Creating a brand with social purpose
Sentinel Housing Association (now Vivid)
Sentinel Housing Association are one of Hampshires largest social housing providers. Formed by the merger of Oakfern and Hart Housing in 2000, the association has over 10,000 homes and invest approximately £70 million per year in building new and refurbishing existing stock, in addition to looking after the welfare of over 30,000 residents.
Our involvement with Sentinel started with the merger in 2000. Responsible for the naming strategy and brand identity creation, we continue to be the associations' go-to creative agency for strategy, identity and brand activation on and off line.
Thriving in the hearts and minds of the community
In 2000 we aligned the Sentinel brand and social purpose to create a joined up and unified proposition based on delivering first class homes and services from a friendly and approachable organisation with people at its heart.
The name itself derived from this essence – Sentinel – “a guardian whose job it is to keep watch”. A fitting name for an organisation responsible for keeping watch over and supporting its customers. The identity was developed in line with the strategy, a layered series of dots to signify the diversity of the new group with 2 highlighted colours, a token nod to the brands' dual association heritage.
The core purpose of the organisation remained the same until early 2013. As a result we have been instrumental in delivering tactical brand communications and campaigns to engage, inform and support Sentinel staff and residents.
Primary tactical objectives have varied and the brand messages have been in continual evolution, but the core purpose has remained the same. External facing tactical brand expressions have included resident leaflets, newsletters, brochures, annual reports, video, infographics, EDM, various sub-branding for initiatives, as well as various websites, both corporate and campaign led. Internally, we have managed strategic staff communications, including intranet and intranet awareness campaigns, video, sub-brands, interior branding, vehicle livery… and much more.
Over the last 17 years, the development and the consistency of the Sentinel brand has been very dear to our hearts.
In support of the strategic and creative delivery of the brand, we have also built an online customer portal that provides customers with the ability to view their rent statements, pay rent online and report a repair. We’re proud to say we were one of the first in the sector to go to market with such technology and online services.
Change at the top
In 2013 our 13 years of Sentinel brand guardianship was acknowledged by a brand review that discovered that the general public were more familiar with Sentinel than with any other housing association operating across Hampshire. 62% of those surveyed had heard of Sentinel and recognised the brand.
This review coincided with a new CEO taking the reigns. Although satisfied with the review results, we worked collaboratively to use the timing as an opportunity for change and progress. The identity remained the same, as did the purpose, but the positioning was refreshed and the brand activation style was modernised and made more fitting to work for a growing corporate audience, distancing Sentinel from the risk of looking like a traditional housing association.
To achieve our brand goals, we collaborated on a new corporate video and house photography style. This was used extensively in annual reports and online. We also undertook a tone of voice review and definition. This identified that Sentinel communications lacked clarity and warmth and didn’t use language people truly understood. The newly defined tone, still in use today, encourages the use of less words and jargon, a ‘don’t write it if you wouldn’t say it’ philosophy and also uses humour and friendliness as its core underpinning value.
In line with the changes since 2013, it became clear in 2015 that the existing corporate website was no longer a suitable fit for the direction the brand was moving. We worked with Sentinel to reposition the brand in-line with extensive changes happening within the social housing sector. The need to appeal to a wider and more corporate audience to attract funding opportunities became a key driver for the objectives and user journey off the Sentinel website.
In January 2017, the new Sentinel website went live. A modern, fresh and typically on-brand experience, the site clearly directs its audience types with clearly defined pathways, retains existing resident functionality, but now also includes an extensive property search and listing functionality, much more aligned with the private housing sector.
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Raising the roof
Sentinel is a living example of how we have enabled a brand to mean more through a relationship based on trust and collaboration. And we’re very proud to say that relationship remains as strong today as it has ever been.
Notable successes have included the new customer newsletter we created a content strategy and design for in 2009. The new ‘Spirit’ magazine led to an increase in customer engagement of 700%.
Since 2010, website users have increased by 52% with a reduced bounce rate of 28%.
Online transactions have continued to grow, facilitating over 800,000 between 2010 and today.
The business has won 3 Inspire awards and raised overall customer satisfaction figures from 74% in 2013 to 84% in 2016.
The future is looking Vivid
In November 2016 we were informed that Sentinel had been in discussions with First Wessex, another leading Housing Association based in Portsmouth, about merging to create a new group.
The decision to merge was confirmed in December with a planned official merger date of April 2017.
A credit to the strength of both businesses and brands, the new group shared a common social purpose and values, as well as appreciating that by coming together they could significantly increase their effectiveness and ability to deliver new homes.
After consultation with both groups, it was identified that the new association required a new name and identity. Although we had a long and proud association with Sentinel, the brand development was put out to tender, following an industry standard fair play process.
Committed as we always are to delivering effective strategic and creative outcomes for Sentinel, we took part in the pitch. Our submission, which included brand strategy, naming research and options, identity development and a selection of visual system suggestions was selected from over 500 tenders to be part of a final 3 for presentation to the newly merged board. After a one hour presentation and one hour back at the office, we were called to be told that we had been selected unanimously as the preferred strategic brand partner and the next phase of implementing ‘Vivid’ as the new name and identity was to begin immediately.
Since that day we have defined the brand identity, supported internal teams with its activation on interiors, signage, livery and customer communications. We are also in the process of rebranding our newly launched Sentinel website to Vivid, proud that our site is still regarded to be the online benchmark for the new group.
We look forward to developing a brand for Vivid that has the strength, advocacy and longevity of Sentinel.
View the Sentinel (now Vivid) website here
62% surveyed had heard of Sentinel and recognised the brand
Raised customer satisfaction figures from 74% in 2013 to 84% in 2016