Hardin County is part of or associated with a number of regional economic development organizations: The Region 6 Planning Commission, the Mid Iowa Growth Partnership, the Small Business Development Center, IowaWorks, Iowa Valley Community College/Ellsworth Community College, CIRAS, the Highway 20 Association, the Greater Des Moines Partnership, International Traders of Iowa, the Mid-America Economic Development Council, and the International Economic Development Council. The lists are just as long for other focus areas.

While these partnerships are essential to continued success in the area, they also present some challenges in differentiating Hardin County from its neighbors. Namely, how can Hardin County successfully separate itself to achieve population and economic growth if it is routinely seen merely as one of a group of north central Iowa counties?

Developing a regional brand and marketing strategy will enable Hardin County to achieve that separation. While collaborations with other counties, businesses, and nonprofit entities must continue to support growth, launching a shared county-wide brand will position Hardin County entities to better tell their story, which, in the information age, is imperative to continued success. After all, if the communities, for-profit and nonprofit entities, and residents aren’t telling their story, who will?

The key to developing a successful regional brand is twofold:

  • For audiences beyond Hardin County, the brand must convey a compelling vision that captures people’s imaginations and paints the picture of the unique experiences found in the county.
  • For audiences within the county, the brand must weave the thread of a shared identity that resonates throughout the county while still allowing each community to have its own identity.

Keeping these audiences in mind, Hardin County leaders should look to develop a shared identity around the county’s natural resources and outdoor recreation opportunities. The County has stunning overlooks, instances of protected species not normally found in central Iowa, and a culture of getting outside; residents and visitors to the county embrace all four seasons to a greater extent than most other Iowans.

The pride that residents take in these amenities became apparent throughout the three visioning sessions. In each session, the prevalence of natural resources in the county – the Iowa River Greenbelt, Pine Lake State Park, Calkins Nature Area, a multitude of trails, and active conservation opportunities, among others – was a recurring theme throughout discussion on a number of topics. Building an identity and brand around a topic that already is embraced and championed by residents will undoubtedly make implementing the marketing strategy an easier process and will help spur its success.

The Bahamas are comprised of 700 islands with 17 major tourist destinations. Each destination has its unique draws, ranging from luxury accommodations to scuba diving to historical sites. Still, The Islands were struggling to differentiate themselves from other Caribbean destinations.

The project design team quickly realized they needed to develop a brand that worked for everyone from government to souvenir manufacturers. They knew the brand had to have mass appeal as well as flexibility in its uses.

Building on the vibrant colors and the grouping of The Islands, the designers developed a brand based on a stylized map of the country. The brand is rooted in what the designers experienced in the Bahamas and conveys the energy of The Islands. It also allows for each destination to be singled out while using the brand to tell their individual story.

The design is nearly limitless in how it can be applied and adapted. With each application, the brand – and, ultimately, the draw to the Bahamas – is strengthened.

Action Steps


Hardin County Development Alliance

Hire branding consultant. Assess internal elements (brand structure, management, policy, budget, standards, etc.). Conduct market segmentation. Identify differentiators.

Q2 2018


Hardin County Development Alliance

Work with county leaders to analyze and synthesize information into descriptive messaging that tells the county’s story. Develop tagline. Test messages with target audience(s) identified through market segmentation.

Q3 2018


Hardin County Development Alliance

Determine colors, fonts, logo, and overall style to give the brand a feel and voice. Test creative elements with target audience(s). Consider how elements can be applied on different materials (billboards, banners, mugs, digitally, etc.).

Q3 2018


Hardin County Development Alliance

Build social media and online presence, prioritizing channels used most by target audience(s). Ensure website is mobile friendly. Create and implement public relations strategy. Analyze and refine brand to ensure it remains competitive.

Q4 2018