From 2013-2015 I worked as the Creative Director for a non-profit organization. Here is an in-depth case study of the research, process, and results of a large brand redesign.
Case Study—Fight the New Drug
New research is showing that pornography is harmful. The reports show that porn can cause lasting effects on the brain and can form addiction-like behaviors. It can negatively affect relationships and cause feelings of dissatisfaction and mistrust. The production of pornography is also very intertwined with the illegal world of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation.
Teens today are consuming pornography at rates unlike any any other time in history. With the average age of exposure to hardcore pornography being only eleven years old, teenagers are getting their sexual education from what they view in porn. The reality is that over 80% of mainstream pornography depicts scenes of violence and aggression toward women and many researchers fear that this generation will suffer serious relational problems as an effect of this pornography-viewing trend.
Teens are unaware of this type of peer-reviewed research on how pornography is harmful. Any previous attempts to connect this type of message with a teen and young adult audience has been unsuccessful due to the negative associations with the term "anti-porn". Most anti-porn messages are shrouded in religious concepts and soaked in moral, guilt invoking arguments, that frankly teens don't really care about.
About 'Fight the New Drug' (FTND)
FTND is a non-profit organization aimed and educating teens and young adults on the harmful effects of porn. When I joined their team in 2013 they had a website, logo, and a small social media audience. They had make great attempts at connecting with teens but there was plenty of work to be done to fully engage the target audience.
Repositioning the Brand
When I joined the team I was excited about the challenge. This was going to put marketing and branding to the test and I loved the uncharted territory. No previous organization had ever been successful with this type of message and so I looked forward to forging the way. The first thing I did was study and break down what makes "anti-porn" so unattractive to a teen and on the contrary, what make "porn" so attractive to teens (besides the hormones, of course). I felt that if we could better understand why teens act and behave the way they do, we would be more successful with our message.
How teens perceive Anti-porn VS Porn
ANTI-PORN: Old, Conservative, Religious, Boring, Not Cool, No supporters
PORN INDUSTRY: Young, Rebellious, Cool, Fun, "Everyone was doing it"
I realized that anti-porn had a serious problem on it's hand. In order to connect teens to our brand we were going to have to completely reverse these associations and somehow make anti-porn look young, rebellious, cool, fun and like everyone was doing it. These became the 5 key points that I focused on all through the rebranding process: Young, rebellious, cool, fun and "everyone is doing it".
We also conducted surveys from teenagers all across the country. Our results concluded that there is a large portion of teens who fall into the "undecided" category, when it comes to their opinions and beliefs regarding the harms of pornography. After discovering this, we concluded that our target audience would be the undecided group. By shifting the opinions of this group, we would be able to create a majority in the demographic who understand that pornography is harmful. We didn't want to make a campaign that was merely preaching to the choir, nor did we want to tackle those who are already vocal about their opinions. This middle group however was still open to influence, and that is exactly who we wanted to connect with our message.
TARGET AUDIENCE PROFILE (We will call him “Josh”)
What is likable and special about Josh? What does a walk in his shoes look like? Where does he hang out in life and on the web? What is his lifestyle like?
Josh is charismatic, energetic and fun. He is a 17 year old high school student who is growing up in a middle class family. When he’s not at school he hangs out at his friends’ houses and at the mall. He has a cool family but they kind of are a little “intrusive” in his life and he’d rather be with his friends. He spends a lot of time on his smartphone using social media sites like Instagram, Vine, Youtube, and Facebook. He is constantly Snapchatting with his friends, Tweeting and searching for the next coolest thing to add to his Tumblr blog. He likes hanging out with girls and has had a few girlfriends but never anything super serious. Josh is excited about life and looks forward to what his future holds. Josh is not yet sexually active but wouldn’t necessarily turn down the opportunity if it came up.
What does he already know about our topic? From what sources does he get his knowledge? What biases does he have - good or bad?
Josh knows firsthand what pornography is. He’s seen it on his smartphone, on a few youtube videos and it’s shown up in his tumblr feed a time or two. Occasionally Josh seeks it out by going to actual porn sites. He’s heard from a few adults that porn is bad and that he should avoid it but Josh hasn’t quite concluded for himself whether or not its really as wrong as they say it is. He is curious about sex and sometimes looks to porn in order to get a little bit of first hand experience on how certain things work and to learn what intimate sexual encounters look like. His friends at school sometimes joke about porn but no one ever directly admits that they are looking at it. It’s just kind of one of those taboo topics that is thrown around sometimes but never really addressed. From the way his friends joke and laugh about it Josh kind of thinks that porn is just a normal thing that guys look at. He thinks that when adults rant and rave about how evil it is that they are a little bit “out-of-touch” with life and that porn probably isn’t as bad to indulge in once in a while as they say it is.
What does he need or desire? What is lacking in his life? What gets him out of bed? What turns his crank?
Josh wants to have a good future. He works hard in school but he definitely isn’t over the top in academics. He looks forward to graduating high school and being “free” to shape his own life. He loves hanging out with his friends more than anything else, and looks to them a lot for support and belonging. Josh also loves hanging out with girls. He is constantly trying to get girls to like him and to “make the next move”. He’s not a hopeless romantic but he definitely cares about love and his romantic relationships feel very real and are extremely important to him. Josh loves everything exciting whether it is a good sports game, skateboarding, a crazy concert, or just messing around town with his friends. He lives for the next greatest adventure and can’t wait for Friday nights.
