New Year, New Brand for Heritage Corridor Convention Visitors Bureau

Organization focuses on Route 66, Starved Rock and I&M Canal towns

One of Illinois’ top tourism bureaus kicked off 2023 with a new name and brand identity. Established in 1984, the Heritage Corridor Convention and Visitors Bureau is now known as Heritage Corridor Destinations. This organization, which represents and promotes six counties across north-central Illinois, unveiled its new, tourist-friendly name and logo at three public events this past Wednesday.

Held at Lemont’s Barrel & Vine, the Joliet Area Historical Museum and Utica’s Clarks Run Creek Wine & Gifts, these informational presentations afforded board members, marketing partners and community members a glimpse behind the scenes at the multiyear process of creating the new name and brand.

“Heritage Corridor Destinations, previously known as Heritage Corridor Convention and Visitors Bureau, is probably the biggest unsung hero in marketing our area regionally, nationally and internationally,” Joliet Area Historical Museum Executive Director Greg Peerbolte said. “As we’re looking towards the centennial of Route 66 in 2026, I’m reminded of when I first started working here. Having grown up nearby in Kankakee, I couldn’t believe that people come from all over the world to drive on, what I used to call, Route 53. But they do, and we’re seeing even more of that every year. We’re seeing tourism become a major part of economic development in our communities.”

Peerbolte attributes the rise in local tourism, in no small part, to the work of Bob Navarro, president and CEO of Heritage Corridor Destinations, and his staff. At the events, Navarro had an opportunity to explain the history of the Heritage Corridor brand, and the exciting future the fresh change affords.

“Back in 2017, our board heard marketing plans from an agency that was trying to do ad placements, TV and radio commercials about our destinations,” he said as he traced the origin of the new brand. “They presented these pitches to the board, who, in turn, suggested we reassess the brand and really understand our products, market and visitor base before we commit to making these ads.”

Navarro went on to explain that this conversation prompted the board to establish a special branding committee in 2018. Over the next year and a half, members of the committee met with various ad agencies and visitor bureaus, ultimately determining that there was a tremendous amount of value in getting a full brand assessment from a professional agency.

After submitting a request for proposals, and taking pitches from more than 14 agencies across the nation, the Heritage Corridor CVB hired Rockford’s own GrahamSpencer. The renowned brand research agency, which also maintains offices in Chicago, Nashville, Atlanta and Salt Lake City, began exhaustively conducting interviews with local stakeholders, CVB members, partners, consumers and many visitors. All together, they compiled several large binders of data that the visitors bureau could use to refine its image and best reach the area’s millions of tourists.

The past few years have been busy for Heritage Corridor Destinations. Following the COVID-19 shutdowns, the visitors bureau launched three annual regional travel guides (in partnership with Shaw Media), created a new website and sub-brand dedicated to The First Hundred Miles of Route 66, and opened a Starved Rock Country Welcome Center and Illinois Made Gift Shoppe in downtown Utica. As these projects began to come to fruition, they knew it was time to lock in the new brand.

“By 2021, GrahamSpencer presented their various stages of research to the board, and it became evident that it was time to present a new, consumer-facing name,” Navarro said. “The board commissioned another brand strategy, where they decided on the name Heritage Corridor Destinations, a name that retains our brand’s longevity, but gives us an opportunity to focus on our product pillars – Route 66, Canal Towns and the Starved Rock area.”

This approachable new brand pays tribute to the decades of work the CVB has done in developing north-central Illinois as one of the state’s major tourism hubs, and also acknowledges the inter-connectedness of its three major regional destinations.

Upon the selection of the name, the CVB board allowed the Heritage Corridor Destinations staff to select the new logo and marketing collateral. TimeZoneOne, the multinational PR agency responsible for the state of Illinois’ marketing campaigns, stepped in to review the extensive data and interviews compiled by GrahamSpencer, and develop some new logos and brand aesthetics.

“TimeZoneOne presented a few rounds of logo designs over the past six months, before we found the perfect fit,” Navarro said. “Around October, we finalized the brand designs, and, in December, we did a sneak peek of this new name and logo at the Illinois Governor’s Conference on Travel & Tourism, with the intent of starting off 2023 with our new brand. We’re very excited to unveil the result of several years of careful consideration and research for you today.”

Also in attendance for all three of Wednesday’s brand-launch events were two members of TimeZoneOne, Mary Twomey (vice president of Global Trade and Consumer Development) and Daniel Thomas (president and CEO), who arrived fresh from Pasadena, California, where they walked alongside, and rode on, Enjoy Illinois’ 2023 Rose Parade float.

“Branding strategy and logo development is somewhat of an emotive process, some of us like certain styles and feels and others don’t,” Thomas said at the Utica event. “But when Bob presented our agency with these large binders of data, we got very excited. Because above all else, we believe in data-driven decisions. I want to congratulate Bob, the staff and the board of Heritage Corridor Destinations for supporting this transition.”

The new Heritage Corridor Destinations logo includes a contemporary font with a focus on movement, evoking the active nature of all three of their destinations. The logo’s graphic includes a silhouette of the state of Illinois, inside which you’ll see a pictorial representation of the bluffs of Starved Rock State Park, a winding stretch of the Illinois and Michigan Canal and an iconic Route 66 shield. The color variant of all the brand material retains the Heritage Corridor’s classic color scheme: golden yellow, green and blue.

“I’ve been working in the tourism industry my whole life, and I wish someone had given me an acronym manual early on,” Thomas said. “When I started working in airlines, I realized how dominated this field is with acronyms. There’s nothing wrong with CVB (the convention and visitors bureau acronym Heritage Corridor had been using), but it tends to lean towards a business-to-business or trade situation. What you have done as a community is rally behind your destinations and product, linking together the I&M Canal, Route 66 and Starved Rock Country, creating a modern and consumer-forward brand.”

To see this exciting new tourism brand in action, and to learn more about Starved Rock Country, The First Hundred Miles of Route 66 and the I&M Canal Towns, be sure to visit and follow Heritage Corridor Destinations on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.