Hastings City Branding Campaign
Adams County CVB | Hastings, NE
Branding a city is no small task.
Ask 10 people what they think of their city and you'll undoubtedly get 10 different answers. Each person's view of their home is incredibly personal; that's what makes branding a city such a unique challenge.
When developing the new brand for the city of Hastings (Nebr.), we tackled this challenge with four goals in mind:
- Create a slogan that described Hastings in an honest and inviting way
- Develop brand materials that were flexible – for different audiences and mediums
- Build cohesive messaging for the entire city of Hastings
- Establish a brand that is sustainable and timeless
These goals were our focus as the idea of 'Life Wide Open' evolved. It's a statement that defines the opportunities and lifestyle found in Hastings, and appeals to residents, visitors and potential businesses. Through our discovery and research process, we kept hearing, "Life in Hastings is what you make it." Which is why we thought 'Life Wide Open' was a perfect fit.
We knew from the get-go that getting all the city's leaders on board was going to be key. We found an ambitious ally in the Executive Director of the Adams County CVB. She helped us bring all the collaborative partners together.
Having each of Hastings' major civic entities unified behind a single, cohesive message was essential in developing a consistent and effective brand. Stakeholders from each of these groups provided valuable insights about how their respective audiences viewed Hastings, and what set Hastings apart from similar cities.
The collaboration of these groups also highlighted their willingness to come together on a project aimed at benefitting the entire city.
Crafting the Concept
Finding our way to the 'Life Wide Open' identity was an involved process. Ultimately, 'Life Wide Open' fit our criteria the best: it was short, memorable and didn't oversell (or undersell); it was flexible enough to adapt to any audience; and the lack of trendy words or jargon made it inherently timeless.
For the visuals, we explored a variety of concepts that illustrated openness, including ample use of whitespace, outdoor photography and graphic elements that simulated opening, revealing, and uncovering. The personal feel of a scripted font carries the 'Life Wide Open' message and page-peel graphic elements are used as a secondary visual to present Hastings as an inviting community brimming with opportunity.
With a limited budget, we used a variety of tactics to launch and establish the brand, including:
The PR strategy was the centerpiece of our impactful brand introduction. We planned and hosted a Business After Hours event that included the unveiling presentation. Prior to the unveiling, we hosted an exclusive press event, giving the media early access to the brand materials (with a press kit) and time to interview the collaborative partners.
Offering information in advance – along with ample opportunities for visuals – maximized the amount of coverage the brand received. Our event earned stories with a number of regional media outlets, including:
- Grand Island Independent
- Hastings Tribune
- KHAS TV
- Omaha World Herald
- Kearney Hub
- Platte River Radio
Print + Outdoor
We developed a set of print ads to be used in local newspapers and statewide publications. These ads focused on introducing the slogan by pairing a strong photo element with the logo and web address. A similar, simplified layout was used for billboard designs that appeared around Hastings.
Video + TV
To better explain the 'Life Wide Open' brand, we produced a pair of videos. The first piece featured three members of the Hastings' community describing what 'life wide open' meant to them: including business development, family life and opportunity for growth.
This video debuted at the brand announcement event and made available for the partners' marketing efforts, as well as the press. The other video, a thirty-second commercial showcases how 'Life Wide Open,' translates to Hastings' shopping, dining, recreation and nightlife opportunities.
To boost the visibility of 'Life Wide Open,' we developed a photo contest to run in the months following the introduction. Submissions were required to feature the words, "life wide open."
To jump-start to the contest, we developed an oversized photo frame featuring the slogan to use at local events. Entrants were encouraged to share their photos on social media in order to receive votes, helping us maximize the exposure of the slogan.
Who doesn't love a t-shirt? We printed shirts featuring the 'Life Wide Open' logo and web address to be distributed throughout town. We didn't stop with wearables. We put 'Life Wide Open' in people's hands with brightly colored stickers and imprinted popcorn bags, which were distributed to local high schools, the museum, the hospital, the softball complex and many Hastings businesses.
Finally, local organizations and businesses let their 'Life Wide Open' flag fly – literally – with custom-printed flags that were run up flagpoles in visible locations across the city.
With the community brand generating all the buzz, the online piece of this project elevated Hastings to a new level. We developed six new websites for our partners, highlighted by these features:
One of the first things we noticed when we set out to build these websites was the amount of community information these sites shared. They were all being maintained individually which lead to duplicated efforts and inconsistencies. So, we solved these issues with a single solution– a shared database.
Allowing each site to share basic business and amenity details provides consistency from site-to-site. In addition, only one partner is required to perform the update. For example, if a local coffee shop changes their hours, only one of the partners needs to update that information in the database, and all the sites are automatically updated.
Developing these sites simultaneously helped us deliver a cohesive presentation and improved user experience. By giving users the ability to move seamlessly between organizations and quickly access information, we made discovering Hastings a breeze. In today's uber-digital society, a website is often a visitor's first impression of a community. Having a family of attractive, easy-to-navigate sites, helps make that impression positive.
Having a mobile website is imperative these days, especially when you're serving travelers, visitors and people looking for information on-the-go.
IdeaBank used the latest responsive design techniques to make certain mobile and tablet users can access everything they need, from any device.
We created this campaign with sustainability in mind. "Life Wide Open" has the simplicity, strength and flexibility to be used by many organizations over a long period of time. Ongoing media placements, social media campaigns, press-worthy tie-ins, and expanded business participation are part of the long-term plans, dependent on future funding sources.
We've also developed and provided materials that will allow everyone in Hastings to utilize 'Life Wide Open' in their advertising, communications, and employee recruitment efforts. Logos, ad formats and imagery are made available via a link on the portal website. In the end, our goal is to increase the reach and frequency of the "Life Wide Open" message to help boost Hastings' image and ultimately attract new businesses, residents and visitors to the area.