Case study: Don't create a brand – create a movement

Case study: Don't create a brand – create a movement
When Strategy Design and Advertising was tasked with creating a brand for post-earthquake Christchurch’s Central City Plan, it sidestepped cynicism and upped engagement by creating a movement.

When Strategy Design and Advertising was tasked with creating a brand for post-earthquake Christchurch’s Central City Plan, it sidestepped cynicism and upped engagement by creating a movement.

Following the devastating February earthquake, the Christchurch City Council was tasked with developing a plan for the recovery of the central city. Normally, public consultation on a project of this magnitude would take years; the Christchurch City Council has nine months. 

Two of these months were set aside for the Council to prepare and publish a draft plan, on which legally required hearings and submissions would be taken. In this small window of time, the Council needed the fullest public consultation to ensure the prepared draft was as representative as possible.

Strategy Design and Advertising, together with NV Interactive, was tasked with engaging as much of the public as possible to ensure its views could inform the development of Christchurch’s Central City Plan.

Overcoming cynicism
Besides the logistical challenges inherent with such a tight timeframe, Strategy and NV were faced with several big issues associated with communicating such an enormously complex task. The campaign needed to feed into seven different planning work-streams, each one with multiple messages, and it needed to accommodate multiple stakeholder groups – both external and internal – including Council planners, staff and elected Councillors.

All this had to be undertaken with a traumatised public in a cluttered environment , one where even at this early stage, many earthquake recovery ‘brands’, including government agencies, think tanks and lobby groups, had formed. The campaign needed to launch just 10 weeks after the earthquake, at a time when people continued to suffer to varying degrees – whether from the impact of damaged or destroyed homes, longer commutes to new school and workplace locations, or even from a lack of basic services. And always, there was the ongoing presence of aftershocks.

In even the best of situations, asking people to put aside personal circumstances to focus on the city would be a challenge; in post-earthquake Christchurch it dared to invite cynicism and negativity. Local government is often criticized, fairly or not, for its lack of consultation on issues and Strategy had to address the in-built cynicism, especially in a situation where the squeaky wheels often dominate. Strategy had to encourage positive involvement from a wider cross-section of the community.

Creating a movement

It was clear that a ‘Central City Plan’ brand and traditional advertising alone would not be enough to drive participation. People needed to feel engaged, that they had an important stake in the future of Christchurch’s central city, and their views would be heard and actively considered.

Instead of simply creating a brand, Strategy set about creating a movement. The company called the movement ‘Share an Idea’ and through it asked people to contribute ideas for the future of central Christchurch.

The Share an Idea programme made public engagement easy in several distinct ways. Importantly, it consolidated the seven Council work-streams into four simple themes that acted as conversation starters; Move, Market, Space and Life.A website was created which doubled as a fun-to-use crowd-sourcing tool. Ideas posted were instantly acknowledged by return email and, a short time later, uploaded for public display on the site alongside other submitted ideas. This recognition and feedback was key to optimising engagement with the campaign, thereby encouraging further sharing of ideas.

The bright, positive Share an Idea identity created a common visual language that united multiple touch-points, including the website, tabloid inserts, YouTube channel, Facebook page, Twitter, press advertising, signage and e-newsletters. The vibrancy allowed Share an Idea to stand out, giving it a personality more in line with a public movement than a council-driven initiative.

The simple, active wording of the initiative turned the title into a popular catchphrase, entering the vernacular and being picked up by the media for additional unpaid reinforcement. It also became the single organising idea uniting displays and interactivity at a hugely successful weekend Community Expo.

Post-expo, the website has become a tool for the public to answer specific questions around key emerging themes as well as to share other ideas. Share an Idea has evolved much like a conversation. The organic and ongoing dialogue is key, not only in terms of informing the draft plan but in terms of strengthening the public’s perception of engagement and involvement.

Multiple measures of success
In the four weeks since its launch, Share an Idea attracted nearly 40,000 visits to its website, with an average time spent of just under five minutes. It has generated nearly 4,000 subscriptions to a regular e-newsletter and generated over 35,000 submitted ideas for the Council’s planning team to consider. At one point, the site peaked at nearly 900 submitted ideas a day. Along the way, it amassed a wealth of demographic data to help inform the Council’s planning process.

To find out how Strategy Design and Advertising can help you and your business, call:
Geoff Cranko (Christchurch)
(03) 379 8310
Martin O’Sullivan (Auckland)
(09) 360 1944
Steve White (Sydney)
(02) 9251 8137

Idealog has been covering the most interesting people, businesses and issues from the fields of innovation, design, technology and urban development for over 12 years. And we're asking for your support so we can keep telling those stories, inspire more entrepreneurs to start their own businesses and keep pushing New Zealand forward. Give over $5 a month and you will not only be supporting New Zealand innovation, but you’ll also receive a print subscription and a copy of the new book by David Downs and Dr. Michelle Dickinson, No. 8 Recharged (while stocks last).