By Chad Ingram
April 26 2016
It’s the part of us that celebrates when we experience something for the first time.
It’s the perfect backdrop for an unrehearsed day.
These are the feelings the Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization (OHTO) is trying to emote with its new Come Wander brand platform which was unveiled to local tourism stakeholders at a meeting at the Pinestone April 20.
OHTO is one of 13 Regional Tourism Organizations created by the province in 2009 designed to market and hopefully boost tourism throughout Ontario. OHTO encapsulates the Haliburton Highlands Bancroft Hastings Highlands and parts of the Ottawa Valley. In the past few years it has embraced what’s known as experiential tourism – marketing experiences feelings and sensations rather then specific features or destinations.
Wednesday’s meeting was designed to give local tourism stakeholders a chance to provide input on the brand platform.
“This whole concept is based on the concept that inside everyone of us is a wanderer” consultant Chris Hughes told the room explaining the idea of the brand is to tap into the human urge to experience the unknown creating a fun adventure where one is not sure what’s around the next bend. “We want to convey the message that you can come and be free in this spectacular space.”
The aesthetics of the campaign use muted colours and bright overexposed photography the “Come Wander” slogan painted in a font with a hand-written quality.
“It’s very free-flowing it’s very loose . . . it’s very suggestive of wandering itself” Hughes said.
“Everything’s done in soft muted tones. It’s designed to be very warm very welcoming.”
The messaging itself is short and simple.
One prospective ad features a sunlit tree-lined curved roadway with the sentence “Behind every bend is another.”
Another shows a woman’s colourful skirt her hand reaching down to touch tall grass in a sunlit field.
“We want people to realize there is this escape” Hughes said adding these types of ads might be viewed by say tired GTA residents during their train commute home from work.
The platform also seeks to tie the tourism assets available in the region to the motivations of the traveller and OHTO has created five archetypal “wanderers” essentially profiles of likely visitors to the area.
The “creative cruiser” is someone who seeks out studio tours art workshops etc. The “serenity seeker” represents those looking for escape from their everyday schedule. “Freedom finders” are the bikers hikers and adrenaline junkies of all sorts looking for fix. The “rustic roamer” is someone interested in small-town charm and discovering communities’ unique stories and “memory makers” are those interested in building lasting traditions.
The Come Wander platform received mixed reviews from attendees some enjoying the warm colours welcoming tone and sense of freedom others finding that it was too generic and not representative enough of individual communities.
One criticism was that none of the photos included people’s faces smiling families on the dock and so on.
“There’s predictable ways to shoot tourism photography and we’re trying to stay away from that” Hughes said. “This is sort of the edge.”
The brand platform is meant to be a sort of general stage on which the individual communities that comprise Ontario’s Highlands can create their own performances.
“Look at it as a portal” Hughes said adding it was about giving communities a venue to tell their stories. “This is going to be a content-heavy approach and every single person in this room is going to have a role to play in that.”
Pasi Posti of Positive Media Productions liked the concept.
“It’s on everyone to tell your own story and capture those images” Posti said. “I think it’s fresh I think it’s apropos for people who may be coming here.”
Last year’s Nowhere campaign from OHTO was unpopular with a number of business owners and politicians in the county. Also promoting the concept of seeking freedom from the hectic climate of city life the “welcome to nowhere” idea was offensive to some.
Noting the Nowhere concept was nowhere to be seen Jack Brezina of the Highlands Summer Festival asked what the long-term strategy was.
“Is there going to be a theme per year?” Brezina asked. “What’s the bigger plan?”
“This is the platform going forward” Hughes said.
“Are we just giving input to something that’s already been blueprinted?” another attendee asked.
“You’re in on the ground floor” Hughes responded.
After the question-and-answer session attendees broke into groups to brainstorm on specific questions.
Once stakeholder engagement is complete and the platform is established OHTO’s plan is to review and update the brand on a biannual basis. For more information on OHTO visit www.ohto.ca.