Helping deliver some hard-hitting truths.


Brand development for charity Invisible Traffick GB.

The Challenge.

Human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation may seem like a distant issue, but in reality, it is just on our doorstep. Aiming to raise awareness and improve support for its overlooked domestic victims, Invisible Traffick GB needed a brand that would challenge its audience to take notice. With hard-hitting imagery and bold content the order of the day, the organisation turned to The Engine Room to create a new, no-nonsense identity.

Invisible Traffick GB (ITGB) was set up in 2014 by Alison Ellis, a former nurse and passionate advocate for unseen victims of sex trafficking. Established as an extension of Northern Ireland charity Invisible Traffick, ITGB became a Community Interest Company three years ago, with a distinct focus on helping victims of human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

Clarifying this main objective was a priority for the company from the start. With little awareness within the UK – let alone West Yorkshire – surrounding the prevalence of domestic trafficking, Alison knew that drawing attention to the issue was a key component in attracting funding and ultimately influencing policy changes.

Through initially running a safehouse for survivors of sex trafficking, the organisation gained invaluable first-hand experience by working with victims, listening to their stories and delivering counselling.

However, it soon became clear that despite growing instances of trafficking reported through the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) within the UK, there was a distinct lack of awareness and funding for its victims. Due to rising costs and a low referral rate, the company therefore made the difficult decision to close its safehouse in late 2017, turning its attention instead to a “trauma training” programme for local services.

Aimed primarily at statutory agencies – including police teams, health services, education specialists, safeguarding teams, local councils, prison staff and community outreach groups – the training was specifically designed to increase professionals’ understanding of sex trafficking and how to support victims.

But although the drive and commitment to raise awareness and tackle misconceptions head on was there, in order to deliver real impact, the ITGB brand had to reflect this hard-hitting, no-nonsense approach. Alison knew that to be taken seriously, the organisation needed expert input. And having heard about The Engine Room through a mutual contact, she approached the team for their help.

The Difference.

Developing an in-depth understanding of client objectives is key to The Engine Room’s approach, so the ITGB rebranding journey began with an intensive discovery workshop with the team. Designed to pull apart the strands of the organisation and highlight the core messages that need to be delivered, the session focused on the who, what and why of ITGB’s work.

Persona profiling exercises enabled the branding team to build a comprehensive profile of the target audience that they needed to reach – for both funding and awareness-raising purposes. And a further visioning activity saw the organisation writing an ‘obituary’ for ITGB – from 25 years in the future – inviting them to switch their perspective and focus on what they will have achieved in this time.

It was clear from the start of the project that in order to be effective, the branding would need to evoke an emotive, empathic response. To better understand the issues and victims at the heart of ITGB’s work, an interview was therefore coordinated with one of the women at the safehouse, enabling the team to see first-hand the difference that the organisation was committed to making. This initial process also allowed The Engine Room to identify the values at the heart of ITGB, and distil what the core message of the branding needed to be.

Having identified that people tend to be shocked by the truth surrounding sexual exploitation – but prefer to ignore it – the consultancy therefore set about creating a hard-hitting, confrontational brand that was impossible to ignore.

Through analysing benchmark organisations and charities operating within similar fields, the team identified a prevalence of emotive imagery. But whereas others had chosen to skirt around anger, outrage and overt confrontation, ITGB wanted these reactions to shine through in its outward image. Highly effective language was therefore placed at the forefront of branding materials, with controversial terms intentionally included to maximise emotional impact.

“Removing the invisible handcuffs” was a pre-existing concept within ITGB, which The Engine Room transformed into a central facet of the brand. Within the high-contrast, minimal, tri-colour scheme of white, black and red, different tones were incorporated to further highlight the theme of invisibility. For example, dark red words were positioned against a bright red background to deliver the real, difficult-to-see truth behind the initial statement – which was both literally and figuratively black and white.

“Emphasising the unseen nature of the victims at the heart of ITGB’s work was fundamental to this project, and we worked hard to channel the idea of exposing hidden truths into the brand. From the start, it was difficult not to become emotionally invested in the outcome, and this care only grew as we immersed ourselves in ITGB’s work. Alison’s drive and passion to make a real difference is undeniable and infectious.”

Leo Parker, The Engine Room.

The Results.

“The results transcend not just our outward image– the team has really homed in on what it is we’re trying to achieve, and helped to simplify our core message. Sex trafficking has been our main focus from the outset, but it’s unmistakable that raising awareness and supporting survivors is our mission now – which is clear across all our branding materials.

The strategic impact of The Engine Room’s work is undeniable, and the care and dedication the team has put into the project has been remarkable. We cannot thank them enough.”

Alison Ellis, Founder, ITGB

“The Engine Room did a stellar job in creating a hard-hitting, confrontational brand for ITGB. Sex trafficking is easier to ignore than acknowledge. In order to effect real change, people need to pay attention, sit up, think and act.”

Alison Ellis, Founder, ITGB