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The Key

Starting off more than ten years ago as a Government pilot modelled on the Citizen's Advice Bureau, The Key is a market leader in a category it pioneered - providing indispensable professional advice and support to head teachers across the UK - an audience who increasingly have to balance the demands of running a school from a education perspective with running schools like a small business - all while operating in a fast changing policy environment.

The challenge

How do remain the category leader in an increasingly competitive sector?

As The Key approached its second decade, it found itself challenged on a number of fronts. A proliferation of free content, disruptive Ed-tech start-ups, an educational sector under ever more pressing budget pressures and the challenge of integrating new acquisitions meant that The Key's brand and model were no longer as relevant as they had been. Increasingly the company looked like the status quo rather than a pioneering leader - especially to a new generation of education leaders who are more digitally-native than the audience that The Key grew up with.

The insight

Accessing the right information, fast.

We took a deep dive into a complex sector, audience, as well as The Key's large breadth of offerings and realised quickly that we needed a single-minded galvanising idea that could help the cut through a busy category to connect with busy education leader, inspire and align a hugely talented workforce and provide focus and discipline in the design and delivery of a growing portfolio of content and service offers. It was clear that for an audience and sector teetering on the brink of information overload, educational leaders need to be able to know what's important and where to focus - the kind of value-added smarts and pragmatism that The Key was ideally placed to provide.

The Key Mag
The Key Poster
The Key Poster 2

The brand idea

The Knowledge to act

Based on that idea, we developed the brand positioning of "The Knowledge to Act". It epitomised the aspirational mindset of The Key's target audience of effective school leaders - action-orientated, entrepreneurial doers who have the courage to act. It reflects the value of The Key's content and services that are intuitive to use and impart vital actionable information quickly and provides a powerful impetus for the start-up mindset The Key needs to increasingly cultivate to stay ahead of dynamic and youthful competitors.

The Key Social Posts
The Key Mag Cover

A confident and bold identity

We wanted to ensure the brand identity reflected The Key’s position as the category leader. We chose a bold colour palette which added impact to their communications, and enabled them to stand out within the sector. We made their tone of voice much more confident, intelligent and assured to imbue trust from their audience of school leaders.

The Key Apps
The Key Icons

Visual signposting

To bring ’the knowledge to act’ to life visually, we wanted to create a system where school leaders could access information and content quickly. To do this we used the graphic elements within the logo. The ‘highlighter’ and ‘pointer’ devices are used to clearly signpost important information, enabling users to access the information they need quickly and easily.


The Key Moleskine
The Key Brochures

Thisaway undertook a rigorous strategic analysis of our entire business, which enabled them to really get under the skin of the company. This, along with their knowledge of the sector and wider understanding of the educational system, meant they were able to steer us toward change with confidence. 'The knowledge to act’ sums up perfectly what we want to do everyday. It resonated with everyone who works here and has galvanised the entire business. The visual and verbal identity work both aesthetically and practically, which means our comms are more impactful and succinct. We now have clear direction for the exciting future ahead of us.

Sarah Hernandez, Chief Marketing Officer, The Key

Project disciplines
Brand strategy, brand architecture, brand identity, tone of voice, campaigns & content, digital design, animation, brand guardianship.

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