About Makaton

Makaton is a language programme designed to help people with learning or speaking difficulties. It combines speech and signing as one, supported by a library of symbols. Operating as an enterprising charity, Makaton generates income by selling training and learning resources, in addition to grants and donations. Established nearly 40 years ago, millions have since benefitted from the programme.

Despite its successes, our brief was to bring the benefits of Makaton to an even wider audience, by clarifying what they are and why they exist, increasing visibility, and integrating more deeply into everyday life, where the impact is felt most greatly.

Research and insight

We spoke to users and teachers, parents and carers, Makaton tutors and trainers, and the Charity staff and board members. We took a Makaton class and visited Makaton-friendly schools.

People described Makaton as life-changing, but simple to get started and fun to learn. But we also found that Makaton was often taught unofficially or incorrectly, weakening the impact of the programme and leading to lost revenue.

In addition to this, it became apparent that the previous brand name, ‘The Makaton Charity’, sent a confusing message. The primary audience aren’t donating to Makaton, they are the end-users: people start benefiting as soon as they start talking Makaton.

Strategy

Our insights led us to define three key strategic principles to deliver on the brief: 

Position Makaton as an officially recognised way of communicating; create a personality that conveys the simple joy of communication; and focus the organisation around a newly defined purpose to ‘give everyone a voice’.

Brand purpose

Give everyone a voice

Symbol

Speech and signing as one language

Just like Makaton does with language, we combined speaking and signing in one icon, with a hidden speech bubble created between the thumb and forefinger.

It’s a logo that anyone can sign, whether they know Makaton or not.

Strategy

Officially recognised

Designed to work as a universal seal of approval, the logo acts as kitemark for officially qualified teachers, certified trainers and accredited learning materials. And a proud positive symbol that recognises association for engaged advocates and everyday users.

Brand name

Let’s talk Makaton

We identified that the ‘charity’ part of the old brand name sent a confusing message. The audience aren’t donating to Makaton, they are the end-users: people start benefitting as soon as they start talking Makaton.

We dropped ‘Charity’ from the brand name, and activated ‘Makaton’ by prefixing it with ‘Let’s Talk’, changing the tone from institutional to conversational, while helping to demystify what Makaton is.

Brand personality

Joyfully simple. Proudly expressive

The identity communicates the positive energy and empowerment that Makaton enables. But also how fun and easy it is to get started. A conversational and active tone-of-voice captures this and reinforces the idea of getting people talking.

Simple typography puts language first; while expressive, authentic human imagery celebrates the Makaton community and their stories. A flexible colour palette, tied together with a distinctive yellow ‘pop’, gives the brand an uplifting, playful feel.

Conversation starters

To complete the toolkit, we decided to put Makaton’s very own signing library to work. By applying pre-existing drawings of core vocabulary to merchandise and business stationery, the brand is made accessible to end-users too, while also encouraging people to get talking at every touchpoint.

Brand launch

Spreading the word

To bring the brand into people’s hearts and minds, we designed a simple, hard-working launch campaign.

A weekly video brief to sign a topical word was promoted through social media using the hashtag #wetalkmakaton. Responses were aggregated on a simple website, which doubled-up as a dedicated home to announce the new brand.

As an ever-growing library of core vocabulary, and destination for an engaged community in one, the campaign website says everything a new user needs to know about Makaton: a platform to give everyone a voice, that anyone can be part of.

Photography by Nick David.

Results

The combined result of the rebrand and launch campaign were dramatic and immediate. In the first quarter after social media activity was up over 300% of target, and visits to online shop 160% of target