Experience Panels - branding of Social Security Scotland: visual summary

Visual summary of findings from research into Social Security Scotland’s name and logo, and branding and wording guidance.

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Agency Name and related words

Words used to describe social security

Participants in the second phase of the research were asked their views on three words used to describe social security: ‘social security’, ‘benefits’ and ‘entitlements’. Survey participants were asked to rate how comfortable they were with these words on a five-point scale. 

Just over seven in ten survey participants felt very comfortable or comfortable with the words ‘social security’ and ‘entitlements’. Almost half (47 per cent) were uncomfortable or very uncomfortable with the word ‘benefits’ however 54 per cent of participants said they were comfortable or very comfortable.

Table 6: Survey participant views on words used to talk about social security

Word or phrase Very comfortable or Comfortable (%) Uncomfortable or Very uncomfortable (%) Don’t know / No opinion (%)
Social Security 72 27 1
Benefits 53 47 0
Entitlements 77 23 0

Participant comments were mixed. Some participants believed using ‘entitlements’ represented a positive shift away from what they believed was a current negative discourse around social security: 

“the words ‘entitled to’ and ‘having a right to’ are good in the fact that we are moving the mood music away from feeling that you are almost begging for support…”

Others disagreed and believed the word was inappropriate:

“Words like entitlement and benefits should be banned. Being on social security due to a horrible degenerative condition is not a benefit and the language that is used can reinforce unconscious byas [sic]…”

“And the very fact that you have to apply for it says that we are not actually entitled until somebody else makes a decision and says we are.”

Some participants associated the term ‘social security’ with the previous name of DWP (DSS). For others, it was a more positive term:

“I am still very positive about social security, I don’t mind going to pick up social security, I don’t mind if somebody else does…”

The participants in the second phase of the research generally gave similar views about the three words above as the participants in phase one, who gave their views on the words as part of potential names for the new social security agency.

Agency Name

The four potential names presented in phase one were ‘Benefits Scotland’, ‘Entitlements Scotland’, ‘Social Security Scotland’ and ‘Social Security Agency Scotland’. Participants raised a range of positive and negative points for each. They tended to be negative about Benefits Scotland. Generally participants liked the term ‘social security’ in the name, and less positive about also including the word ‘agency’. Some had concerms about the accessibility of the name Entitlements Scotland.  

Benefits Scotland

Opinions tended to be negative on the name ‘Benefits Scotland’.

Participants who liked this choice of name said that it was ‘simple’ and ‘straightforward’, that it ‘does what it says’. They felt that it was clear what the agency was for. Some liked the word ‘benefits’ because it was clear and didn’t link back to ‘social security’ which they viewed as an ‘old’ word.  They felt the staff working for this organisation would know their job, understand the benefits system and would be helpful. 

Others were less favourable towards the name ‘Benefits Scotland’. Some felt that it was confusing and that it didn’t reflect the purpose of the agency. Some participants did not like the word ‘benefit’:

“We cannot have that word, it cannot be resurrected”

Participants felt it was important that the name is not just about benefits, as there are other things you might look for from the agency (such as advice or information). Others pointed out that some may not see the money they receive as a ‘benefit’ – for example, Cold Weather Payments may be seen differently from Personal Independence Payment.

Across both phases of work, a number of participants felt that the word ‘benefits’ had negative connotations, that it is ‘conservative’, ‘intimidating’, that it doesn’t feel ‘safe’ or ‘comfortable’, and is associated with a lot of stigma. This included an association with terms like ‘hand-outs’, ‘scroungers’, ‘cheats’, ‘something for nothing’, ‘austerity’ and ‘leeching off the state’.

Overall, participants who did not like the name suggested it was not in keeping with what the agency should be conveying and wouldn’t suggest a sufficient change from the previous system. This was partially driven by the perceived need to create a distance from previous systems, and that the new system needed to be seen as being for people who need help.

Views on the sample logo (fig. 1) tended to be negative.

Figure 1: ‘Benefits Scotland’ example logo

Figure 1: ‘Benefits Scotland’ example logo

Amongst those who liked the logo, some felt it was ‘modern’ and ‘looks permanent’. They felt it was ‘clean’ and ‘simple’. 

However many participants did not like this logo. Some felt the logo did not give any sense of purpose. Others felt the logo did not look new and that the brand was similar to DWP. Some suggested that the logo looked like a private company logo, making comparisons with high street stores and banks. They felt this made the agency feel less approachable and that it looked unfriendly:

“I don’t think it is distinct. It reminds me of a private logo not government agency”

A number of participants did not like the colour used in the logo:

“The colour is offending me”

Alternative colour options shown to paticipants, such as mint green, were received more positively. Purple and teal were favoured by some and considered ‘warm’.

