Three children running and playing at a state park

New brand: more than just a pretty face

No one: “Washington State Parks, you just launched your rebrand! What are you gonna to do next?!”

Us: “We're gonna talk about it some more!”

We're obsessed with our new brand and the road we traveled to get here.

First, let's start with a shared definition of what “brand” means. A brand is more than a logo, it's how you're perceived by the people who interact with you. Brand is about emotion, perception and trust. Think of the brands you love. (Did you just think of Target? Same.) Now think about how they make you feel. The smile when you walk into your favorite coffee shop or the peace of mind when you go to get your pet's food – THAT is brand.

Before you make plans for where you're headed, you need to take stock of the supplies you have on hand. We started with reviewing our visuals and storytelling to see how well we're connecting to our communities. If we can figure out how people feel about us now, we know how we need to grow into the future.

So how do you quantify emotions? We asked people to share their memories and we categorized them into themes and ideas. The top memory theme was nature. People's experiences outdoors are heavily tied to the beauty of the nature around them. The next two themes were facilities (trails, campgrounds, etc.) and loved ones.

We also asked people how our current logo makes them feel when they see it (again, tapping into emotion). The overall response of the positive comments was a love for the natural elements in the logo. The negative sentiments were mostly feelings that our logo doesn't represent the entirety of the state.

Family playing at a state park

Family playing at a state park

We found that our parks are places where people get married; where they turn for healing after a divorce; where they decide to move to Washington because of the beauty they've seen here. Our parks are personal, moving, and at times indescribable. But they also represent simple fun: the everyday hike, the favorite campsite, a familiar bike ride. Our new brand would need to allow for all of these feelings to coexist within its “universe.” It needed to be able to be filled with the unique emotion and circumstances of each person and each day, yet still fiercely, proudly and recognizably Washington.

Then, we got to work.

Originally published February 08, 2022

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