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A Strategic Roadmap for The Forks

In 2024, The Forks asked us to review their brand strategy, communications and identity. This brand audit was crucial for supporting the upcoming Railside development and preparing them for future growth. Here’s how we did it.

Photo of the Forks Market Tower in Winnipeg, featuring a tall glass structure with a Canadian flag at the top. The tower has an observation deck with a person standing on it. Below, people are gathered around the market area with a mix of greenery and modern architecture visible.Photo of the Forks Market Tower in Winnipeg, featuring a tall glass structure with a Canadian flag at the top. The tower has an observation deck with a person standing on it. Below, people are gathered around the market area with a mix of greenery and modern architecture visible.

A Fork in the Road

The Forks in Winnipeg has been a meeting place for more than 6000 years. It has a rich history of early Aboriginal settlement, the fur trade, the advent of the railway, waves of immigration and the Industrial Age.

Over the last 35 years, the 9-acre site has been revitalized to include a bustling public market, a craft beer and wine bar, skating trails, a skate park, and the upcoming Railside development, an urban housing development.

As the site grows, so do The Forks’ brands.

Suddenly, the organization found itself with more than a dozen brands and sub-brands under its umbrella. But they weren’t all aligning. A closer look at The Forks’ existing brand architecture was needed. They reached out to Little Ghost Creative, interested in a brand audit.

I knew I needed help from an outside expert for our brand audit because I needed a fresh, objective perspective and concrete guidance on next steps.
— Larissa Peck, Director of Corporate Communications

Facts and Figures

A brand audit for a destination brand as big as The Forks takes time. Here’s how we approached the task.

1. Research and Analysis

We started with extensive brand research and a deep dive into The Forks' history by examining past marketing materials, public records and historical documents from the organization’s early days. We also reviewed current brand materials, the digital presence and existing communication strategies to understand the brand’s present state.

2. Stakeholder Meetings

Throughout the audit, we met regularly with The Forks' communications team, conducting in-depth consultations and analyzing previously collected public polls and audience surveys. . These discussions helped us understand the brand’s strengths, weaknesses and opportunities.

3. Gap Analysis

We identified gaps in the current brand strategy. We looked for inconsistencies in visual identity, a lack of a cohesive narrative and communication barriers. We also analyzed how these gaps affected the overall brand experience and pinpointed areas needing improvement.

4. Strategic Recommendations

Based on our findings, we developed a strategic recommendations report. We suggested actionable steps like simplifying the brand architecture, creating a cohesive brand identity system and upgrading wayfinding. We provided detailed guidelines for The Forks to easily implement these recommendations.

“I've had the chance to work with Robyn in various capacities over the years and always been very impressed with her level of organization, professionalism, confidence and ability to pull together just the right team to fulfill a project.”
— Larissa Peck, Director of Corporate Communications

Identifying Key Challenges

During our audit, we found several issues affecting The Forks' brand effectiveness:

Complex brand architecture

The Forks operates an extensive brand system. The existing structure is too complex for the available resources, leading to inconsistencies across various sub-brands and touchpoints.

Better sub-brand management

Managing multiple sub-brands like The Common, FNP Parking, and Railside can be challenging, as it requires maintaining consistent branding and understanding how each sub-brand relates to different audiences.

Brand experience issues

Some brand touchpoints, especially parking services (FNP Parking), don't clearly connect to The Forks, which affects visitors' impressions from the start.

Need for narrative

The Forks needs a cohesive narrative that integrates all elements of its identity, from its history to its present-day activities.

A Detailed Roadmap

We provided a clear and actionable roadmap for The Forks. Here’s what we proposed:

Year 1: Simplifying and Strategizing

We recommended starting by simplifying the brand structure and developing a centralized brand strategy. This includes auditing and streamlining sub-brands and creating a comprehensive brand identity system with detailed guidelines.

Year 2: Rolling Out the New Brand

We advised implementing the new visual and verbal identity across key touchpoints, prioritizing digital platforms and primary marketing materials. Updates to environmental graphics and signage should start with high-impact areas.

Years 3-7: Ongoing Evaluation

We proposed a phased approach for ongoing evaluation and adjustment. This includes conducting assessments to understand how the new brand elements resonate with the public and making necessary adjustments based on feedback and performance data.

“The thorough presentations combined with short executive summary was key for us.”
— Larissa Peck, Director of Corporate Communications

The Impact of Our Work

Our brand audit gave The Forks a clear plan to strengthen its brand. With our roadmap, The Forks can streamline its brand structure, craft a cohesive identity and improve its communications and wayfinding.

These changes will support future Railside development and keep The Forks a vibrant destination in Winnipeg for years to come.

“I look forward to our next project together and I'll keep recommending Little Ghost every chance I get!”
— Larissa Peck, Director of Corporate Communications

Credits

The Forks

  • Larissa Peck — Director, Corporate Communications
  • Zach Peters  — Communications & Marketing Manager

Little Ghost Creative

  • Robyn Kacperski — Strategy & Creative Director
  • Riley Chervinski — Strategy & Messaging Audit
  • Catrina Silviera — Visual Identity Audit
  • Michelle Slobodian — Presentation Design
Photo of the Forks Market Tower in Winnipeg, featuring a tall glass structure with a Canadian flag at the top. The tower has an observation deck with a person standing on it. Below, people are gathered around the market area with a mix of greenery and modern architecture visible.Photo of the Forks Market Tower in Winnipeg, featuring a tall glass structure with a Canadian flag at the top. The tower has an observation deck with a person standing on it. Below, people are gathered around the market area with a mix of greenery and modern architecture visible.

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