Last Saturday, my brother Brent and I ran and rode OC Transpo buses all over Ottawa. Along the way, we (over) acted in soap opera, skateboarded, played croquet, danced around stripper poles (no nudity involved – this year), and ate really, really gross stuff. Not a normal Saturday for us or the more than 900 other participants – but all part of the fun in the Ottawa edition of the Mitsubishi City Chase urban adventure series. Which got me thinking about brands. Surprised?
Modeled on the same idea as the “Amazing Race” reality TV show, the CityChase is positioned as a “One-day Urban Adventure Challenge”. “Chasers” (as we’re called) are given a clue sheet at the outset, then have to choose between 10 challenges or “Chasepoints” spread throughout the city. And challenges can range from whitewater paddling to rapelling down a building to eating bugs or other stuff with a high “ick” factor. Chasers can only use foot-power or public transit, and are allowed to use cellphones or smartphones with no limit on the amount of help you can get. This is the third year Brent and I have entered, and it’s a riot.
But since this is a blog about brand strategy, I’ll offer a few thoughts on CityChase branding and marketing.
Brand elements that work:
The name. “CityChase” is a great name. It’s descriptive enough to give you a strong sense of what it’s about (“Chasing” around a city), but the unusual term “chase” lends it enough character to a) force you to think about / explain / start a conversation about it, b) create a memorable impression, c) act as a strong, ownable trademark, d) create natural insider language (GO CHASERS!), and d) lends itself well to sponsor extensions – Mitsubishi here, Samsung and National Geographic overseas.
The logo: like the name, simple, strong. The arrow icon won’t win any design awards, but its placement on the right side of the wordmark, along with the small opening on the right create just enough distinctiveness to allow the organizers to use it as a repeated design element (as in the shirts above).
The sponsors: because it appeals to young, fit urban types 25-45 years old, and because the whole day is about combining fitness, fun, and technology, there are a huge range of opportunities to highlight sponsors in a way that doesn’t seem forced or unnatural. And do I fee better and more in tune with the Mitsubishi and BlackBerry brands after spending a day with them? Yeah. I do.
Local exposure: but even better, because the Chase sends us out into urban retail areas, small local brands are able to highlight themselves and draw new people in. Would I normally walk into a Strip Fitness studio? Not on your life. Will I tell my friends about it? You bet.
The promise: It has been summed up by organizers as “you can expect a day of adventure”. And indeed, that’s what we get year after year. For the more competetive, it’s about moving fast, mapping a route, and strategizing. For the average Chaser, it’s about getting out and pushing the boundaries – testing yourself in different ways.
Brand elements that need attention:
Web site & social media: For a brand that’s built for a high-tech savvy audience, the Web site is pretty clunky, and the Social Media efforts are getting better, but need to be better coordinated as part of the experience. For example, while there are 1100 members of the relatively active MCC Facebook fan site, on Twitter, @citychase has only 215 followers. Why? Because a) they don’t follow anyone back, b) they only use it as a “mesage blast” medium, not as a conversation among co-enthusiasts, and c) they don’t use the opportunity to live tweet or hold CityChase themed TweetUps between events.
Logistics: two years in a row, after waiting several days for the results online, my brother and I have had our ranking assigned to other people. Last year we were 11th, and this year 12th, so we’d love to send the link to friends and family (and further extend the brand!), but this looks like we didn’t finish. We’re coming back next year, but these kinds of problems make it difficult to be unqualified in our praise.
I need to be less clumsy: I think the annotated picture below says sit all.
News item from last year in Philly – does a good job of explaining the Chase.