FUTURE: Sault Ste. Marie

SSM Branding FAQs

Throughout this process, we have received a number of questions related to Sault Ste. Marie's' new brand and visual identity. Answers have been provided, and we will continue to update this page as we receive new questions. If you have a question that isn't answered below, please email us. 

Q: Why did the City decide to develop a new brand and visual identity?

The exercise to assess, improve and develop the community’s current visual identity and promotional efforts came directly from the Community Adjustment Committee report that states “we need to develop a broad and cohesive community brand and communications strategy that celebrates our strengths, improves our community spirit and sells our community to the world at large.”

We exist in a competitive environment. Whether we’re competing for businesses, travelers, new residents or students, the way we tell our story matters. Visual identity, branding & promotional efforts are part of the larger community vision to build a place where people want to visit, live and do business. By being bold and confident in how we tell our story, we will inspire others in the community to do the same. And we will be seen as a fresh, forward-thinking and innovative city to those outside. 

Sault Ste. Marie has had the same brand for 20+ years. And while that brand served our community well, it is time for Sault Ste. Marie to tell a more consistent story, and adopt a brand to better reflect the community we are today.

The impact of a powerful place brand has been well documented and the City of Sault Ste. Marie is employing industry best practices.

Q: What are we trying to achieve with this project?

  1. Lift up the community and build pride
  2. Attract people (tourists, youth, students, employers and skilled workers)
  3. Present a professional and modern brand for our communications outreach

How does the brand relate to the efforts of FutureSSM?

FutureSSM is now changing the way we address opportunities and the way we plan for our collective future. This brand project is an opportunity to build on the work and momentum of FutureSSM to lift up the community and attract people (visitors, employers, employees and students) to Sault Ste. Marie.

This has been a rigorous process to ensure that the brand the city rolls out will help achieve immediate and measurable objectives today and well into the future. This is so much more than just a logo – this is about bringing people together to celebrate our community and to make it a better place.

Q: What will the ongoing costs be?

The City is committed to proceed with a financially responsible transition over the next several years. 

The immediate costs related to the brand rollout will also be undertaken through FutureSSM as allocated and budgeted for within the project. A broader corporate roll-out of the brand will take place over time as items are being replaced and within existing departmental budgets. For example, new uniforms, stationary, etc. will be ordered on existing ordering schedules.

Q: What will the transition look like?

The City of Sault Ste. Marie will be taking a phased-in approach to implement the new visual identity. During this phased-in approach, the old and new visual identity will co-exist until such time that all applications are converted. A phased-in approach is more cost-effective and fiscally responsible, allowing for all City departments to plan for the transition and properly allocate funds.

A phased-in approach will also allow time for key audiences (youth, the community of Sault Ste. Marie, tourists, employers, and potential newcomers) to adjust to the new visual identity and provides the City with an opportunity to effectively communicate the change.

Q: What is the overall tone of the brand?

Sault Ste. Marie is a special place with many special people. Each and every one of us is part of the story of our city. The tone is bold, youthful, eye-catching, vibrant and proud.

The Brand personality is:

Independent + resourceful
supportive + respectful
brave + trailblazing
creative + playful
authentic + honest

Q: What does the new logo and wordmark represent?

The Sault Ste. Marie icon is a graphic representation of our core values and ideals. It is an acknowledgement of the city’s origins as a meeting ground with a spirt of place.

Bridge and reflection. The outer ring is a stylized interpretation of the steel rafters of the International Bridge – a symbol of connection (between people, organizations, and opportunities) that leads the way to a brighter future. In our reflection – a recognition of who we are and where we came from.

The inner circle is inspired by the medicine wheel which can represent balance, time and reason, four directions (four seasons, four colours). Overall, there is a sense of coming together and a feeling of centeredness and inclusiveness. 

The colours speak to our community’s historic roots, while also representing our glorious natural environment: fall foliage, the waters of the Great Lakes, and forests and mountains of the Algoma region.

The blue dot in the wordmark reminds us of our unique location in the centre of the Great Lakes.

Q: Is there a tagline?

There is not one single tagline, rather a series of positioning lines that can be used for various communication materials; Work.Life.Balance., Where You Belong and Biindigen (Welcome). They are not locked to the logo, but can be typeset as a unit with the logo.

Q: What are the textures, and how are they incorporated?

The line art textures depict signature elements of Sault Ste. Marie and its surrounding area, and express the strong connection Saultites have to their city and the land. They include details found in nature (water, leaves, bark, feathers) as well as local industry (steel, solar panels) and our urban environment.

Q: How did the City arrive at this new brand and visual identity?

The new Sault Ste. Marie Brand and Visual Identity is rooted in an extensive community consultation and engagement. In total, over 750 community members were involved in a 22 month process that included surveys, 35 one-on-one interviews, 25 consultations workshops, and several public pop-up sessions. The FutureSSM team made special effort to reach out to youth and a broad cross section of the community to gain input and feedback.

Phase 1 – Brand Evolution (community engagement)

Phase 1 of this process involved broad community consultation to identify Sault Ste. Marie's 'brand story' and 'brand ingredients'. Trajectory was hired through a competitive RFP process to develop those pieces.  Feedback was collected via:

  • An online survey (461 respondents)
  • 15 on-one-one interviews
  • 2 brand development workshops (25 participants)

In total, over 525 people provided feedback, thoughts and ideas. Based on this engagement, a brand story and 4 main ingredients emerged and were validated to be used in the next stages. Click HERE to view the entire report.

