A New Face with a Familiar Voice: Advance 360 Rebrands Statewide Organization

It’s official: the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association has a new name, and a new look for its legacy. Together with partners and members throughout the State of Michigan, Advance 360 guided their journey to their new name and brand, now known as Check In Michigan.

Who is Check In Michigan?

Check In Michigan is an association for the hospitality and tourism industry, leading efforts to benefit hotels, attractions, and hospitality ventures through out the state.

The Scope of Work

Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association, as it was formerly known, knew that they were poised to reinvent themselves. Under new leadership and with a changing landscape for lodging entities with the surge in short-term rental companies like Airbnb, the collective efforts of advocacy on legislation around Post-Labor Day Academic Year, minimum wage and Pure Michigan funding, the work of the association was stronger than ever, but their dated identity no longer served them well.

Advance 360 was contracted to develop charrettes for the stakeholder groups across the state, use the findings to develop a logo and identity system, and launch a new web presence for the association’s conference and institutional websites.

Of this work, Deanna Richeson, President and CEO of Check In Michigan wrote, “Our association has a rich history of 112 years representing a widely diverse industry, and we wanted to forge a stronger future for our hotels, attractions, and hospitality ventures. We envisioned honoring the contributions of those who were before us, and yet opening our arms to embrace younger generations of rising leaders. Clearly this required the skills of master communicators! Over several months, [the Advance 360 Team] created a process that was inclusive, reflective, expansive and thorough. We held several focus groups with a diverse kaleidoscope of hospitality stakeholders, including engaging exercises that gleaned rich insights into the values, emotions and preferences of our participants.”

The Charrette Experience:

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The association’s team recruited a diverse group of open minded individuals to share their thoughts and stories. Activities generated forward iterations on individual ideas, and the groups were able to weigh in personally as well as in groups. From 68 ideas that emerged during these discussions, 16 common themes were forged, crossing the generational, business, and personal preferences of those in the rooms. These themes became the source for creative inspiration for logo designs.

But These Journeys are Rarely Linear

“Just when we thought we were nearing our final stage, MLTA realized we were envisioning a new culture and decided to choose a new name as well a new logo. We were also racing against the clock to announce our new brand at the annual industry conference,” said Richeson.

Advance 360’s regroup was immediate. An additional focus group, called the “Groundswell” was formed to further explore the concept of a new name, build further “buy-in” to this change in direction, and build upon what had already been explored. Activities during this session built to a crescendo around the strategic priorities that would need to be reviewed by the Board of Directors.

This charrette was followed by two board planning sessions to do just that. These sessions were intense for everyone, but harvested the best version of commonality across all the collected data and overcame any hesitation around change for the organization at large. The board was a united team and was energized to “grow forward.”

Now What?

Now the design began. Over a months-long process, the guiding principles of the association were built into a verbal representation of the brand (name) and the visual representation (logo). The group that carried us forward toward that end was formed with executive team members, board members, and a cross section of industry representation.

“None of us looked back, but instead focused on the tasks ahead with a team of stakeholders who met to guide the design process with their input. The result was stunning … a look that was strong, professional, inclusive, inviting, and even a tad fun.”

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Former Logo

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New Logo

The former logo represented a time when the State Capital served as the center of the lodging and tourism universe for the association. This simply is no longer true. The association has transitioned to an immersive model. The team and board are truly wherever their membership is, and wherever their membership requires them to be. Their multi-faceted mission is more than just advocacy, but has expanded to include education, workforce, and community.

Alongside this rebrand was also the digital presence of the organization, which needed to reflect the energy, momentum and credibility of Check In Michigan to the public. View their new site which will launch on April 2.

“Once the brand identity was complete, the final leg of our marathon was creating the “brand reveal.” Our Advance 360 partners created the presentation that will inspire nearly a thousand conference attendees, from scripting to creating an animated video that excites the imagination and “cool factor” among our audience. I am completely confident in the positive reception of our new brand identity, and in the electrified energy the audience will experience at our brand reveal,” said President Deanna Richeson.”

See what conference attendees saw, here.

Advance 360 is an affiliate of Advance Travel & Tourism

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Rebranding can be Daunting, but Results Exciting

Just as our own lives have seasons, generations, or iterations, so do brands. Businesses that experience dramatic growth find themselves telling new stories about capacity, e-commerce, or new product availability. Perhaps the physical space is remodeled, creating an enhanced, in-person experience for your customers. Or, you simply recognize that the brand identity system you have has existed for a number of years, and deserves “refreshing.”

This was the case for a jewelry client. A long-time business, Plata y Oro, was acquired by an established local jewelry designer. With the purchase of the business, the new owner had to evaluate and determine the company’s branding moving forward. Lengthy discussions took place to tackle some tough questions like brand equity in the market, preserving existing clientele, communicating this change. The new iteration of the business would also get a new physical space within the year, and a new website. In all, it was determined that the business would use a new name, as well as a visual identity authentic to the new ownership and business design.

Original Designs

The original Plata y Oro mark was comprised of rounded script, evoking familiarity and warmth, while retaining the strength of the name as its central focal point. It served the business well for a number of years, and was very true to feeling of the business for that season of its life.

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New Designs Reflecting the Name Change

The new design changes retained the circular component as the strongest visual que. But the breaks in its border offer an openness, an inclusion of the negative space surrounding. Also important was a modern representation of the name: Teel Jewelers (the last name of the new business owner). It is graphic and modern, but readable, and iterations were crafted to provide opportunities for using a more concise mark when required.

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Final Deliverables

Developing a new mark isn’t enough alone. It’s the entirety of the identity system, the way that colors, images, type, and visual elements function in congress that generates new brand assets. At Advance 360, we don’t just develop a logo. Instead, we provide a guide or playbook that offers the framework of how these elements should be used now and into the future. This guide provides printers and third party users of the brand reference material for their creations on behalf of the business.

From our clients, “The process for designing something as seemingly simple as a logo is somewhat magical. Looking at what we had before and looking at what we have now is an impressive difference. Our staff sees the difference and is excited and motivated to promote and expand the brand. We love the guidelines, it will be a valuable tool in our marketing going forward.”

Researching a College: The Search Process

Education reporter Betsy Hammond of the Oregonian Media Group has seen colleges in her region get better at marketing qualities that make them special. For example, Whitman College, a small, liberal arts school in Walla Walla, Washington, stresses the breadth of its programs, close working relationships with professors, and a year-long “Encounters” program offering freshman a deep dive into the ongoing value of a liberal arts education. Western Oregon University, which stresses accessibility, recently announced affordability grants to help students meet rising costs.

Yet as the parent of a 16-year-old son, Hammond is learning how challenging the search process can be. Rankings often “read as though they were written by someone sitting in an office crunching numbers,” she says. “People feel overwhelmed.”

Are you overwhelmed developing an effective plan to marketing your University?

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