Rebranding: A Case Study

Refreshed positioning and identity shed new light on the who, what and why.

Jake Trussell
May 26, 2015 · 5 min read

Our mission and scope evolved dramatically at World Business Chicago (WBC) after Mayor Rahm Emanuel took the helm in 2011. Those changes, largely driven by the Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs, provided new stories to tell, and a demand for new ways to tell them.

The redesigned brand of World Business Chicago aimed to shed light on those stories, and tell them by reflecting the essence the organization.

MESSAGING

In 2011 Mayor Emanuel asked World Business Chicago to collaborate with The Brookings Institution, and McKinsey & Company to develop a roadmap for Chicago’s economic future. The Plan for Economic Growth & Jobs laid out a set of 10 strategies as a foundation on which to build initiatives to drive economic growth in the region. In early 2012, when the Plan was announced, WBC began developing and incubating a series of programs, initiatives — essentially economic development startups — based on those strategies.

The resulting growth and change inside WBC drove us to reassess how we communicate what we do, and we kicked off a series of exercises to help reframe our message.

We collaborated with brand strategy agency Prophet to delve deep into a better understanding of who we are, who our audience is, what they know about us, and what they should know about us. We took the learnings from around 40 stakeholder interviews and translated that into a vision and mission highlighting the essence of WBC:

VISION

“World Business Chicago works to ensure all Chicagoans prosper.”

“World Business Chicago is a public-private, non-profit partnership that drives inclusive economic growth and job creation, supports business, and promotes Chicago as a leading global city.

But that very distilled language is just the tip of a large iceberg. We needed a way to better share WBC’s stories with the public, and because WorldBusinessChicago.com is the organization’s most public face, we started there.

WEBSITE

An analysis of our website showed that more than 70% of visitors to the homepage were landing there for the first time, and most visitors to all parts of the site came in through search. This told us that our most popular landing page — the homepage — needs to be a very high-level overview of who we are, Chicago’s benefits for business, and how we can help. The new homepage tells those stories in a concise and engaging way, and asks visitors to delve deeper for more information.

Meanwhile, we’ve remained conscious that the many other pages of the site, where visitors land from search and social media clickthroughs, need similarly engaging narratives, and have their own ways of asking visitors to act, whether it’s to contact us, sign up for our newsletter, or use our Site Selector mapping tool.

We also partnered with Chicago startup Desktime to provide a handy mapping tool helping entrepreneurs find co-working and shared space as they build new businesses. The app shows workspace available for rent in increments as short as one day.

We worked with web development agency Palantir.net to build a mobile-first site, responsive to all screen sizes (read Palantir.net’s case study). This challenged us to distill messaging to its essence for the smallest screens, which, as it turns out, is the best way to display content for large screens too. Attention spans are short, and website visitors only want long-form content if it is a subject they are deeply interested in, so we funnel them in that direction with overviews that lead to deeper content.

But strong, concise messaging is just one ingredient in this content mix. Our visual language needed to help tell stories too.

VISUAL IDENTITY

Having built small websites for a number of WBC initiatives, one recurring theme was that beautiful photography resonates strongly with people. Chicago is gorgeous, so we decided to highlight the city and WBC’s initiatives with bold, full-width photographs throughout the site.

For landing pages we developed a visual language using icons to help quickly understand context. Text is laid out in easily digestible columns, and page sections are banded in order to help define thematic areas.

Right away we saw a dynamic uptick in clicks and impressions which showing that our visitors were engaging more deeply with the new site.

We also refined our logo, which had been the same since 1999, when WBC began. Our original logo had a beautiful stained glass effect, and an elegant, light type treatment, but these elements also made it difficult to read in many instances.

The amount of detail in the icon didn’t translate to small treatments or environments where the logo would be seen at a distance, especially if the full color version was used. The icon often looked like a solid rectangle. And the light type used in the wordmark was often unreadable.

Our refreshed logo pays homage to the original — in fact some people don’t notice the difference right away — but it uses a stronger type style, making for a wordmark that’s more easily readable. The icon has been simplified too. Extraneous elements have been removed, line-widths are stronger and more consistent, and there are no longer multi-color treatments.

We’ve also developed a number of versions that can be used across varying environments. There’s a traditional version with a rectangular icon and World Business Chicago stacked to its right (above). There’s a version with a square icon, and the text stretching out horizontally to the right (which we’ve used on our new website header). And now we have versions with a “WBC” type treatment; an acronym we use, but that’s never been represented by a logo. On our new website the “World Business Chicago” logo animates into the “WBC” logo when visitors scroll down the page. This helps reinforce that World Business Chicago is also known as WBC.

These elements of our new identity — simplified logo, refreshed color scheme, refined type treatments, and updated positioning — all work together to frame and showcase the essense of WBC.

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