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Thames. Explore Interesting

Town branding to change perception, attract visitors and work towards a common vision.

Off the back of consecutive lockdowns, cyclones and road closures, the Thames 2023 visitor spend was down -29.7 compared to 2022 levels. A business forum was set where they asked Thames to be promoted as a destination. With nothing in place, we had a lot of work to do.

It’s natural of me to get behind causes, and these particular social challenges and brand initiatives regarding tourism, town branding and visitor promotion was right up my alley, so I offered to help.

Pro-bono, Matter* alongside the Thames Business Association pitched a visitor recovery strategy to Council and Government and was successful in securing funding for visitor branding, signage, website and social media development.

Leading a steering group of community representatives from Council to Iwi, business leaders to small business, marketers to mums, we set out to reposition Thames and change visitor perceptions. We discovered our home truths, our best assets and features and packaged them in a distinct and memorable way to our target audiences.

‘Explore Interesting’ is an idea that covers all Thames unique selling points (our interesting history, wilderness adventures, places to relax and our quirky shops and cafes), as well as being an invitation for visitors to come and dig deeper into our historic past.

Our brand whakatuaki (proverb) of Whakamārama (to illuminate, educate, explain) personifies us a town of storytellers, passing the knowledge on to ensure we it’s not lost, and ensure visitors understand the deeper history of place they are visiting.

With history going back centuries, every track, trail, beach and river has an interesting story to tell. The website explorethames.nz is a repository of all these interesting stories and facts. Making our history accessible so visitors learn more about what and where they are exploring.

Design-wise the task of designing my new town logo was daunting and not lost on me. So many times and eras and opinions to represent and please. Which gave me the idea of reaching out to @monolith.nz to help develop multiple Thames typefaces that work as a set.

To represent our authentic, yet quirky personality we mixed the typefaces up to form our brand and logo font. As open source fonts, the community and businesses will be able to use the new Thames fonts for their own events and branding, including the upcoming project repainting some mainstreet shop parapets in authentic type styles.

A big part of the brief was to change the perception of Thames. From a boring, tired town that closes at 5, to a historic, adventure town with fishing, beaches, bush and rivers at our disposal. An image library was photographed showing our best assets and in our best light. These are being used across social media, website and PR channels. Changing the image of Thames one FB photo at a time!

A detailed town and Thames coastal and bush tracks map was produced to show all of Thames’ points of interest. It was distributed to shops and cafes for visitors to use to explore interesting things around Thames. Signs are also being developed for key locations, each telling a story from our past.

From a small investment, we’ve come a long way. Community and local businesses are right behind it and sharing the news. But it’s just the start of the journey, to become ‘New Zealand’s most interesting town’, something Thames can truly own and be known for.  The job now is to continue to promote Thames and to pitch for interesting things to happen – river bike trails, historic visitor precincts, iwi sculpture and how to weave the past into the future through our storytelling.

Client: Thames-Coromandel District Council, Thames Community Board, the people of Thames.
Account Director: Brent Courtney
Strategist: Brent Courtney
Creative Director: Brent Courtney
Designer: Brent Courtney
Typography: Alistair McCready – Monolith
Photography: Brent Courtney
Social Media: Brent Courtney and Kara-Leah Grant
Website Dev: Richard Hornell

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