How the strong iconic RNLI brand delivers

Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) branding always delivers three words: active, personal and reliable

The RNLI is an iconic charity that saves lives at sea through ‘lifeboat search and rescue, lifeguards, water safety education and flood rescue.’

An enormous amount of work, communication, donations, lifeboats, volunteers and components produce the successful charity operations. It is not just one thing. So the RNLI communicates the complete charity structure through strong, clear and recognisable images and messaging that defines the RNLI brand.

Every visual, post and content created for RNLI marketing consists of three factors: active, personal and reliable.

The audience, mood, and goal (i.e. to boost donations for a new lifeboat, recruit for new summer lifeguards) determines which of the three words (active, personal, reliable) is emphasised more. But, according to the RNLI design guidelines, all three parts ‘should always be present.’

RNLI photography stirs specific emotions

The use of RNLI photography is designed to give an accurate representation of the RNLI rescue activities and showcase the diversity of its volunteers. Let’s first discuss the visual brand styling used with images featuring the volunteers and how the RNLI keeps in mind these significant three elements.

Photographs of RNLI volunteers reflect the diversity of the crew and organisation while creating a personal connection

When you look through RNLI volunteer photographs, you see a wide range of ages, races, and genders, and they all have one common quality. The RNLI volunteer looks directly at the camera. The design choice is deliberate. If the person looks directly at the camera then it creates an immediate personal connection to the viewer. It captures the essence of inner strength, determination and a sense safety. The campaign asking for donations to fund life rescue equipment for volunteers is one example of how this method works well.

The appeal to the public to fund ‘life rescue equipment for volunteers’ campaign, features a volunteer staring right at the camera. Half of the image has a volunteer dressed in every day casual attire. The other half of the image has the same volunteer dressed in the needed life rescue and protective gear he/she needs to rescue lives at sea. It is an intense and brilliant image that emits active, personal, and reliable conclusions making it a very lucrative on-brand campaign.

RNLI colours represent the organisation and unpredictable nature conditions

The RNLI uses its signature orange colour in its logo, messaging, and digital and print marketing materials. The orange colour is strategically placed against stormy and grey backgrounds. This gives a contrast of colour. It stands out. This also means that the light and brightness in the photo symbolises the RNLI while the darkness represents impulsive sea and stormy conditions. The orange is then associated with rescue, action, and hope. The colour usage emphasis the three factors making active, personal and reliable synonymous qualities with the RNLI charity.

A yellow welly becomes synonymous with the RNLI


The final piece that makes the RNLI personal are the Yellow Welly products

The yellow welly is an important piece of kit that the crew needs to wear. So the RNLI created a collection of products featuring yellow wellies. The products vary from an official RNLI Yellow Welly badge to a shopper bag.

RNLI yellow welly dog at Lyme Regis Dorset, made from worn out RNLI wellies wonderfully personifies this strong brands purpose and personality in a personal way.

The yellow welly was even used in a powerful installation last year. It featured 181 pairs of yellow wellies alongside the River Thames. The boots denoted the average number of people rescued by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) charity every single week across the UK & Ireland. Again, this installation honours the guidelines of the active, personal and reliable charity objectives.


Find out more about the impact of brand design.


RNLI photo credit: Rob Pumphrey | Unsplash

Becks Neale is a Dorset Designer & Brand Consultant, working alongside charities, community initiatives and purpose-led organisations to achieve a brand they love and live, by distilling their brand story.

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