City’s new tourism branding rolls out, councillors weigh in

by Brendan Burke - March 15, 2018

When you hear the word “extraordinary,”do you think Yellowknife? If the answer is no, a new tourism branding campaign from the City of Yellowknife hopes to change your mind.

“The brand is to make people think of ‘extraordinary’ when they think of Yellowknife,” city economic director Kerry Penney told Yellowknifer Wednesday.

On Monday, the city released its “extraordinary tourism brand,” the first ever tourism-focused branding campaign in the capitol. The unveiling included the launch of a new website, logo and slogan: “Extraordinary Yellowknife.” The logo, in two tones, illustrates the slogan – sprawled across a banner-like heading.

Now, with Yellowknife’s tourism branding rolled out, city councillors are weighing in.

“At a first glance I was not certain if I did like it,”stated Coun. Linda Bussey in an email.

“The more I look at it though, the more I appreciated it. It does seem to grow on you.” Bussey stated, adding the newly-launched website,, is “easy to navigate.”

Another version of the tourism branding beacon, incorporated in the 2018 Yellowknife visitors guide, shows an all white logo with “Northwest Territories”and “Canada” underlining “Extraordinary Yellowknife.”

Both renderings are simplistic and understated – a coupling one councillor said is the best choice given all of the options that were on the table.

“Sometimes simple is better,” said Coun. Neils Konge.

“It’s important to have a brand, so if this is going to be the our brand then that’s great,” said Konge.

The branding face-lift, which takes cues from directives and goals outlined in a 2015-2019 tourism strategy, is part of a concerted effort by the city to promote Yellowknife as a year-round tourism destination.

Penney emphasized the “extraordinary” brand won’t be exclusive to the city.

“This is part of our tourism branding, not really for the city. It’s for tour operators …” said Penney.

In the 2017 budget, Council earmarked $70,000 in capital expenditures over two years to go towards establishing the destination marketing plan.

Through the plan, the city hopes to establish a destination marketing organization by 2019. The city would then, “establish the legislative framework to initiate a hotel levy,” which would fund the organization’s marketing of Yellowknife to the world as a all-seasons destination.

Perry said the combined presence of a marketing organization and the new branding would go hand in hand.
“A large purpose of the (marketing organization) is to increase awareness of Yellowknife as a destination. So in that respect branding is key. The two are linked,” said Penney.

While the “destination marketing plan” received funding from the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor) – to the tune of $430,000 over two years – Yellowknifer couldn’t confirm how much the city spent on the logo, slogan and website alone. Penney stated more time was needed to review figures.

Bussey said Yellowknifers are getting the most out of their tax dollars with the new branding campaign.

“A lot of time, effort and energy went into crafting this new brand … this can be a difficult task to accomplish. I do like the results,” Bussey wrote.

To bring the final brand to fruition, Penney said the city consulted with local tourism operators and people with direct tourism sector knowledge and target audiences.

Testing and focus groups – three held in Toronto and two in Yellowknife – were used to develop the finalized branding.

While the slogan and logo are meant to highlight the experiences of the Northern capitol, Indigenous themes and art are noticeably absent from the rendering. But Kerry Penny told Yellowknifer the campaign is meant to have different meanings for different people.

“The brand ‘Extraordinary Yellowknife’ is all encompassing. So it’s Yellowknife is extraordinary because we have Indigenous cultures you can experience, or because you can go fishing out your back door, or because you can go berry picking around the corner. So the brand is intended to be all of those things. It’s difficult in a short tag line to encompass everything,” said Penney.

But obtaining the authority from the GNWT to form a marketing organization is “key,” Penney said.

Many councillors, including Bussey and Konge, as well as prominent organizations including the Yellowknife Hotel Association and Chamber of Commerce, have backed the city’s bid to introduce an accommodation levy as a means of raising funds for tourism promotion.

But it’s up to the territorial government to give the green light.

Over the last five years, an upswing in the number of tourists coming to Yellowknife has amounted to significant injections into the economy, with visitors spending nearly $98 million in 2014. Hotels, restaurants and other businesses receive the bulk of incoming cash, with the average visitor spending $1,550 during their time in Yellowknife.