Phase 2 – Design (community consultation)

The second phase of this work was to build upon the brand ingredients to develop a new brand and visual identity platform for the City.

Through an RFP process evaluated by the steering committee, Scott Thornley + Company was hired to work with the City of Sault Ste. Marie on the development of a new brand design and platform. Together, community members talked about Sault Ste. Marie and the best way to bring our story to life. 

Based on over 15 one-on-one interviews with community leaders and stakeholders, a series of 2 pop-up sessions at Algoma University and Sault College, and 12 consultation workshops with 150+ participants, STC identified the following areas to build upon:

  • Sault Ste. Marie is a Meeting Ground.
  • Sault Ste. Marie has Positive Energy.
  • There's a Spirit of Place.

Building on this, STC developed 4 Theme Areas, which are reviewed with the Steering Committee and stakeholders for feedback. A Competitive Review was also completed by STC to help guide the process. 

In January, 2019, a Brand Platform was presented to 150+ community members and stakeholders via 11 consultation sessions, several one-on-one meetings and one pop-up session at the Sault Ste. Marie Soup Kitchen Community Centre. 

Based on this feedback from community members, the Steering Committee worked with STC over the course of two months to narrow the focus of the story and visual identity. The culmination of all of this work has led to the final brand platform as presented.

In total, over 750 community members were involved in this process.

Q: How was feedback collected?

Our brand must resonate with our desired target audiences while also feeling authentic to our City’s many stakeholders, which is why engagement has been such a critical component of this project.

Over a course of 22 months, feedback was collected from over 750 people via surveys, consultation workshops, one-on-one interviews, and public pop-up sessions.

Members from many diverse organizations and businesses participated in the process. This is in addition to general community members who provided feedback at public ‘pop-up’ sessions.

Participants included (but were not limited to):

  • Sault College Student’s Union
  • Algoma Country Tourism
  • Sault Ste. Marie Local Immigration Partnership
  • Tourism Sault Ste. Marie
  • Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre
  • Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation
  • STRIVE Young Professionals Group of Sault Ste. Marie
  • SSM Downtown Association
  • Algoma Workforce Development Corporation
  • Great Lakes Music Institute
  • Algoma University
  • Sault College
  • Sault College Indigenous Initiatives
  • Garden River First Nation
  • Parks Canada
  • Village Electric
  • Ermatinger Clerge National Historic Site
  • Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre
  • Community Development Corporation of Sault Ste.  Marie
  • Vélorution
  • Destination Ontario
  • Algoma University Indigenous Initiatives
  • Outspoken Brewing
  • Delta Hotel
  • Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council
  • Indigenous Friendship Centre
  • Sault Ste. Marie Soup Kitchen Community Centre
  • Algoma (Steel)
  • Algoma District School Board
  • District of Sault Ste. Marie Social Services Administration Board
  • Métis Nation of Ontario
  • + others

Q: What was the timeline for this process?

Below is a timeline of the process in its entirety to date:

Spring 2017

Community Adjustment Committee recommends Sault Ste. Marie better promotes our community. "We need to develop a broad and cohesive community brand and communications strategy that celebrates our strengths, improves community spirit and sells our community to the world at large."

May 2017

RFP Process awards Trajectory to update and develop a community development strategy. This project is a direct follow up to the brand related recommendations of the Community Adjustment Committee's recent study and community engagement. 

June 2017

Trajectory begins work to update and develop a community development strategy.

June 2017 - April 2018

Trajectory engages and consults with over 500 participants with 4 workshops, 461 survey responses and 15 one-on-one sessions. 

June 2018

Trajectory presents its final report, 'Sault Ste. Marie Brand Evolution', to City Council. 

September 2018

A Steering Committee is formed comprised of City staff, FutureSSM, Algoma University, Sault College, Tourism Sault Ste. Marie, and the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation.  

October 2018

RFP process awards Scott Thornley & Company (STC) to build on Trajectory's report to assess, improve and develop the community's current visual identity and promotional efforts. STC conducts over 15 one-on-one interviews with community leaders and stakeholders. During a series of 2 pop-up sessions at Algoma University and Sault College, and 12 consultation workshops with 150+ participants, STC undertakes a positioning exercise that presents 7 areas of exploration. Based on feedback from these sessions, the following areas were selected to build upon:

  • Sault Ste. Marie is a Meeting Ground.
  • Sault Ste. Marie has Positive Energy.
  • There's a Spirit of Place.

November 2018

Based on stakeholder and community feedback from the areas of exploration, 4 Theme Areas are developed and reviewed with the Steering Committee and stakeholders for feedback. A Competitive Review is also completed by STC to help guide the process. 

January 2019

A Brand Platform is presented to 150+ community members and stakeholders via 11 consultation sessions, several one-on-one meetings and one pop-up session at the Sault Ste. Marie Soup Kitchen Community Centre. 

February – March 2019

Based on feedback from community members, the Steering Committee worked with STC over the course of two months to narrow the focus of the story and visual identity. The culmination of all of this work has led to the final brand platform as presented.

Q: Are people and other organizations supportive of this new brand and visual identity?

The broad consensus heard from the community was supportive of the brand and visual identity brought to City Council for approval. It is also important to note that we have full support from the SSM Economic Development Corporation, Tourism SSM, Algoma University and Sault College for this brand and associated promotional messaging. This was a key goal at the outset of the project and provides an opportunity to have these organizations working together to amplify the messaging and brand of Sault Ste. Marie.