During the winter of 2010, the Hell Office of Travel and Tourism engaged Chris Herron Design to address ongoing problems with the Hell brand. The number of visitors to Hell had been in steady decline in recent years, resulting in reduced earnings for local businesses and sharp declines in tax revenue for the principality itself.
The causes for the decline were not fully understood at project launch. In addition, executive leadership (and consequently institutional vision) changed several months into the project. Both of these factors significantly undermined the viability of the initial brand strategy.
Ultimately, the new chief executive officer initiated Phase Two of the project, which began with a formal brand review. At this stage in the process, the full extent of the problems with the Hell brand came to light, and the necessity of a complete brand overhaul became apparent.
In early discussions with Chris Herron Design (CHD), the brand committee at the Hell Office of Travel and Tourism (HOTT) requested a moderate rebrand of Hell. The members did not want to overhaul the brand in a manner that would undermine existing brand equity. This approach was explored by CHD over an eight week period.
CHD started with mood boards and a verbal concept survey to establish tone and to eliminate any unworkable directions. CHD proceeded to explore a broad spectrum of options that might serve as primary brand marker. The ideal solution would be simultaneously intuitive and novel and would serve as a compelling and assertive flagship for all future branding efforts.
Midway through Phase One, the client requested that CHD avoid using imagery traditionally associated with Hell including: demons, devils, fiery infernos, lakes of fire, brimstone, devices of torture and torment, serpents, horned animals, fantastical beasts, pentagrams, tridents, 666, etc. A number of these concepts had already been explored and are included below.
Over the centuries, Hell has always used some form of the letter H as a brand emblem. The principality's various H initials have adorned everything from wax correspondence and administrative seals to vehicles, uniforms, and signage. Most notably, the H emblem has always greeted incoming visitors at the gates of Hell.
However, the H has traditionally been used as a secondary element behind the main logotype; i.e. when a compact brand identifier was necessary.
The client requested we explore solutions in which the identity was a single cohesive entity. We surveyed a broad spectrum of initials and monograms that could serve as the primary brand symbol.
The four-letter logotype has been Hell's main brand signifier for centuries. Going into the design exploration phase, the team felt that a wordmark would be the most appropriate and utilitarian solution for the Hell identity moving forward.
Historically, blackletter-informed wordmarks were the norm, and while these examples reflected Hell's positioning, they did not differentiate the destination in the marketplace.
CHD felt that a more proprietary wordmark would better serve the brand. Numerous examples were considered.
HOTT also requested that CHD explore adding the "brand" extension to the logotype, for use on future house label merchandise such as T-shirts, hats, and coffee mugs.
In addition to the typographic solutions discussed above, a number of enclosure-based solutions were considered in Phase One of the project.
As a hybrid between a wordmark and a lockup, an enclosure solution had the potential to do a lot with a little, thanks to its relative visual weight and compact footprint.
In the design development phase, traditional Hell themes were rendered along with more contemporary metaphors.
Ultimately, it was determined that an enclosure shape was too limiting for future brand extension, particularly with respect to the Hell merchandise label.
Hell has always used both a logotype and a symbol (the H monogram), but the two elements were never locked up in any systematic way. The team felt that a formalized lockup might allow more consistent application of the identity.
In addition to the monograms shown above, CHD explored a vast number of symbols. Per the interim request of HOTT, CHD gradually moved away from traditional Hell themes.
Marks with more subtle references to the Hell experience were explored: sources of phobias, allusions to violence, visual paradoxes, downward arrows, etc.
In the end, these symbols did not gel with the new, optimistic tone proposed midstream by recently elected CEO Kenneth Abaddon (see Phase Two).
After several months of work, the project was thrown into disarray by internal dissension at the Hell Office of Travel and Tourism. Unbeknownst to Chris Herron Design, there was a small yet influential group within the board that was actively lobbying for a complete brand overhaul.
After consolidating majority support, the group managed to elect a new CEO from within its ranks. Kenneth Abaddon had years of relevant experience, having started a number of his own companies. Upon election, Mr. Abaddon initiated a comprehensive review of the Hell brand to better understand the decline in visitor revenue. The review included employee interviews, town meetings, focus groups, a survey of communication efforts, and revenue analysis.
In the end, the review found that Hell tourism had been in decline due to the following factors:
The New Positioning
(Developed by the Hell Office of Travel and Tourism and Chris Herron Design)
As the premier global tourist destination, Hell provides a one of a kind experience for the visitor. We take great pains to accommodate your every desire. You will experience pure pleasure from our luxurious hotels and resorts, exciting gaming venues, unparalleled nightlife, and world-class entertainment. Not to mention our top-notch convention facilities. Hell is Simply Heavenly™.
Look and Feel
The tone of the Hell brand will be friendly, welcoming, fun, warm, fresh, vibrant, and credible.
Due to a number of external factors, the various elements of the new identity had to be designed, approved, and implemented in under 8 weeks.
Additional detail is contained in the Abridged Brand Strategy document.
Owing to the specific look and feel requirements of the new Hell brand, a broad survey of potential typographic solutions was initiated by Chris Herron Design.
The challenge was to find type that spoke with a warm and friendly voice, yet wasn't too casual, as this could potentially alienate certain segments of the target audience (adults, professionals, businesses, etc.).
In addition, the type needed to be highly legible at all sizes. After exploring hundreds of off-the-shelf candidates and developing numerous customized options, a custom-drawn wordmark based on ITC Chino was chosen as the winner.
The fact that a new positioning line would be integrated into the overall lockup meant that a logo with a separate symbol and logotype would be functionally cumbersome, due to the variety of settings in which the logo would appear.
A fragmented lockup also tended to look too corporate and stodgy for a consumer-oriented destination brand.
These factors, combined with the critical time constraints of Phase Two, led to an expedited exploration of more compact solutions that conveyed the essence of the newly articulated "simply heavenly" brand.
The team agreed to continue the tradition of using a tagline for the brand. In the short run, a tagline would signal the radical change in positioning. And it would continue to reinforce that positioning over time.
Working in tandem, HOTT and CHD developed several dozen directions. Ultimately, a short list of seven candidates was selected for focus group testing.
In a surprising turn of events, the client team dismissed the focus groups findings and went with Simply Heavenly, as this line embodied the voice of the brand most expressively.
During the typesetting phase, dozens of humanist display and script faces were considered. Ultimately, the team settled on a typeface which has a friendly and expressive voice.
At the beginning of Phase Two, The Hell Office of Travel and Tourism stated that Hell's existing color palette had been deemed too hot by members of the target audience.
In fact, it was considered "alienating" and "off-putting" by most potential visitors. It simply did not convey the qualities of the of the newly repositioned brand.
The color palette was developed with focus group feedback in mind. It adds a sense of fun and vitality to the new brand.
It was thoroughly tested to ensure consistent application across all printed, projected, and electronic media.
Thanks to the following people who helped raise Hell to a new level.
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