Halifax needed a new look. The logo created when the city was amalgamated in 1996 was “developed with a local artist,” said Bruce DeBaie, managing director of corporate communications for Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM). “It was never created on a true brand platform.”
With no brand management framework, “the logo didn’t extend into other government activities,” said DeBaie. “We had departments making their own logos for themselves.” And while the old logo featured a stylized lighthouse, it was not exactly a beacon to attract business and tourism from outside the city. “There was no meaning behind it. We had a fragmented municipal identity,” said DeBaie. “There was no master brand platform externally. Nothing strong enough for agency partners to adapt.”
An April 2013 presentation to the city’s executive committee summed it up: “We need a powerful brand to compete successfully with other cities.” The city wanted to attract investment and spur growth, attract and retain top talent and attract more visitors.
A New Look
After an RFP whittled a list of interested agencies down to four contenders, the city chose local agency Revolve to manage the $300,000 campaign.
“They articulated an understanding that the brand already existed in the community,” said DeBaie. “It was their approach to discover what that was.”
But Revolve wanted to avoid what it concerned a tired approach – the “Town Hall meeting” – said Mike Bardsley, brand strategist for Revolve. “We went to skating ovals, farmer’s markets. We went to where people were already” to plumb public sentiment.
The agency created a website, HalifaxDefined.ca, where people shared thoughts about what makes the region unique (the site now serves as a case study on the new branding). It poured over comments from the HRM’s social media accounts. It held focus groups and one-on-one meetings with leaders in the arts, business and military communities, to name a few. “It was a wide net of key stakeholders,” said Bardsley. “And we hit all age groups.”
A common theme began to emerge: while people from Halifax are proud of their city, “we don’t like to talk about it,” said DeBaie.
That overall insight led to the city’s new brand promise “Be bold,” though the agency points out this is not a tagline for HRM. “It’s a rallying cry that will guide and inform,” Revolve said on its website. “It gives everyone – councilors, city staff, businesses, community leaders and residents permission to think and act boldly to make Halifax the best it can be,”
The campaign took four months and cost $300,000. With engagement from 20,000 people it was, said Bardsley and DeBaie, the broadest and most comprehensive engagement program in the city’s history.