Differentiation is at the heart of good branding. Creating a truly defining brand is sometimes a challenge when positioning for destinations, particularly small to medium-sized communities. Regionally, they often share attractors and attributes that draw similar visitors. Setting one place apart from another in the minds of potential guests doubles in difficulty when many visitors think they are actually the same community. Why would they believe this? Because in some cases, the separate communities share (essentially) the same name — take “Little Rock” and “North Little Rock” for example. North Little Rock sounds a bit like someone might just be referring to the northern part of Little Rock vs. a separate city (with its own distinct personality).
North Little Rock, Arkansas is almost a stone’s throw from its sister city, the state capital of Arkansas. The city limits are literally separated by the Arkansas River but their downtowns are pretty seamlessly connected by a fantastic streetcar system and their river banks by several bridges, including multiple pedestrian/cycle friendly structures. This creates an environment where residents and visitors flow seamlessly between the two communities. And it does not help North Little Rock’s case for “independence” that both cities are transversed by multiple interstate highways.
However, the downtowns of each city bear no resemblance to one another physically. Little Rock is a bustling, densely populated area defined by tall buildings, housing, government offices, and big businesses. North Little Rock has the appearance of a smaller, more rural downtown with revitalized storefronts and local eateries. Colorful murals decorate walls in what is known as the Argenta Arts District. And the brand new Argenta Plaza is a modern styled complex with inviting public places to linger including porch-type swings.
North Little Rock (NLR) is also home to one of the country’s largest and most diverse municipal parks, Burns Park, which serves as a popular destination for many sorts of travel ball teams, equestrians and even visitors enjoying the small amusement park operating within the park’s boundaries. However, research has revealed that many of the visitors to Burns Park (and most other areas of the separate North Little Rock municipality) are unaware North Little Rock is a separate city and often miss out on all that NLR has to offer because they end up staying just on the other side of the river in Little Rock hotels – certainly a big challenge when the DMO is (also) tasked with generating events in Burns Park but misses out on a lot of the accommodations tax that would otherwise fund these additional “sports-tourism” related recruitment efforts.
The North Little Rock CVB recognized the growing opportunity to offer more unique cultural attractions and popular outdoor activities in their riverfront district and emerging Argenta Arts District. Moving their office to a brand new building close to these growing areas provided an opportunity to rebrand and promote their unique position— therefore educating new and returning visitors. With economic development in mind, the rebrand aimed to encourage increased spending in shoulder seasons and identified opportunity nights by promoting longer stays.
- Little Rock is the state capital, a much bigger city with name recognition attached to nationally noted attractions. Their marketing efforts often include North Little Rock activities and venues. While shared promotion often benefits both communities, it also contributes to the challenges of presenting a unique NLR brand promise.
- Although North Little Rock is located at the intersection of Interstates 30 and 40, very few travelers are aware of the varied attractions and history of the area just a few miles off the major highways.
- Travel Team attendees are tightly scheduled making it difficult to find time for other activities.
- The City of North Little Rock has a logo used to mark all city services, but not used for branding the visitor experience.
To help focus the rebranding efforts, we started this assignment with Stamp’s Marketing Action Planning process. Working in concert with The North Little Rock CVB staff, leveraging primary research (that was independently commissioned by the CVB and provided to Stamp by the CVB), and conducting multiple stakeholder meetings and listening sessions, we helped to identify and then prioritize: specific target audiences; each audience’s required roles; what they each have to believe to be successful with them; and finally to outline the processes that will lead to the desired outcome: brand differentiation.
North Little Rock’s new logo and positioning statement reveal the true character of this scenic and friendly riverfront destination. And with a nod to its quirky and legend-filled history, its rebellious secession from Little Rock, and its historic Argenta Arts District, the brand works to complement the ambitions and attitudes of present-day and emerging attractors.
The Positioning Statement, UP TO SOMETHING!, directly supports the bold, creative, can-do attitude of the people of North Little Rock. The attitude is casual but energetic. Curiosity is piqued by the mysterious and provoking use of a common phrase. The implication is “something” unexpected is about to be encountered. All of this helps to set North Little Rock apart from other communities in the region.
“Up To Something” was crafted so that marketing efforts could be targeted when needed to a wide variety of audiences — Up to Something Fast! (Big Dam 100 bike race), Up to Something Competitive! (Burns Park sports facility), Up to Something Delicious! (a restaurant week), Up to Something Creative! (the Argenta Arts District) or just plain Up to Something Fun!
A comprehensive Brand Standards Manual contains guides for the appropriate use of the logo, font, color palette, and tone of voice for their friendly new look.
In addition to the traditional list of guidelines, Stamp delivered templates for the communication package and print advertising, so the in-house marketing department had all the tools they needed for a successful brand launch.
The North Little Rock CVB has embraced and even enhanced our recommendations. We’ve watched with excitement as their social media feed is populated with logoed merchandise and use of the tagline “Up to Something”— not to mention a busy calendar of events filled with creative, fun and quirky things for visitors and locals to love.
We’ll let our client tell you in his own words how the new brand has been received:
The entire NLRCVB staff is proud of the overwhelmingly positive reaction to the new NLR brand we unveiled in January. The NLR Welcome Center Store even has a number of different items featuring the “NLR face”. Again, thanks to the Stamp team for helping North Little Rock stand out with a fun and creative brand.Bob Major, President & CEO
North Little Rock CVB