Even if you’re not from Chicago, you’ve probably heard of the city’s elevated public train line, the El. Howard Street is the last stop on the northern end of the El’s Red Line. The Howard stop is a transportation hub that bridges the city with the northern suburbs. Historically, the area had been a thriving business district but over the years had declined into an area of storefront vacancies.

In the early 2010s, the Rogers Park Business Alliance worked hard to fill vacancies, develop businesses, and push back against the common negative impression of the area. Two of the goals of the revitalization project were to serve the diverse residents of Rogers Park and for the neighborhood to become a destination for city-dwellers and out-of-towners alike.

In 2012, the Rogers Park Business Alliance released an RFP for the Howard Street SSA #19. The project was to create a neighborhood marketing and branding campaign for Howard Street, the northernmost boundary of the city. Sparkfactor won the project and created a campaign that had immediate results when the campaign launched and also has a lasting legacy that stands today.

Armed with an understanding of the distant and recent history of the area, Sparkfactor, Kate’s agency at the time, developed the Hello Howard campaign. Using images and a brand identity, Hello Howard literally reintroduced Howard Street to Rogers Park and the Chicagoland area using the tagline, “Say Hello to Howard.” The play on Howard as a street and as a person’s name worked best when paired with portraits of Howard Street’s business owners.

Sparkfactor spent a day going to local businesses to photograph owners for portraits to use throughout the campaign. It was very important to use real photos instead of stock photography to create an authentic campaign and establish a deep connection. We photographed the owners in their space, inviting the audience in to the businesses on Howard before they’d even stepped off the train.

To pull the campaign together, Sparkfactor developed a logo for Howard Street. The simple design played off the already iconic imagery of the end of the Red Line, creating an instant connection between the stop and the new neighborhood destination. Brand guidelines were created, which included image assets, branding documents, photo usage guidelines, and sample ad units. This collection of assets and documents allowed for internal management of the campaign by the SSA.

As the campaign progressed and made impressions across the community and beyond, more assets were created: shop window decals, a microsite, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and chalk stencils for guerrilla marketing around the neighborhood. Engagement around the community increased, perception of the area changed to become more positive, and local business owners took pride in participating in the campaign. The Peterson Garden Project named their garden after the campaign—Hello Howard Garden—and continues to this day to use the outdoor gateway treatment Sparkfactor designed.


Content provided by Women Belong member Kate Alpert