The KC Heartland Campaign
entered by the Kansas City Area Development Council
The Kansas City Area Development Council [KCADC] embarked on a project to reset the region’s image with a new brand – “KC Heartland” – to amplify the Kansas City area’s brand identity and as an introduction to a dynamic, thriving and creative region – ideal for corporate investment, starting a business and growing a career. Like many Midwestern markets, Kansas City often gets overlooked, and KCADC wanted Kansas City to become a “top-of-mind” destination and also aimed to change the misperception that many have of Kansas City as a “flyover region” or a “cow town” with little culture.
The team embarked on a research project that would help inform the region’s new brand identity and found that Kansas City was primarily recognized for its friendly Midwestern culture, arts and tech community, “The Wizard of Oz,” tornadoes, great barbecue, and its sports teams. KCADC also spoke with multiple groups to determine what set the KC area apart. It became clear that KC has a 100-plus year love affair with the heart symbol and was one of the first Midwestern cities to embrace the idea of being in the “heart” of America. The KC Heart pointed to the distinctive central location, and became a symbol of heritage, culture and vigorous local pride.
Identifying the community's moniker
KCADC quickly realized that creating a new icon for the region wasn’t necessary. In fact, the legacy of the KC Heart was already being widely embraced across the community thanks to a local apparel company, Charlie Hustle, which has sold more than a million KC Heart t-shirts, and the KC Heart has come to represent a resurgence of pride felt by those living in, or connected to, the KC region. The KCADC team met with Chase McAnulty, founder of Charlie Hustle, who gifted the KC region its iconic KC Heart logo to use as the community’s moniker.
In November 2019, the KC Heartland campaign launched in front of 1,700 business, community and civic leaders from across the region. Through local event promotion, regional ambassadors and social media, the brand was quickly gaining momentum. In January 2020, the Kansas City Chiefs secured a coveted spot at the NFL Super Bowl – its first in 50 years – giving the region an opportunity for global recognition. The team had roughly 10 days to plan a communications strategy, and as a non-profit had to manage a small budget of $50,000. The goal of the campaign was to capitalize on the national and global spotlight on Kansas City during the Super Bowl. By driving followers to KC.org and the KC Heartland social media accounts, the world would begin naturally associating Kansas City with KC Heartland.
Bringing the KC Heart into the physical world
In addition to a robust social media campaign, physical elements were also incorporated such as KC Heart cut-outs, stickers and paddles. Digital ads were also created to bring users to KC.org in more than 20 target markets. The fully-integrated campaign in February 2020 garnered 1.6 million digital impressions, 800 new social media followers and 900,000 impressions from earned media placements.
When the Chiefs became Super Bowl champions, the KC Heartland campaign continued to use images of the city's successful parade and civic togetherness to help propel the area forward and attract more visitors, talented professionals and business investment. In March 2020, as the Mayor Quinton Lucas announced a metro-wide “Stay At Home” order in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the KC Heart logo stood in front of his podium, signalling regional unity in the face of a worldwide challenge. Since the KC Heart campaign launch last November, it has reached more than 3 million people, and generated millions of social media impressions. The KC Heart brand has helped transform Kansas City from a blank-slate perception to one of a thriving metro – full of life, opportunity and, of course, “heart.”