McCormick Square

The Challenge

Establishing an identity beyond a building

In 2015, Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA) embarked on a multi-year construction project to expand their current campus to add more lodging, entertainment and event space. Hawthorne Strategy Group is MPEA’s agency of record and saw this construction project as an enormous opportunity to enhance its perception and understanding of the campus.

As the largest convention center in North America, McCormick Place has hosted countless events and welcomed world leaders for important meetings, making

its mark as America’s premier convention, event and meeting space. Since opening its doors in 1960, McCormick Place has continued to grow and expand its local footprint. Public impressions often focused only on McCormick Place and not the surrounding area. With hotel options, dining, a state-of-the-art rooftop garden, and the additional construction underway, it’s more than a convention center, but a campus. Our challenge was to rebrand McCormick Square’s surrounding campus and use the opportunity to turn what was perceived as just a convention center into a destination.

The Solution

Creating McCormick Square; deploying a cross-channel strategy

Hawthorne developed a plan to rebrand McCormick Place and the adjoining facilities as a campus. Following research with MPEA employees, stakeholders, and community influencers, a new brand identity, McCormick Square, was launched in April 2016, communicated through a new logo, name, robust neighborhood website and internal communications rollout plan. The brand continues to develop as construction is underway, and through a series of neighborhood gatherings, informational meetings, press conferences, and networking events.

The Results

Changing perceptions

Hawthorne’s efforts to rebrand McCormick Place and the nearby campus facilities was successful, as work continues to be done today to spread awareness of the McCormick Square campus and what the area offers. Since the brand launch, Hawthorne has coordinated neighborhood focused events at McCormick Square, arranged for media to attend countless events and press conferences, including former President Barack Obama’s farewell speech and the official naming of the event center – Wintrust Arena, which is scheduled to open in Fall 2017. The result is a changed perception from a convention center to campus in the community and increased visibility and pickup of name and brand.