New Rockford Region brand unveiled

March 13, the curtain rose on a new brand identity for the Rockford Region during a community celebration at Rockford’s landmark Coronado Theatre. More than 200 residents and community leaders came out to see the brand unveiled, and to learn about the strategy and process that drove the creation of the new, contemporary logo and communications elements that support the identity.

The new brand, “Rockford—Real. Original.” conveys what the Rockford Region offers residents, visitors and economic investors: a genuine, quality, American experience. Many people have defined ours as a what-you-see-is-what-you-get experience, a compliment meaning there is no pretense about our place or people. “The brand communicates that life is lived here at a slightly different pace—something we often hear from people in Chicago, a major market from which we attract many visitors, investors and ‘boomerang’ residents returning to their roots. This quality of life is enhanced by the multitude of terrific assets in Rockford that are unique, accessible and a great value,” said David Preece, president and CEO of the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Janyce Fadden, president of the Rockford Area Economic Development Council and a part of the brand development team, said that such a community identity helps support economic development efforts. She added, “We expect the regional brand to be very helpful in reinforcing the great qualities within our region.”

The branding project was initiated at the request of Rockford Mayor Lawrence J. Morrissey (I) and Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen (R) to increase positive awareness of the Rockford region and to encourage further collaboration between organizations charged with marketing the region outside of the area. The 10-month process was led by the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, the City of Rockford, Winnebago County and the Rockford Area Economic Development Council. GrahamSpencer Advertising of Rockford developed brand materials, including the logo and tagline.

Process & outcome

The brand development process involved extensive analysis of existing research, team brainstorming, customer research (primarily through focus groups in the Quad Cities and Chicago suburbs) and extensive creative exploration. The team took into consideration the heritage of the region, our variety of attractions and activities, the marketing environment, inter-municipal relationships, the region’s aspirations, and many other factors, including previous branding efforts. The resulting brand system is flexible and is focused primarily on use by public and quasi-public entities, with secondary usage by private organizations.

“Previous efforts to ‘name’ or re-name our region were probably destined to fail for the simple reason that the only known entity outside the Rockford Region is Rockford,” said Jay Graham, partner at GrahamSpencer, lead creative agency on the brand project. He added, “Sure, this region has four rivers, and a garden and a golf course and a park named Sinnissippi. But no one outside our region knows that. So, we are leading with ‘Rockford, Illinois USA,’ and in some cases, ‘Rockford Region,’ depending on where marketing messages are executed and who the audience is.”

Rena Cotsones, RACVB Board chairman, stated: “The brand was developed to offer a unifying theme and collaborative platform for public and private organizations to use in their communications programs. The RACVB will be adopting the new brand as its corporate identity, and we are eager to see the system adopted in various ways by a wide range of entities in our area. This seems like a small thing, but it can play an important role in tying us together as a region.”

To date, the following public and public-purpose organizations have expressed support and initiated efforts to adopt the new brand in ways appropriate to their organization and operating environment.

City of Rockford, Village of Rockton, Village of Machesney Park, City of Loves Park, Winnebago County, Village of Cherry Valley

Rockford Chamber of Commerce, Rockford Area Economic Development Council, Rockford Mass Transit District, CentreEvents, Rockford College, Chicago/Rockford International Airport, Rockford Park District and the River District Association.

Many other public and private entities are considering options for adopting variations of the flexible identity system, and the development team will support their exploration and implementation.

from the April 4-10, 2007, issue

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