A brand should reflect the values of those it represents, and also be immediately identifiable to the general public.
It is with that in mind that the County of Frontenac Paramedic Services have decided to redesign their brand in an attempt to better reflect the agency’s core values, and build community awareness. Frontenac paramedics have changed several aspects of the agency in the past, most notably being the replacement of white and orange ambulances with the newer white, blue, and yellow designs. This rebranding continues to build on Frontenac Paramedics’ public identity.
In a presentation to the County of Frontenac by Backcountry Branding and Avenue Strategy on Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019, key objectives were outlined to explain the need for the redesign. Those objectives included how memorable and appealing the brand is to all audiences, and ensuring the branding is complementary to the County of Frontenac branding.
The process began back in November of 2017 with interviews between paramedics, County of Frontenac staff, and members of the Kingston Central Ambulance Communication Center (KCCAC). Multiple different brand concepts were developed during the process, and, in May of 2018, the brand was presented to all involved parties. The brand that was eventually chosen is simple compared to both the old branding and the branding of other paramedic services in the region.
“The new FPS brand integrates elements of the County of Frontenac brand. That provides a level of consistency, unity, and professionalism, but it’s designed to stand on its own,” said Gale Chevalier, Deputy Chief of Operations for Frontenac Paramedic Services.
Rebranding isn’t an easy process, especially for an organization that has so many different employee perspectives to consider. Throughout the process, 11 interviews were conducted with Frontenac Paramedics staff, Kingston Central Ambulance Communication Centre staff, Frontenac County staff, and County Council. The process also included 12 brand development sessions with all paramedics, 14 visual identity sessions with all paramedics, four brand presentations, and four strategic planning sessions. The branding process cost $15,000, which included all interviews and feedback sessions, plus the delivery of artwork and brand guidelines. For all parties involved, it was extremely important that the views and opinions of the service’s front line paramedics be taken into account during and throughout the rebranding process.
“It was very important that we involved our paramedics in the rebranding process so that the brand is something they are proud of and can relate to. Throughout the last year, we had numerous sessions and managed to involve all of our 160 paramedics,” Chevalier said.
While the logo and design of the agency’s identity is changing, its core values and brand personality is not. The main purpose of the rebrand or redesign is to reflect these values and reinforce the changing nature of the industry.
“A logo is the core of a brand’s visual identity. Its primary purpose is to identify and build recognition by persisting in the mind. A visual identity is a visual system – logo, colours, typography, graphics, photography, etcetera – that identify a brand,” explained Jon Allison, Creative Director at Backcountry Branding.
According to Allison, a logo is not a brand. A brand is intangible, it is a person’s perception. Its what people say, think and believe about a company or organization.
“Everyone has their own perceptions, that why a brand cannot be all things to all people. A brand strategy much like what we have developed for Frontenac Paramedic Services is designed to influence those perceptions,” said Allison, noting that a good example of this is now many people think of paramedics as ‘ambulance drivers’ as opposed to ‘on-scene medics’ that providing advanced medical treatment. The strategy developed for Frontenac Paramedic Services’ new brand aimed to shift that perception, Alison said.
“It also outlines their core purpose, which is to help people. The emphasis is on people, as one thing that distinguishes paramedics from all other first responders is that every call involves a person. The brand strategy then becomes the foundation that the visual identity, communication, and operations are built on,” Allison said.
Backcountry Branding worked very closely with the paramedics to listen to what was important to them, as it is the paramedics who will ultimately be bearing the identity on their shoulders every day.
“Ultimately, we want the identity for Frontenac Paramedics to stand out from the other services. However, it is more important that it appropriately and clearly identifies each medic as a paramedic,” said Allison.
Kathleen Vollebregt of Avenue Strategy explained that the visual identity, which includes the logo, was only one aspect of the rebranding project. Ultimately the goal was to create a brand story to convey the role of paramedics.
“One of the insights during the diagnostic stage of the project was the lack of awareness of paramedics’ medical expertise. The brand story will create a narrative that shifts the perception from ‘ambulance driver’ to ‘paramedic,’” said Vollebregt.
Frontenac Paramedic Service couldn’t say how long it would be until the rebranding was officially completed. However, it could possibly take until 2020 or longer to completely rebrand every aspect of the agency.