CEO Sara Lom shares the thinking behind the new Tree Council brand
As a lover of history and green spaces, it’s a great honour to be CEO of an organisation with a history as rich as The Tree Council’s. We were established following the success of Plant a Tree in 73, the 1973 campaign to replant the British countryside after the devastations of Dutch elm disease. To this day, people share memories of taking part in local tree planting events, or tell us where the tree they planted continues to grow. The success of the campaign led to the creation of an annual event for planting trees – National Tree Week. It’s been celebrated in November/December every year since. In 1987, the nation rallied around to plant trees to replace the fifteen million felled by the historic Great Storm, a lasting tribute to the trees lost and the 18 people who tragically perished.
There’s no doubt we’re living in equally historic times right now. The threat of climate change looms closer and closer – indeed, we’re feeling the impacts of it today. Around the world, young people march demanding meaningful change and planting trees has risen to the top of the list of ways to help tackle unavoidable carbon emissions. Globally, species face endangerment and extinction as habitats change or disappear. And another ravaging tree disease has reached our shores in the form of ash dieback, which will claim the lives of millions upon millions of our treasured ash trees. On top of this, we live in a busy, fragmented world – a world full of competition, demanding instant response, with little time to share or talk to each other.
That’s why now felt like the time to review and reinforce The Tree Council’s brand and set new, ambitious goals for what we want to achieve for trees in the years to come. It’s also a great reflection of the fact that the evolving Tree Council team brings together wide skills and experience, shares a passion for trees, a sense of fun and a love of getting things done. We thought our new brand should reflect this too.
We didn’t want to engage in a costly or lengthy process. We found a fantastic, professional brand designer and a wordsmith to support us through the process. We formed a DigiGroup of expert volunteer advisers from the worlds of branding, marketing and the web. We also did a lot of the thinking in-house and with our amazing volunteer Tree Wardens around and the UK. The rollout will be phased to avoid needlessly disposing of existing materials. We engaged with a wide range of our stakeholders to gauge how they view us, what they saw as our strengths and opportunities, and we’re now delighted to share the results with the world.
Our new strapline is ‘Working Together for the Love of Trees’. This reinforces the common thread of collaboration that runs through our history. It’s the truth most often reflected back to us by our partners and stakeholders, that we bring people together for the benefit of trees. It reflects our desire for partnership and our quest for practical solutions. ‘For the love of trees’ expresses our deep-rooted, emotional response to trees and places our reason for being front and centre. These two things, collaboration to find practical solutions and a love for trees, summarise our team.
Our new logo retains the central focus on a lovely mature tree, but with a more modern and open design. Whereas previous logos were inside a box or roundel, we now wanted to open it out, to emphasise that everyone is welcome. The tree is meant to be non-species-specific, but the shape was inspired by rowan and beech trees – two of the beloved British tree species which are so important to our rural and urban landscapes. We liked how the letter ‘i’ in the logo suggests a person sitting under the branches of the tree which forms the letter ‘L’. It is a reminder of Nelson Henderson’s quote that ‘the meaning of life is to plant trees under whose branches you do not expect to sit’. Everything we do is for the future: for trees, for wildlife and for people. We’ve re-organised our colour palette to favour earthier tones as a reference and tribute to nature, most especially the magnificence of broadleaved trees through the seasons – from vibrant green to burnt orange to deep russet.
The process of evolving our brand has been rewarding, not only because it’s helped us distill who we are as we approach our first half-century, but also because it’s reinforced the qualities which our partners and stakeholders told us they see and value in us, and which, happily, continue to be the core of our charity today.
I’ve come to learn that the rich history of The Tree Council, as a charity which brings people together to achieve amazing things for British trees, is only matched by the scale of its potential to make an even greater difference in the future. Our new brand not only expresses who we are today, it also highlights our commitment to our precious UK treescapes for the future.