The city’s biggest economic development stakeholders are putting the call out for Winnipeggers to get behind their first-ever branding campaign and help attract businesses, people and their wallets to the Manitoba capital.
Economic Development Winnipeg unveiled the “Made From What’s Real” brand and logo in early June, an exercise that included feedback from more than 700 Winnipeggers from all walks of life through surveys, one-on-one interviews, in-person stakeholder group sessions and focus tests.
“We need to be ambassadors for this city—to be loud and proud about Winnipeg—what it offers us—our families and our future,” says Dayna Spiring, president and CEO of Economic Development Winnipeg (EDW). “We need to tell a story of Winnipeg, written by Winnipeggers—one that is reflective of what our city is today innovative, creative, connected, diverse and so much more.”
The brand will be used far and wide to showcase Winnipeg to the world and the many opportunities the city presents as a great place to visit, work and invest.
Peter George, CEO of McKim.Sherpa, the marketing agency that spearheaded the campaign, says the brand speaks to the genuineness of Winnipeg and its people.
The red colour scheme, for example, is designed to convey the city’s warmth, strength, heart, passion and generosity.
The logo is deliberately neutral so that it could mean a number of things depending on your point of view. It could be a cog, in a nod to the city’s industrious roots, a sun rising over the river, or a “W” and “M” for Winnipeg and Manitoba.
McKim has been doing place branding work for a number of communities throughout the province over the last few years, including Brandon, The Pas, Dauphin, Thompson, Gimli and Portage la Prairie. In several cases, McKim replaced brands built around water towers.
“An inanimate object will always struggle to do the job of a good place brand. That’s because an icon isn’t as ownable as your character. Character-based place brands work because they convey a feeling,” he says.
When asked what cities McKim had looked at when compiling its research, George replied “all of them.”
“When you do something like this, you look at cities that would be in the competitive set, particularly for tourism and economic development. You’re looking at similar-sized cities across North America that are landing the new Amazon or financial services offices. New York and Paris aren’t our competitors. We look at a ton of different cities to see what they’re saying and to make sure we’re saying something different.”
Winnipeg has never had a brand like this before and Spiring says EDW and other stakeholders needed an aligned way to tell their story, something that people could rally behind.
“We’ve heard a lot of stories about brands that didn’t work or things that people weren’t proud to call their own. We wanted something that would resonate with Winnipeggers, something that we could use to sell this city around the world,” she says. “If you haven’t been to Winnipeg in the last five years, you don’t know this city. If you live here, you know the Winnipeg story is constantly changing and evolving but what stays the same is our authenticity.”
Spiring says EDW will examine a number of metrics to gauge the campaign’s success, including polls on Winnipeggers’ optimism, hits on their online videos and how often people engage with the logos. EDW also encompasses Tourism Winnipeg and YES! Winnipeg.
“We’re going to look at our tourism numbers, our visitations to world-class attractions and see what kind of traction we get as a city when we go out to attract investment and trade,” she says.
One of the campaign’s primary goals is to turn Winnipeggers from armchair critics to raving fans.
“This is intended to change people’s perceptions, to change the channel,” says Colin Ferguson, CEO of Travel Manitoba.
It shouldn’t be that much of a stretch because the city has changed so much in recent years, starting with the return of the NHL in 2011, the surge of many new businesses and a growing sense of pride.
“That pride is real, it’s honest and it’s truthful,” he says.
The last time a branding exercise of this magnitude was undertaken was 2006 when the province commissioned “Spirited Energy,” a campaign that was almost universally panned and never got out of the gate. One of the many criticisms was that it was conceived by a Toronto-based marketing company.
“We’ve learned from the lessons of Spirited Energy,” Spiring says. “When we sat down to do this, we decided it had to be something that Winnipeggers would feel was their own. It’s a very different time and a very different brand,” she says.