The people of Bowen Island in British Columbia want you to “Tell your friends it’s awful here.” The new community identity developed for the island stems from the love-hate relationship the people of Bowen have with tourists. The unconventional campaign, though seemingly advising the public to not visit the island, is actually encouraging small-scale tourism.
“We love to show off our island, but we don’t want it to be overrun with tourists,” explains Bowen resident and founder of Vancouver-based agency Rethink, Chris Staples. “We want visitors, but only if they really ‘get’ what makes Bowen special.”
The project, which took the Municipal Economic Development Committee roughly two years to produce, was inspired by the “Keep Portland Weird” campaign. With the research collected by Storytellings from residences and visitors, Rethink was able to create the campaign’s quirky feel.
The campaign features four animals native to Bowen, with each animal representing an aspect of the island. “We all know the deer really own this island and we’re just guests,” Staples explains, which is why a buck deer is the lead mascot for the campaign. The other mascots include a seal, which represents trying new things; an eagle, which represents vigilance for protecting natures; and a slug, which is representative of Island Time, or slowing down to embrace life.
“The last thing anyone wanted was a traditional marketing campaign,” says chair of the Economic Development Committee Gordon Ganong. “Residents and business owners are very proud of this place and more than a little protective. They wanted a community brand that welcomed people, but in a very quirky, slightly defiant way.”