You may have noticed that the RSPB has recently unveiled its latest logo. The only constant is change, as they say.
One of the reason that we regularly (if infrequently) update our image is to keep us relevant and in tune with the attitudes of the day. What worked in the 'seventies, for example, doesn't always work now. Just look at some old sitcoms or clothes for proof. We need to get people's thoughts away from the mistaken idea that the RSPB was once a sort of private gentlemen's club for birdwatchers, and more toward the concept of membership being a simple but very real and effective way that each and every one of us can contribute to saving the natural world for the creatures struggling to live in it right now, and for our children, grandchildren and beyond to enjoy it in the future.
When Emily Williamson formed the Society for the Protection of Birds in 1889 in response to the unnecessary deaths of thousands of birds simply to provide plumage for ladies' hats – the height of fashion at the time – she ultimately brought about massive changes not only in stopping this slaughter but in forcing people to think about the issue at all. This need to challenge people's thoughts (or lack of them) still goes on today, and the reasons behind it change too. Back then the Society's aim was simply to stop fashion hunting. Now we face much wider issues. The problems we're facing up to have changed, so the tools we use to face them must change too.
One of our first logos featured images of the birds that were hunted for their feathers, reflecting the main issue that they were fighting then. We've gone beyond that now and our new logo reflects that. The green stripe at the bottom of the new image indicates that the charity doesn't just aim to conserve the birds of the air but the land on which many of them live too. But we've kept the Avocet as a beacon of hope; its successful return from the brink of extinction is one of the most recognisable and high-profile success stories in our history. Embrace change but remember your past.
There's a lovely timeline of our logos, showing how they've progressed over the years. Each of the major RSPB reserves now has there own logo too, a version of the main new one with their site name attached.
I hope that they'll do these as a pin badge collection. Wouldn't that be a great idea? Most birders are collectors at heart so it would be a perfect match. People would visit more sites in the hope of bagging more badges. Or perhaps even t-shirts too. I can imagine the typical birder conversation.
“How did your Wales trip go?”
“Great thanks. I ticked off Dee Estuary, Conwy and Lake Vyrnwy. I dipped out on Ynys-Hir though.”
“Ah that's sad. Been there but not got the t-shirt.”
“Exactly that. They were gone by the time we got there.”
How many of us have said that last line on our birding trips?
Many birdwatchers – myself among them – are naturally resistant to change, but change isn't necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes it's required to shake things up, to break the status quo. Sometimes it stirs us from lethargy or makes us see things from a different point of view.
It's all too easy to be resistant, dismissive and cynical about these kind of changes, to sneer a knee-jerk “it's a waste of money”, but you'd be wrong. The simple truth is that these corporate rebrands work. Massively. They're not only cost effective but incredibly beneficial in the long run. Big companies don't get big by being stupid. They wouldn't spend large amounts on the cost of a rebrand without doing a huge amount of research beforehand to see that it's all going to be worthwhile.
For example, do you remember the RSPB's 'A Million Voices For Nature' logo that we had around ten years ago? Well that was so effective that membership has risen over 20% since then. That's brought in far more money than the initial cost of the campaign and – more importantly – has raised awareness of the issues nature faces, and put more public support behind our efforts to save the natural world.
This is probably a good time to remind you that all Views From The Shed are my own. They may or may not match those of the RSPB, my workmates on the reserve, my wife or someone who puts stuff on Facebook (so his 'facts' must be true, right?). For what it's worth, my view of the new RSPB logo is that it's a step in the right direction, it's fresh and will appeal to a broad audience. And if nothing else, it's going to look great on the branded clothing that they provide me. That won't be changing anytime soon though, which is a good thing as I've just received a nice new polo shirt. I wouldn't want to waste it. They tell me that it could take up to three years for the little things like this to be updated, just for that very reason. If the shirt (or whatever branded product) is in good condition, we won't be changing it just to keep up with things. It's a long term process to avoid waste. Again, this is a good thing.
This is the sixth rebrand that I've seen over the decades yet at heart they've all been based around wildlife artist Robert Gillmor's iconic Avocet design first used at the start of the 1970's. And if you want to see the beautiful bird that inspired it, then you need travel no further than our Old Moor reserve. There are some Avocets here, now. That's something you would have been very lucky to have seen anywhere in Britain, let alone in the Dearne Valley, before the RSPB was founded. But they're not the only birds on the reserve. It's time to look at the most recent sightings board...
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