Social Security Experience Panels: Branding and Wording Research Visual Summary
The Scottish Government are becoming responsible for some of the benefits currently delivered by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). As part of work to prepare for this change, Scottish Government set up the Social Security Experience Panels. There are more than 2,400 people on the panels who have experience of these benefits.
The Experience Panels are made up over 2,400 people from across Scotland who have recent experience of at least one of the benefits that will be devolved.
The Scottish Government is working with Experience Panel members to create Scotland’s new social security system.
About the research
This report summarises the Agency branding and wording research which took place in late 2017 and mid-2018.
All Experience Panel members were invited to take part
92 survey responses
survey responses (online, paper and phone)
15 focus groups and 3 interviews with 83 attendees
on the agency’s name, logo and strapline
2 focus groups and 4 interviews with 15 attendees
on the agency’s branding and wording guidelines
The research explored:
- What people thought of potential names, logos and straplines for the new social security agency
- Experience Panel member’s views on the agency’s colour palette, photography and icons
- What words the agency should use when talking about clients, social security and disabilities
Agency Names and Logos
We wanted to understand what words participants are happy to use when talking about social security.
We asked participants how comfortable they were with three words: ‘entitlements’, ‘social security’ and ‘benefits’.
Over seven in ten participants were comfortable or very comfortable with the words ‘entitlements’ (77 per cent) and ‘social security’ (72 per cent).
Just over half (53 per cent) of participants were very comfortable or comfortable with the word ‘benefits’.
Similar to the findings from the potential agency names, some participants had negative associations with the word ‘benefits’ and ‘entitlements’:
“Words like entitlements 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]…”
Other participants didn’t mind the words, and viewed them as a positive step forward:
“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…”
The participants in the second phase of the research generally gave similar views to the words as the participants in phase one, who were asked to look at the above three words as part of potential names for the new social security agency.
The potential names were: ‘Benefits Scotland’, ‘Entitlements Scotland’, ‘Social Security Scotland’ and ‘Social Security Agency Scotland’.
Participants were generally negative on the name ‘Benefits Scotland’:
It’s ‘simple’ and ‘straightforward’.
It’s ‘clear what the agency is for’.
The agency is about more than benefits.
The word ‘benefits’ feels negative.
Participants who liked this name felt the staff working for this agency would be ‘helpful’ and ‘know their job’. They thought that the name was ‘short’ and ‘easy to understand’.
Participants who did not like this name felt that it was ‘confusing’ and did not like the word ‘benefits’.
“We cannot have that word, it cannot be resurrected.”
Other participants thought the word had negative connotations, that it was ‘conservative’ and ‘intimidating’. They associated the word with ‘scroungers’, ‘handouts’ and ‘leeching off the state’.
Participants generally didn’t like the logo. Some participants suggested it was ‘modern’ and ‘simple’, however many felt it looked ‘unfriendly’ and ‘corporate’.
It doesn’t include benefits in the title.
The name is ‘complicated’ and ‘long’.
It feels ‘new’ and ‘different’.
‘I don’t understand what the name means’.
Many participants liked including the word ‘entitlements’ in the name of the agency. They felt it was good to move away from more negative words such as ‘benefits’.
Other participants felt that it was ‘hard to understand’. The word ‘entitlements’ was long and may not translate easily to other languages. People who spoke English as a second language said they would struggle to understand it:
“I’m not a British Citizen, and this scares me. You need to have something to go along with this. Grandma from the hills would run away from this.”
Participants generally didn’t like the logo. Some participants did not understand what the logo meant to represent. Others thought the image had little connection to Scotland or social security.
“I don’t know what the logo is supposed to be – it looks like a stamp”.
‘Social Security Scotland’
It’s ‘clear what the agency is for’ and what it will do.
The name is ‘too similar to the old DSS’.
It is good to include the word ‘Scotland’ in the agency’s name.
‘Social Security’ feels more supportive than other words.
Participants thought the name was ‘clear’ and ‘recognisable’. They were also positive about having ‘Scotland’ in the name. Participants generally liked that the name didn’t have the word ‘agency’ in it.
The logo did not generate many strong feelings. Some participants recognised the logo as representing an ‘S’. Other participants associated the colour red with panic or alarm.
Participants said they would prefer other colours, such as blue or purple.
‘Social Security Agency Scotland’
Including ‘agency’ in the name is ‘confusing’.
The acronym could be confused with other government agencies.
It is good to include the word ‘Scotland’ in the name.
It feels like a Scottish branch of DWP.
Social Security Agency Scotland was received more positively, however participants did not like including the word ‘agency’ in the title.
Many participants liked the logo. They recognised it was a map of Scotland and liked the concept and colours. Some participants (such as those in Shetland) did not like the logo and felt it should include the islands.
Participants said it was important for the logo to feel ‘warm and welcoming’ but also ‘official’. Many felt this logo achieved this.
We showed focus group participants four potential straplines for the new social security agency. A strapline is like the agency’s slogan, and it will appear below the name of the agency in most written and online documents.
‘Enabling, Supporting, Advising’
The language is ‘supportive’ and suggests an ‘element of choice’.
The order of the words could be better – ‘supporting could be first’.
It ‘sounds like a charity’ – not a government agency.
The word ‘advising’ is ‘very positive’ and implied the agency would be ‘helpful’.
Many participants were positive about this strapline. They felt the words were ‘supportive’ and ‘helpful’, though some would have preferred them in a different order. Some participants thought that these words might be a promise the agency couldn’t meet.
‘Built Around You’
The words suggest a ‘person-centred approach’.
It sounds like ‘a false promise’.
It looks ‘incomplete’.
The word ‘built’ feels like a construction company.
