – with the individual: creating a sense of momentum to act.
The rebrand was applied across both online and offline platforms – including an award–nominated website redesigned and developed with the new brand guidelines, by DTDigital.
Since the rebrand, ReachOut.com has seen an increase in unique visitors and engaged users of 27% from the previous year, and their social media channels continue to grow steadily in followers. Almost 50% of the young people that ReachOut.com interact with on social media channels are now young men. 75% of young people who used ReachOut.com reported that it helped them to better understand mental health issues. Nearly half said it helped them to seek professional help.