Diabetes Canada strikes a new path

The organization rebrands and launches a new platform to invigorate its messaging and mission.

The Canadian Diabetes Association, the organization leading fundraising and research efforts to fight the disease, has rebranded to become Diabetes Canada as it reveals its re-energized mission to end what it calls an epidemic.

According to Diabetes Canada, one in three Canadians lives with diabetes and often feel like it’s a struggle they have to handle alone, making them feel stigmatized and isolated from the world around them. That idea is at the core of a new campaign launching in conjunction with the rebrand.

Working with Canadian singer-songwriter Mary Milne, a song was created using the words from real online posts by people who have diabetes as the lyrics, most of them about the struggle and hopelessness of living with the disease. The song plays in a new PSA that will be running on TV and online, but as it goes on, the “strikethrough” motif in the organization’s new branding is used to change the lyrics into more optimistic messages.

The PSA launched Sunday during the Canadian broadcast of the Grammy Awards. The broader campaign takes the strikethrough motif to other platforms, like a full-page print ad that ran in Monday’s Globe and Mail. Juniper Park\TBWA led creative on the campaign, with Cairns Oneil handling media.

The rebranding and new campaign comes with a new platform for the organization, “End Diabetes.”

“We knew what we did and the impact of what we did, but we didn’t have our why,” says Mapy Villaudy, chief development and marketing officer at Diabetes Canada. “The ah-ha moment was that idea of ending diabetes. The strikethrough in the creative really resonated not only with the idea of striking out diabetes and ending it, but also the stigma around it.”

While the long-term goal would be to find a cure for the disease, in the meantime it is looking at what it can be doing to mitigate the impact on the people who have to manage the disease. Diabetes Canada continues to fund research, improve access to supplies, run educational health programs to prevent new cases and lobby the government for workplace protections and disability tax credits.

But from a communications perspective, “ending diabetes” starts with ending the stigma around diabetes by showing the rest of the population what living with the disease feels like.

“We launched ‘End Diabetes’ for people to really connect and see how people in their everyday lives are challenged with it,” Villaudy says. “We call it an invisible epidemic because 11 million Canadians have diabetes or pre-diabetes but no one really talks about it. When they don’t talk about it, they feel stigmatized and isolated, and that contributes to them not seeking help and support.”

The combination of the new platform, new branding and new name is not only meant to add energy to Diabetes Canada’s work, but send a clearer message the Canadians about the work it is doing and why it is deserving of their ongoing support.

“We’ve been doing great work over the last 60 years, but we haven’t changed much and we’ve been seen as the same organization over that whole time,” Villaudy says. “Back in the day, words like ‘foundation’ and ‘association’ meant something. Institutions are perhaps less trusted today, or seen as large and archaic and complex, the kind of place where a donation could get lost. We’re trying to demonstrate we are an agile, focused and purposeful organization that is really focused on one thing, which is to end diabetes.”