Participants who were positive about this strapline thought the words were ‘reassuring’. Other participants felt the strapline didn’t say very much about the agency, and that it was confusing. Some people associated the word ‘built’ with a construction or housing company.
‘Dignity, Fairness, Respect’
It will ‘guide the expectations and behaviour of staff and clients’.
It sets a ‘good clear tone’ for the new agency.
It is a clean break from the current system.
It demonstrates ‘care and attention have been put in to getting it right’.
Many participants felt positively about this strapline. They believed it would help guide how staff treated clients and how clients acted when dealing with the agency. Many felt the word ‘dignity’ was particularly important. Participants said the strapline was ‘strong’, ‘political’ and ‘bold’.
‘Your social security agency’
It feels ‘personal’ – the words are positive.
It is ‘vague’ – it doesn’t say anything new.
It is ‘not a new message’.
It doesn’t say what the agency does.
Participants were less positive about this strapline. Some thought it was vague and not a new or personal message. Those who wanted ‘Social Security’ to be in the agency’s name felt it to be repetitive.
We asked focus group and survey participants their thoughts on the agency’s proposed colour palette.
Around nine in ten survey participants thought the colours were ‘fresh’, ‘modern’ and ‘positive’.
Around eight in ten survey participants thought the colours were ‘optimistic’.
Just over seven in ten survey participants thought the colours were ‘warm’.
Many participants responded positively:
“I love the colours. They appear easy/non-threatening and are easy on the eye.”
“I like how they complement each other whilst still being recognisably different.”
Some participants talked about accessibility:
“I’m dyslexic and can read just fine, but anything with colour is far easier to read. I’m very happy there is colour and a variety of it.”
Other participants thought about how the colours compared to those used by other government departments:
“They are a refreshing change from DWP and HMRC which are older, dull…”
Overall, most participants viewed the colour palette positively.
We asked focus group and survey participants their opinions on some sample photographs that could be used by the agency. The photos showed two themes:
Social Security Scotland clients
Social Security Scotland staff
We asked participants what they thought of the photos of Social Security Scotland clients:
Just under eight in ten felt the photos were positive.
Just over seven in ten felt the photos were warm.
Over five in ten felt the photos were authentic (real) and inclusive.
Just over four in ten felt the photos
reflected their community.
We also asked participants what they thought of the photos of Social Security Scotland staff:
Over eight in ten felt the photos were friendly.
Over seven in ten felt the photos were professional and approachable.
Over six in ten felt the photos were helpful and natural.
Just over half felt the photos were inclusive.
Participants told us their thoughts on the inclusivity and authenticity of the photos:
“As far as I can see no images of disabled people which would be a fairly large part of people using the service.”
“…there are no clients of oriental extraction. No headscarves despite Scotland’s significant Muslim population…”
Some participants told us the clients in the photos looked too
Some participants told us the clients in the photos looked too happy:
“they are extremely happy and healthy. I don’t know of a job centre whose client group is remotely reflected in these images.”
Overall, participants told us it was important for photos to be inclusive, authentic and realistic.
We asked focus group and survey participants what they thought of the proposed icons for Social Security Scotland.
Over nine in ten participants
thought the icons were clear and easy to see.
Over eight in ten participants thought the icons were easy to understand, bright and helpful.
Just under two thirds thought the icons were inclusive.
Participants thought the icons could be more inclusive:
“…And why have male and female figures, without a non-binary figure…”
“disabled people represented by a wheelchair? Great. How very clichéd”
Participants told us that using more recognisable icons, even if they were less inclusive was okay, as being understood was more important.
We asked focus group and survey participants what they thought of the proposed font for Social Security Scotland.
Around eight in ten participants said the font was clear, easy to read and professional.
Just over two thirds said the font was professional.
Words to describe clients
We also spoke to participants about what words they were comfortable using to describe Social Security Scotland clients:
Participants were most comfortable using the term ‘individuals’ when talking about those who interact with Social Security Scotland (90 per cent were very comfortable or comfortable with this word).
‘Applicants’ and ‘clients’ also scored highly (78 and 76 percent respectively). Participants were less comfortable with ‘people with a right to benefits’ and ‘people entitled to benefits’, however around two thirds of people (59 and 65 per cent respectively) were still very comfortable or comfortable with these terms.
Most participants said they were generally happy with all of the words, however some words such as ‘applicants’ may only be appropriate at certain times.
Words to describe disability
Participants were asked what words they were comfortable with to describe disability.
Eighty-four per cent of participants were very comfortable or comfortable using the term ‘wheelchair user’. Just under eighty per cent of participants were also comfortable using the terms ‘person with experience of [condition]’ and ‘person with [condition]’. Participants who liked these terms said they ‘put the person first’, which was important for many.
Just under two thirds of participants were very comfortable or comfortable with the words ‘impairment’ and ‘person with impairment’.
Participants again emphasised that putting the person first was important:
“It should be people with disabilities or impairments and not disabled people Because we are people first…”
Overall, participants felt that words used to talk about social security, disability and clients should be respectful, always put the person first and be in plain English.
Experience Panel feedback was central to the naming of the new Executive Agency established to deliver devolved benefits.
This feedback – along with ongoing user research – has shaped the brand guidelines that outline how Social Security Scotland should visually present itself and speak to people.
The Scottish Government will continue to work with the Experience Panels in the development of Scotland’s new social security system. This will include further research on individual benefits and broader work to assist in the development of Social Security Scotland.
How to access background or source data
The data collected for this social research publication:
☐ are available in more detail through Scottish Neighbourhood Statistics
☐ are available via an alternative route
☒ may be made available on request, subject to consideration of legal and ethical factors. Please contact SocialSecurityExperience@gov.scot for further information.
Email: James Miller