On the face of it, Camp Arowhon looks a lot like other top tier summer sleep-away camps. Nature, sports, arts, spirit and caring staff. Basically, fun. Therein lay our first challenge.
How could they differentiate from their competitors in an industry where everyone is (almost by definition) swell folks who claim to offer a safe, nurturing environment? Most have similar facilities, processes and practices. You just don’t get into the industry if you’re not into the camp experience and sharing it.
So we interviewed current and former campers, parents and staff and were rewarded with a wealth of insight. New campers spoke of belonging, returning campers spoke of learning, parents told us how their child manifested confidence that lasted a little longer after each summer until it became a part of them. Alumni had former camp-friends in their wedding parties, and credited several aspects of the camp for developing skills they now used in their personal and professional lives.
All the research boiled down to 3 unique qualities:
- A systematic approach to social safety (one of the camp directors is an anti-bullying columnist)
- Skills-based learning (improving at things builds confidence and willingness to tackle more challenges)
- A special place, nestled in Algonquin Park (nature is great. Living in one of the world’s great nature preserves is even better)
So that’s what we’ve focussed our communications on. From identity materials through marketing collateral, we’ve created tools and tactics that help manifest the benefits of these great assets.
Arowhon has been around since the 1930’s and over the decades, their identity has evolved significantly to reflect both cultural mores and aesthetic trends.
It was important for us to make something relevant today that took advantage of their rich history. We kept the colours.
The shape of the highway route sign is designed to remind people that they’re going on a journey. They’re leaving the city and all of it’s trappings behind and will be different people when they return.
The typefaces are collegiate, which is aspirational for the age group, and it might suggest a trial learning period away from home for parents. And of course the the forest, loon and lake imagery evoke Algonquin Park.
The third iteration of their website we’ve worked on over the last decade brings the deep insight into Arowhon we’ve accumulated into a new media era. It offers rich experiences in multiple contexts–small and large screens.
Maybe too rich.
We really get Arowhon. We know why they’re awesome (Barry sends his daughter there now), and we were eager to marry that the depth of our insight with what we knew about where the web was going. But we let our enthusiasm get the best of us when we sketched out the site.
Recognizing that they’d only have the budget for a comprehensive update like this every few years, we tried to hit the ball out of the park for them, and well, you know how that usually goes.
We ended up with a highly customized site requiring way too many templates, all of which had to work well at multiple screen sizes, on multiple platforms and multiple browser versions. Too many variables.
Ideally, development should get easier as the project moves forward. We solve problems that cascade thought the remainder of the project. For this one, each new section required digging in over and over again. We ground it out, and we’re happy with the experience and aesthetic ultimately, but an important lesson was re-learned: When the budget and timeline are finite, simplicity is essential.
The Brochure seen here was also a hyper-custom treatment, but this one we were more ready for.
All camps claim that their summers last a lifetime. In Arowhon’s case, our research proved it. Parent interviews taught us about the changing confidence levels their kids returned with. Alumnae directly attributed their success to in life to elements of the camp Arowhon experience. And some of them are off the charts successful, like one of our favourite entrepreneurial marketers:
In Today’s economy, the way you succeed is by being the person who draws the map, not the one who follows it. I learned that at Arowhon, instead of just doing the easy thing–telling us what to do and ordering us to comply–counselors like Benji Kanters challenged us to figure things out for ourselves.