North Star Register To Receive North Star News!
return to case studies

Hickory, North Carolina
City Branding Study

Key Challenge City Image | Logo
Don’t rest on your laurels.  Sometimes the essence of a community’s image shifts with the economic or cultural tides.  In order to maintain reputation relevancy, the community’s brand representation needs to change accordingly.  Such was the case with Hickory, NC. Stakeholders describe the city as the “former furniture capital of the world.” But industry changes resulted in lost jobs and the city’s connection to furniture became tenuous.  Hickory leaders turned to North Star Destination Strategies to answer the question, “Who are we NOW?”

Critical Insight
Like the tree, the Hickory is best characterized as strong, tough and lovely.  There is an inherent skill, quality and artistry in the things the city and residents do to continually make Hickory a better place. This collective spirit of craftsmanship is what makes Hickory so special and unique. Other communities might be as tough or strong and may cooperate well, but none has the combination of these attributes that Hickory does. And none has the craftsmanship attitude to take that raw material and make it into a high-quality community. These are descriptors consistent with a furniture reputation.

Brand Strategy
North Star recommended targeting makers and doers with a position based on the city’s collective spirit of craftsmanship, which strengthens any endeavor with detail, artistry and quality.

Because Hickory had so much equity in its existing logo, leaders chose to retain it with refinements.  A new strapline, “Life. Well-Crafted” celebrates the city’s dedication to detail, quality and artistry. The ability to insert different ideas in place of “Life” makes this line infinitely flexible, which is mandatory for a communitywide brand.  Visuals profile “craftspeople” using their tools – whether a spade, a medical laser or an espresso machine – as they work at their craft. Warm, natural colors of blues, greens and browns play off the city’s combination of strength and beauty.


Initial Concept

One of the ways North Star brings your community brand to life is with a Brand Identity package, which is the creative representation of your community brand. Creative goodies include recommendations for a logo, strap line, color palette, print ads, outdoor boards, t-shirts, websites and more!  (Note:  The “initial concept” is North Star’s recommendation.  As our client’s brand implementation progresses we will provide their “evolution of the idea”!)

City Image | Look1 City Image | Look2 City Image | Look3





Evolution of the Brand





Brand Action

Bringing a two-dimensional city brand to life in a three-dimensional community takes a strong brand action plan. Following are a sampling of action ideas from the hundreds developed specifically for Hickory. All were designed to help them wear their city brand like a second skin.

  • Branded Merchandise - Develop brand merchandise such as a memorable welcome gift for new businesses and residents in Hickory.

  • Launch a Handcrafted in Hickory campaign - Create a “Handcrafted in Hickory” program for all locally owned or operated businesses, retailers or individual that MAKE anything authentic, original and handcrafted.  Products should receive a series of stickers or tags that creators can place on them.  Use a QR code on the tags to tell the story of the item.
    Hand Crafted Hickory Pots

  • Infiltrate your infrastructure - Establish a functional art program throughout downtown with a series of handcrafted benches from local artisans.
    bench2  bench

  • Create a civic award - Develop a communitywide "Makers and Doers" civic award to recognize those regular citizens who go above and beyond in helping others or helping make the community a better place to live.

  • Identify easiest consumer touch points and brand them - Establish a regular column in your newsletter called “Makers and Doers” that showcases the people who make things happen every day in Hickory.
    Hickory E-News


Survey to measure residents' view of Hickory


“The two key components of North Star’s BrandPrint process that is helping us really move the initiative forward are the thorough research and the deep involvement of key business leaders via the City’s Business Development Committee. The result has been high profile, passionate community leaders telling the Hickory story from an indisputable foundation based in the solid research. We also really enjoyed the North Star staff; they made the process comfortable for everyone.”
- Mick Berry, City Manager, City of Hickory




Copyright 2005 North Star Destination Strategies