When you think of "branding" you might think of big corporate logos - McDonalds, BMW, Nestle, TESCO - not the companies you would associate with a social enterprise working for equality with people with learning difficulties and autism!  But branding is really important to us, too.

For us, branding is about how people see us. How people see people with learning difficulties and autism. Our brand is our name, our logo, our strapline (be seen, be heard, belong), our photos, the design of our flyers and the words we use. So we have to make sure that all of those things get across our values. That we are equal, people, involved, together. Everything we us to communicate what we do must show this and get that message across.  

We don't do this so that people see our brand and want to give us their money - although if you did want to support our work financially you can do so here! - we do it so that when people think of bemix, they think of inspiration, power, equality, inclusion, fun, happiness! We want people to think of being seen, being heard and belonging.

We have been working with a copywriting duo - Moka Pot Copy - for about a year now. They have been helping us to make our written communication stronger and clearer in line with our values. They recently wrote a fantastic article about using words as activism. Read the article by clicking the link below and see for yourself why we love working with them.

Is copywriting the new activism

In response to the article, we shared some of our thoughts on why the language we use is SO important if we want to redistribute the power in society and value everyone. Our thoughts are below.  We'd love to know yours and I'm sure Moka Pot would, too.

Language is so powerful – it forms our thoughts and therefore how we express our opinions. The tone of how something is communicated can make a huge difference to how it is perceived – an extra few words to soften a statement can make it more friendly and less threatening. Adding “don’t cha think?” to the end of a statement shows you’re open to engaging with the reader and not just preaching your values.

And think about how language has changed over the years… Words which are acceptable now wouldn’t have made sense 30 years ago. Words that were in political and medical literature 30 years ago are now perceived as offensive and discriminatory.

In our working world at bemix, we are very conscious of the language we use. We believe that the person comes before any condition they might have. If we needed to define the group of people our work is set up to benefit, we would describe someone as “a person with a learning difficulty”, not “learning disabled”. Certainly not “a Downy/spastic/retard”; words which are still used as playground insults today. However, "retard" was a medical term for many years for people with a low IQ. Spastic was used medically to describe people with conditions that meant they couldn’t always control their muscles (spasms), including conditions such as cerebral palsy. The charity Scope used to be called The Spastics Society. Then people started using the word as a discriminatory term and insult. The Spastics Society changed their name. We don’t refer to people as “service users" – we all use services so why would we segregate in our language and therefore our attitude? In fact, even better, let’s just call someone by their name!

People with a learning difficulty are a group of people that have historically been labelled or defined by a medical or genetic condition, or by something they find challenging (or are challenged by because of the way society is set up), and then as people who are defined by needing help (handicapped). By describing and defining people in this way we take their power away; they are receivers of support, unable to do, different. When we use language that positions people as worthy, valuable, equal and with power, we can start to influence people’s perception. That gives people more power.

However, this can be a double-edged sword. It can sometimes cause anxiety in people, and that's important to take into consideration, too. People might be worried that they don't know how to talk about something in the “right” way without causing offence? They might think they shouldn’t say anything…. That’s dangerous. If people feel censored, they feel trapped. That can make people resentful and angry and that anger is often misplaced.

Language (and copywriting) is powerful. With great power comes great responsibility – surely it makes sense to use that power actively to create understanding, equality, respect, value? Not to incite hatred and segregation. And that includes not shouting someone down for using the “wrong” language. Trying to understand someone’s intention behind the words can open up a conversation and an opportunity for mutual understanding.


What do you think?