Behind the Brand: What Inspired Make It Your Own

March 6th, 2019

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Hear from the Regional Partnership's President and CEO John Sampson, Vice President of Communications Kate Virag, Director of the Road to One Million Michael Galbraith, Development Counsellors International (DCI) and Britton Marketing & Design Group about the research, development and strategy of Northeast Indiana's new brand for talent attraction.

A Brand—Like a Community— Is More Than a Logo

“Make It Your Own” is Northeast Indiana’s new brand to attract target talent ages 21–45 to live and work in the 11-county region.

Unveiled by the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership and developed through a six-month process guided by internal focus groups and national perception surveys, Make It Your Own is designed for businesses to use in their talent recruitment efforts to tell Northeast Indiana’s compelling story through a logo, tagline, marketing materials and authentic narrative.

Kate Virag, vice president of marketing and strategic communication, said Make It Your Own is an evolution of past campaigns like Made Here and Your Story Made Here, and it puts talent in the driver’s seat.

“We’re not talking at talent. We’re showcasing opportunities in our region and encouraging potential new residents to participate. The new brand invites people to take ownership in their community, their careers and their lives,” said Virag.

The Regional Partnership worked with Development Counsellors International (DCI) to develop the brand strategy, conduct research and identify key messages. Britton Marketing & Design Group (BMDG), a national firm headquartered in Northeast Indiana, partnered throughout the process and then brought the brand to life through narrative imagery and creative design. A brand task force of regional marketing leaders acted in an advisory role, providing guidance and perspective during the development of the Make It Your Own brand.

In 2017, DCI developed the study, “Talent Wars,” which reported survey data from national talent about relocation, job searches and more. Economic developers use the study to inform talent attraction strategies and tactics.

Sarah Reinecke, account manager at DCI, said every community across the country is competing in the quest for the best and brightest talent, and Northeast Indiana’s brand cuts through the clutter and differentiates the region from other communities.

“The whole process is about so much more than just the brand – it’s about what you do with the brand, how you bring it to life and how you consistently ensure that Northeast Indiana is top of mind as a prime place for people to live and work. The brand launch is only the beginning. The next step is working to advance Northeast Indiana’s story with positive national media coverage and producing printed and digital recruitment content for employers targeted to the talent they need to recruit,” said Reinecke.

For the creative team at BMDG, the collaborative branding project is an opportunity to showcase what is different about Northeast Indiana.

Jeff Britton, president and CEO of BMDG, said the logo’s four colors are inspired by the Indiana sky at sunrise and sunset and the custom-designed, playful font perfectly embodies the tagline Make It Your Own.

“The core of any branding work is about demonstrating differences. Branding is about how a place is different, not about how we fit in. This branding initiative demonstrates there is something going on here that is different than what talent nationally might think,” said Britton. “Make It Your Own reminds us all that life is really up to each one of us to act, and, in this case, there is also an invitation to participate. Make It Your Own is a new home, a new business, a studio, a career. Simply, it’s your life, and you can own it in Northeast Indiana. We’re inviting people to make something out of whatever the 'it' is to them.”

Kristen Guthrie, vice president of marketing for Visit Fort Wayne and member of the brand task force, noted, “It’s very valuable for all of the people, businesses and organizations who are representing Northeast Indiana to speak with one voice. It’s powerful when we all have an authentic, consistent story to tell, whether from the perspective of tourism, economic development, businesses or individual residents."

The Make It Your Own brand is guided by research and tested with the target audience to ensure the concept resonated with external talent.

“The fact that this brand was developed using insight from internal and external audiences is very compelling,” said Barry Rochford, strategic communication officer for Dekko Foundation in Kendallville and brand task force member. “Make It Your Own is authentically rooted in our strong history of manufacturing and entrepreneurship. It’s also positive, inviting and forward-looking, speaking to people who are actively looking to make the next move and put their stamp on a community.”

Regional businesses are encouraged to use the brand tagline, logo and key marketing messages to recruit talent nationally while advertising for open positions on job boards, career pages on business websites and other recruitment communications.

The Make It Your Own brand was developed as a long-term marketing strategy with a multi-year execution plan. The Regional Partnership will promote the Make It Your Own brand regionally and nationally through partnerships with media, special publications featuring local talent, a customized website showcasing the region’s quality of life and a brand video featuring the region’s unique quality of life and career opportunities. Residents and businesses are invited to use the brand and share stories of how they have made life in Northeast Indiana their own.

The project is sponsored by Indiana Michigan Power, Ambassador Enterprises, 3Rivers Federal Credit Union, NIPSCO, Old National Bank and First Federal Bank, with initial seed funding through the Regional Opportunities Council, the investor board of the Regional Partnership.

To learn more about the branding effort or to access the brand resources, visit

Need more help? Contact Vice President of Marketing & Strategic Communications Kate Virag to learn more about Make It Your Own material.

Email Kate