City of White Rock, British Columbia - Place Brand Seeks To Be Desired


The City of White Rock, located in Western Canada near the United States border, has all the advantages of geography. The community borders a gorgeous bay, offering miles of magnificent sandy beach. An outsize independent spirit, both in the history of the place and among residents today, epitomizes the personality of the City.

However, White Rock also faced a daunting problem; the city is located in the substantial shadow of two of the world's premier cities. Vancouver is nearby, while Seattle is barely two hours away by car. Other nearby destinations, such as the city of Victoria on Vancouver Island and skiing at Whistler, compete for tourist spending and business investment.

Beyond these tourism destinations, White Rock is also surrounded by a crush of somewhat similar places - communities such as Delta, Surrey, Port Moody and Blaine - each shouting for attention, often desperately.

White Rock needed to distinguish itself, to encourage tourism and business investment over these large and small competitors.


The City of White Rock turned to WHISPER. 

We quickly determined the City suffered from a disabling stereotype; nonresidents, and even a number of residents, saw little more than a "charming, sleepy beach town" and "city by the sea." Our task was to challenge this assumption and snap the stereotype, as there exist an endless number of "beach towns" and cities "by the sea." Otherwise no one would have reason to stop and invest their time - to learn more about the City and rethink the place beyond the stereotype.

The key to any effective brand asset is to communicate a new and provocative entry point - new as in never heard of before, provocative as in difficult to forget, and entry point as in communicating an arresting blink moment prompting a rethinking - mapping authentically into the soul of the product, in this instance a place. 

To accomplish this, we turned the independent spirit of the place on its head, offering a new and authentic way to think of White Rock, while offering an entry-point story mapping into comforting notions of what the City is and why it exists, including an understanding that the landmass on which the City is located had been an island until the last ice age, and that those within the region informally refer to the area as an "island."

Rather than White Rock as City, one lost among others in the region, White Rock is a place far more profound:

White Rock offers the look, the feel, the personality of a getaway island: The Island of White Rock

As Island, this metaphor offers White Rock a context to shift the conversation about itself from that of "charming beach town" to place of "your transformation drawing upon our independent spirit."

As Island of personal transformation, White Rock is a place where tourists may come to refresh and dream, and business interests may invest in further extending those dreams, as well as their own. 

This verbal reframing of White Rock needed a visual icon to support and extend this new story.  

Interpreting the findings of our on-the-ground team led to:

A symbol drawing on a comforting tradition of decades past, of visitors to exotic destinations applying identifying adhesive-labels to their travel luggage. 

For White Rock, a symbol styled as luggage label updated as contemporary icon, ready for use in multiple digital applications. 

Own The Conversation® Results

In addition to this reposition of the City and verbal and visual reframing of entry point narrative, outdoor and print applications were created to assist the City in understanding how their new marketing asset would organically go-to-work for them every day, with precision targeting and without large advertising spends with a ready for execution go-to-market plan.

Whether tourist or business developer experiencing the Island of White Rock, Lucky You.


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