Two Rivers is a beautiful place located on the shores of Lake Michigan. Because of its location, it is historically a fishing community, but it’s also the birthplace of the Ice Cream Sundae and became a factory town when the J.E. Hamilton Holly Wood Type Company was founded in 1880. Within 20 years, Hamilton became the largest manufacturer of wood type in the United States — responsible for printed type that appeared in newspapers, posters and advertising across the country.
In the past, large companies were fully vested in their town. They were locally owned, employed much of the population and reinvested in their community. The town and the factory were inseparable.
Fast forward to today — the factory has closed. Some residents believe they will never thrive until another large employer comes to town. The good news is that when you look closely you’ll see many in the community are more optimistic. They are already rolling up their sleeves and aren’t waiting around for an outsider to come in and bail them out. Instead, they are rediscovering the community’s entrepreneurial spirit and reshaping the future of Two Rivers.
Our agency is founded on the famous Jane Jacobs quote that says, “Cities can provide something for everyone, only because, and only when they are created by everyone.” This means every project starts with engagement.
Over the course of one year, we deeply engaged Two Rivers residents and stakeholders through numerous focus groups, roundtables, 1-on-1 interviews, public meetings, online surveys and tours of the community. We met with various interest groups including students, retailers, arts groups, large employers, business owners, real estate agents and residents. We even collaborated with the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum to create custom letterpress posters advertising a public meeting.
Far before primarily German and French-Canadian settlers made the city an industrial hub, several Native American tribes called the area home and fished the Mishicott and Neshoto rivers. In the 1840s, sawmills, woodworking and commercial fishing operations took over. Because of the city’s dense forest and prime location on Lake Michigan, Two Rivers became a shipping and fishing hub. Water has always played a major role in the area’s history.
In 1880, William Nash, editor of the Two Rivers Chronicle, needed large wood type to print posters. He was under a tight deadline, so he asked Two Rivers local J.E. Hamilton to make the type. It printed so well that Hamilton made up a few samples and sent them to nearby printers, which led him to start the J.E. Hamilton Holly Wood Type Company. The company did so well that it eventually became America’s largest and longest wood type maker.
The Hamilton factory played a massive role in the community. In fact, we often heard stories of generations of families all working there. However the company shifted focus and eventually left Two Rivers, leaving a hole in both employment opportunities and the local identity. The factory was demolished in 2014, but its legacy lives on at the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum. The museum is home to 1.5 million pieces of wood type and more than 1,000 styles and sizes of patterns. It is the only museum dedicated to the preservation, study, production and printing of wood type.
Like Hamilton, other entrepreneurs in Two Rivers have taken risks, tried new things and built legacies by doing so. In 1881, Ed Berner, owner of a soda fountain, topped ice cream with chocolate sauce, but only sold it on Sundays, and the ice cream sundae was born. Today, new businesses are forging their own paths.
While everyone has completely different backgrounds and goals for their community, when you really listen you can start to identify the common threads. These common threads become the developed brand principles that set the stage for the story the brand will tell. We started to recognize themes of timelessness, creativity and entrepreneurship, and comfort.
These brand principles show that the town wasn’t dying, and that it didn’t need some big industry to come and rescue it. Instead, the community could remain true to its past while reinventing its future. It became clear that the brand’s story was all about being timeless & true.
This speaks to both old things that last forever but also to new things created in a timeless way. Timeless things are simple, quality, and always in style but never trendy. They favor function over luxury. They have character without being flashy. They are true to their purpose.
The lake and view is always changing — day to day and hour to hour it’s always different. The city is also changing. Two Rivers can embrace and be more comfortable with change because its sense of timelessness allows the community to remember who they are and where they came from. They look to their past for inspiration and guidance, and while the city may change, Two Rivers will remain true to who they are.
With the brand strategy defined, we took inspiration from the existing visual identity and explored and tested a wide range of creative options and design directions. The end result was not only a logomark but a complete brand system that includes a “made-in” brand for local businesses and residents to adopt.
Messaging is all about telling the brand story of Timeless & True.
One way to do that is through a messaging framework, as opposed to a fixed slogan or tagline.
True to _______
True to Two
The blank can be filled in by variety of words or phrases as they apply to the subject matter. This allows the campaign to maintain a sense of consistency while speaking to multiple audiences. The phrase “True to Two” is a rallying cry for the brand that can be used as a headline, subheadline, hashtag, or even be worked into the copy. It accurately reflects the brand story and is memorable, encouraging adoption by residents, visitors and businesses alike.
No one will recognize a brand or understand the story it tells on launch day. Instead, meaning is created through consistent implementation over time, so we develop a multi-year implementation plan that outlines steps for rolling out the brand and building meaning.
The implementation plan identifies catalyst projects that play a key role in creating that meaning. For Two Rivers, that meant creating a brand portal and building out the multi-phase “made-in” strategy.
The city also held a community pride launch event where they showed the branding project documentary. The documentary provides a behind-the-scenes look at the entire branding process, and in doing so tells the story of many different residents and businesses whose stories are the story of Two Rivers. The project documentary was shown on a large screen on the beach and the event included fireworks, live music and branded apparel.
The brand portal allows easy access to brand assets so that things remain consistent. Brand management is an essential part of building meaning and retaining the integrity of the brand.