By Chad Ingram
Published April 20 2016
It's the part of us that celebrateswhen we experience something for the first time.
It's the perfect backdrop for anunrehearsed day.
These are the feelings the Ontario'sHighlands Tourism Organization (OHTO) is trying to emote with its newCome Wander brand platform which was unveiled to local tourismstakeholders at a meeting at the Pinestone April 20.
OHTO is one of 13 Regional TourismOrganizations created by the province in 2009 designed to market andhopefully boost tourism throughout Ontario. OHTOencapsulates the Haliburton Highlands Bancroft Hastings Highlandsand parts of the Ottawa Valley. In the past few years it has embracedwhat's known as experiential tourism – marketing experiencesfeelings and sensations rather then specific features ordestinations.
Wednesday's meeting was designed togive local tourism stakeholders a chance to provide input on thebrand platform.
“This whole concept is based on theconcept that inside every one of us is a wanderer” consultant ChrisHughes told the room explaining the idea of the brand is to tap intothe human urge to experience the unknown creating a fun adventurewhere one is unsure what's around the next bend. “We want toconvey the message that you can come and be free in this spectacularspace.”
The aesthetics of the campaign usemuted colours and bright overexposed photography the “ComeWander” slogan painted in a font with a hand-written quality.
“It's very free-flowing it's veryloose . . . it's very suggestive of wandering itself” Hughes said.“Everything's done in soft muted tones. It's designed to be verywarm very welcoming.”
The messaging itself is short andsimple.
One prospective ad features a sunlittree-lined curved roadway with the sentence “Behind every bend isanother.”
Another shows a woman's colourfulskirt her hand reaching down to touch tall grass in a sunlit field.
“We want people to realize there isthis escape” Hughes said adding these types of ads might beviewed by say tired GTA residents during their train commute homefrom work.
The platform also seeks to tie thetourism assets available in the region to the motivations of thetraveller and OHTO has created five archetypal “wanderers”essentially profiles of likely visitors to the area.
The “creative cruiser” is someonewho seeks out studio tours art workshops etc. The “serenityseeker” represents those looking for escape from their everydayschedule. “Freedom finders” are the bikers hikers and adrenalinejunkies of all sorts looking for fix. The “rustic roamer” issomeone interested in small-town charm and discovering communities'unique stories and “memory makers” are those interested inbuilding lasting traditions.
The Come Wander platform received mixedreviews from attendees some enjoying the warm colours welcomingtone and sense of freedom others finding that it was too generic andnot representative enough of individual communities.
One criticism was that none of thephotos included people's faces smiling families on the dock and soon.
“There's predictable ways to shoottourism 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 asort of general stage on which the individual communities thatcomprise Ontario's Highlands can create their own performances.
“Look at it as a portal” Hughessaid adding it was about giving communities a venue to tell theirstories. “This is going to be a content-heavy approach and everysingle person in this room is going to have a tole to play in that.”
Pasi Posti of Positive MediaProductions liked the concept.
“It's on everyone to tell your ownstory and capture those images” Posti said. “I think it's freshI think it's apropos for people who may be coming here.”
Last year's Nowhere campaign from OHTOwas unpopular with a number of business owners and politicians in thecounty. Also promoting the concept of seeking freedom from the hecticclimate of city life the “welcome to nowhere” idea was offensiveto some.
Noting the Nowhere concept was nowhereto be seen Jack Brezina of the Highlands Summer Festival asked whatthe long-term strategy was.
“Is there going to be a theme peryear?” Brezina asked. “What's the bigger plan?”
“This is the platform going forward”Hughes said.
“Are we just giving input tosomething that's already been blueprinted?” another attendee asked.
“You're in on the ground floor”Hughes responded.
After the question-and-answer sessionattendees broke into groups to brainstorm on specific questions.
Once stakeholder engagement is completeand the platform is established OHTO's plan is to review and updatethe brand on a biannual basis.
For more information on OHTO visit www.ohto.ca .