Entitlements Scotland

As above, some participants liked the sentiment of the word ‘entitlements’ in that it was a conscious attempt at something new and a move away from stigmatised words like ‘benefits’. Whilst the move away from the word ‘benefits’ was received positively, the word ‘entitlements’ itself was not universally seen as positive across both phases:

“Nicer thought – but we’re not there yet”

“I like the concept of it. But I’m not sure I’d want to see this in the name. It’s too big.”

“People will be like ‘What does that mean?’”

“I’m not a British Citizen, and this scares me. You need to have something to go along to this. Grandma from the hills would run away from this.”

The most common issue with the name ‘Entitlements Scotland’ was the length of the word. Participants thought that the word ‘entitlement’ was overly complicated and that people would struggle to understand it. In particular several participants made reference to the challenges this would pose for people with learning difficulties. One individual who spoke English as a second language struggled with the word:

“It doesn’t matter where you live, there are about 20% of the population have a reading age of 8-9. This is too long.”

Some participants made negative associations with ‘entitlements’ and a perception of people receiving benefits feeling ‘entitled’ to support. Similarly, participants had an association with ‘entitlements’ and a sense of superiority, suggesting the agency would be ‘grand, ‘fancy’ or ‘exclusive’.

“I feel staff working for this organisation would look down their nose at me”

Some participants expressed a concern that the word ‘entitlements’ was not accessible, believing there was no British Sign Language equivelant. 

Participants across the groups were not positive about the logo (fig. 2). 

Figure 2: ‘Entitlements Scotland’ example logo

Figure 2: ‘Entitlements Scotland’ example logo

Time was spent in groups trying to understand what the image was designed to represent. Several participants thought the logo was more suited to something temporary, like a conference or a corporate event. The image was seen as having little connection to Scotland, or the people who would be seeking support from the agency. 

“Don’t know what this logo is supposed to be - it looks like a stamp”

There was a mixed response to the orange colour palette. Some participants liked that it was a neutral, non-threatening and inoffensive colour. Several participants noted potential issues for users with visual impairments where yellow and white together can be very hard to read. Participants tended to prefer the option in blue as they felt this was more permanent and more related to Scotland.

Social Security Scotland

Responses to this option were more positive. Participants considered the name to be clear and instantly recognizable. They were also positive about having ‘Scotland’ as part of the name. 

Participants generally liked that it didn’t include the word ‘agency’ as it made the name simpler:

“the title tells you what it does”

Some participants felt that ‘social security’ was less stigmatising than ‘benefits’ and ‘welfare’. ‘Social Security Scotland’ was seen to offer support and security.

Across both phases, several participants drew associations with the Department for Social Security. For some, this had negative connotations with an old system. Whilst the name did have these associations for some, it was not always a negative association with some participants reporting positive associations with the Department for Social Security.

The logo (fig. 3) did not generate particularly strong feelings. Many participants recognised the logo as a representation of an ‘s’. 

Figure 3: ‘Social Security Scotland’ example logo

Figure 3: ‘Social Security Scotland’ example logo

Some participants liked the colour on the white background, thinking it helped the logo to stand out. However some associated the colour red with panic, danger or a stop sign. They felt this could cause alarm, for example if used on envelopes. Participants tended to prefer the blue and purple options, which were considered to be more ‘Scottish’. 

Social Security Agency Scotland

Participants tended to be more negative about the name ‘Social Security Agency Scotland’ than Social Security Scotland.

Some suggested the name could be quite confusing. Reasons for this included that when used as an acronym, it may cause confusion with the Students Award Agency for Scotland (SAAS) and that some people may interact with both organisations. Other reasons included a suggestion that it might be unclear from the name whether the organisation was being directed from Westminster, whether it was ‘just a Scottish branch’ and that it felt very ‘same old’. Some participants suggested this was because of the inclusion of the word ‘agency’.

Similar to above, some participants raised concerns with the words ‘social security’. These participants felt it may be out of date and offered no change. Others felt the word ‘agency’ was unnecessary and they would be more accepting of the name if the word ‘agency’ was removed. 

Many participants liked the logo (fig. 4). It was felt that the image suggested a map of Scotland and the idea of the logo being a stylised map was well liked.

Figure 4: ‘Social Security Agency Scotland’ example logo

Figure 4: ‘Social Security Agency Scotland’ example logo

Participants from islands strongly felt that a representation of the map of Scotland should include the islands. 

The map style itself was viewed positively by some. Participants saw the blocks as supporting each other, interlocking and joining the country. Participants who did not make the association that the logo looked like Scotland still tended to feel that the logo was ‘distinctive’ and ‘positive’.

Participants suggested it was important for a logo to be official and serious, but also warm and welcoming, with some feeling the logo achieved this.


Email: James.Miller@gov.scot

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