What is important to Josh? How does he spend his time and money? What are his priorities? What unites him or incites them?
In life, things that are important to Josh are his clothes, music, humor, girls, friends, family, and hobbies. He cares a lot about his “image” and wants to make sure that he is looked at as being cool and trendy, but not as a gimmicky fad follower. Josh longs for authenticity. He gets really excited about being unique, getting noticed, and kind of being a rebel. He’s willing to stand up for what he believes in as long as he’s not alone. He feels like his friends are all united in their interest in music and fashion and he likes that others looks to them for what is “cool”. From a young age Josh was taught to respect women even if he doesn’t always currently show it.
Who or what influences his behavior? What experiences have influenced his thoughts? How does he make decisions?
Because Josh is big into music, he really looks to some of his favorite bands for inspiration on what to wear and for what is cool. He follows all of his favorite bands on Twitter as well as his favorite sports stars, movies stars, brands, and extreme sports athletes. He doesn’t want to come across as a “follower” but he spends a lot of time following along with what these guys are tweeting and he notices what is considered cool. He really looks up to some of his friends’ older brothers who are in college and notices what they are into as well. He listens to his parents for advice in life but once again, he feels like they are sometimes a little out-of-touch with the realities of being a teenager today. Josh loves to laugh and looks for opportunities to make others laugh. His peers really mean a lot to him and if his friends won’t support him in a decision then he probably will choose something else. Girls his age have a lot of influence over him as well but the biggest influence probably comes from his guy friends.
How does he give and receive respect? What can you do to make them feel respected?
Josh shows his approval to his friends through high-fives and fist bumps. They share music with each other and always like each others videos and posts on social media. When Josh respects someone or looks up to them he really listens to what they have to say. He respects those he thinks are cool and he determines how cool they are by the type of clothes they wear, the music they like, how funny they are, and what hobbies they’re into. Josh respects people who are leaders and who stand up to make a difference but who, at the same time, don’t take themselves too seriously.
Teen Focused Mood Board—I gathered images from Pinterest to create a mood board that seemed to capture the feelings and emotions of our target audience. I wanted to use this as a backdrop to everything we designed, in order to ensure we were always connecting with our target demographic.
Teen Focused Branding
The 'Why' Behind the Logo
With every great movement there is a symbol—a unifying mark that identifies those who are a part of the movement and those who are not. The 1960’s hippies had the peace sign, Katniss Everdeen her mocking jay, and Batman…well, he has the bat. Makes sense right?
In the past, the anti-pornography movement has had no symbol. There has been no unifying mark that has held them together with one vision and purpose. I sought out to change that. One of our main goals in rebranding Fight the New Drug was to create a clear symbol for people to stand behind. By joining the movement, wearing the symbol, sketching it on notebooks and plastering the city with it’s message supporters could finally become free to express what we believe in most strongly, and join with others who feel the same.
The ‘Fighter’ symbol represents this movement. It’s inspiration came from various sources such as an arrow (representing momentum and direction), a mountain (representing the great struggle and climb that faces us), the F (for all those who are ‘Fighters’), and the military looking chevrons (representing the war and battle that we are in.)
I took all of this inspiration and began sketching, making word-maps, brainstorming and sketching some more in search of a possible solution to the problem. I came across many various ideas but none as powerful as our final result.
Why the Curved Corner on the 'F'?
The logo originally didn't have the curved bottom corner. It was blunt with a sharp edge. I decided to curve the corner though to make the logo feel a little more feminine and approachable. I wanted the overall feel to still be very bold and strong but by simply softening that one edge it completed that logo, allowing it to connect with both a masculine and feminine audience.
The rebrand and website was launched in January 2014. In one year's time the non-profit organization’s social media audience (Facebook, Instagram, twitter, etc.) grew by over 500,000 young followers and increased in revenue from $250,000 to nearly $1,000,000 annually. We began shipping our merchandise all over the world and requests for speaking and presentations flooded through our doors. As the creative director I played a major role in the success of this campaign by developing creative strategy, connecting teens with the brand, designing websites, developing the brand narrative, establishing the brand design, keynote design and presentations, leading a team of designers, and managing social media marketing campaigns.
There were three objectives in our messaging. First was to educate on the harmful effects of pornography, second was to connect the message to a young adult/teen audience, and third to transform passive followers into active social changers by providing them with tools so that they can share the message on their own. Educate. Connect. Transform.
In just 12 months the Instagram hashtag #pornkillslove gained over over 4,300 posts as teens showed their commitment and resonance to the brand and sales in our online store increased by 500%.
Not only were our metrics impressive but we saw how we were literally impacting hundreds of thousands of lives. We received droves of emails every single day from followers all around the globe letting us know how grateful they were for what we did and how much of a difference we've made in their lives. In the end it was all about helping people and trying to make the world a better place.Those were the moments that really mattered. I couldn't be more proud of what we accomplished in such a short period of time.