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I’m fortunate enough to work in an industry where what we do makes a real difference, directly or indirectly, to the health and well-being of society. Whilst our contribution may not always be felt at the frontline of care, I often wonder, if I was trying to communicate the benefits of sugary water or crisps, would I be as motivated? I suspect not. Nevertheless, even in the world of healthcare communication it’s possible to get lost in the depths of a client project and feel removed from the people we’re all trying to help.

So, when the opportunity comes along to work with a great charity like YoungDementia UK, and remind yourself of exactly why you love this industry, you take it! At Ashfield Healthcare Communications we’re always looking for charities and organisations who will benefit through our skills and services and when we met with the YoungDementia team earlier this year we realised this could be a perfect fit. The team at YoungDementia told us about the National Young Onset Dementia Network (NYODN), a membership body made up of individuals living with, or with an interest in, young onset dementia that was being formed alongside their other amazing work (take a look at it here). As the network was just getting off the ground with a planned launch for September we quickly came to the joint conclusion that our digital and creative agency, Ashfield Digital & Creative, could support the creation of the network’s brand. This would be a vital part of the network launch, as it was critical that the network make a great first impression and would help in creating some real momentum come launch. So, with the challenge set, we pulled together the ‘A-team’ and got on the case.

Where do we begin?
First things first, it was essential our creative team met with all the network stakeholders to gain the insights required to create a brand for them, this had to be their brand, not ours, and the NYODN team’s input at every step was extremely important. Cue frantic calendar arrangement, rearrangement, crossed fingers – and finally, a workshop date in the diary! The team showed incredible commitment to the project, with more than 10 attendees signed up and excited for a full day’s “brandicising”. No pressure then.

Tanked up on caffeine and Starbursts, we traveled to the Midlands, UK, to meet the team. What an incredible team it was. We gained invaluable insight from Larry, an individual living with young onset dementia and a truly determined character. He shared with us that although younger people experience similar symptoms to older people with dementia, with greater financial and family commitments, the impact on their lives can be quite different. We also learned more about why the network is so essential to this community. The rarity of the condition has resulted in fragmented and dispersed support, leading to inequality in access and therefore frustration and potential isolation as a result. By creating NYODN, this team was taking action to form a coherent and organised network that can impact and create change more easily. Finally, we also learned that the team really like sweets! It was fortunate we came armed – as everything from dolly mixtures to Werther’s Originals are clearly well supported in the NYODN camp!

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Developing the personality
So suitably high on sugar, and with an abundance of useful insight about what personality the network should have (spoiler alert – it definitely reflects the whole team’s personal values so is a perfect foundation for the brand to grow), I can honestly say it was a hugely rewarding day for all. The NYODN team had a rare chance to stop and collectively think about the network’s ambitions, and our team were not only able to gather what we needed for the brand development, but were left inspired having met such a fantastic group of people who are truly changing lives every day.

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So that’s where I leave you for now – a blog-based cliff hanger! Come back in a few weeks to see what we came up with, and more importantly, how it will contribute to improving people’s lives.

A final note…
One final thing, there was a quote from Larry during the workshop which I think struck a chord with the entire team and simplified the reason the network is so important:

“…Life is a journey with ups and downs, challenges and successes, good
and bad things happen…”

What a wonderfully pragmatic approach to take.

If you would like to read the second and final installment of Steve’s YoungDementia UK brand development story, please click here.

Steve Hunt, Strategy Director
Steve is Strategy Director within Ashfield Digital & Creative, part of Ashfield Healthcare Communications. Working with clients to provide strategic solutions to support their multichannel communication plans, Steve has eight years’ experience in digital consultancy and strategic planning in healthcare. Steve thrives on bringing innovative ideas and creative thinking to clients, creating healthcare marketing and education programmes that make a real, measurable difference to their audiences.

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