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San Luis Obispo

Branding Case Study

A charming city in the heart of California’s Central Coast got a makeover as a “home base away from home” for a ripe, yet highly competitive travel market. A new brand platform, logo, brand book, video and visual identity helps solidify the city’s brand for millions of potential visitors.

Branding Case Study

Unlocking the Hub for the Central Coast

San Luis Obispo (SLO) represents the best of California from the people to its climate, quaint streets, independent shops, culinary experiences, wine country, wide open spaces and beach access. Despite this, the brand research we conducted showed that travelers less familiar with SLO didn’t understand its real value proposition. 

Instead, they looked at it as a “pit stop” on the way to somewhere else. Although, the more time people spent there, experiencing everything SLO has to offer, the more they realized there was something super special about the city and its way of life. 

Using our deep experience in the travel and tourism industry, we decided we needed to frame and communicate that unique quality so people understood its value sooner. Doing so gave the TBID the ultimate tool — a way to powerfully and consistently communicate its brand promise, which would allow us to create a brand identity and campaigns that connect and convert.

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Three Key Challenges

  1. SLO is not as well known as a travel destination compared to competitors
  2. Travelers didn’t know the real value proposition of SLO
  3. SLO was viewed as a pitstop for somewhere else

Speaking to Prospective Visitors

We worked with the San Luis Obispo Tourism Business Improvement District (SLO TBID) to refine, define and document its brand strategy based around truth, simplicity and emotion. We sought to make it clear what the city stood for, how it makes visitors’ lives better and how it stands out as a destination.

As part of our brand services and to develop some guardrails on how to talk about the region, Noble set out to create a brand book and video as two small parts of the overall brand strategy. With this marketing strategy, we also created a series of display and social ads unveiling the SLO Life Tips across Facebook, Instagram and Google to appeal to first-time travelers. This series of social ads accompanied a blog post outlining the ways to “Live the SLO Life.”

Creating a Scalable Brand Platform for an Evolving Landscape

As a first step, our Creative Services team designed ads for a variety of social media channels. Serving as a promotional tool, the ads accompanied a blog post outlining the ways to “Live the SLO Life.” From the advice to “SLO Your Stroll” to encouragement to “Live and Visit Sustainably,” these tips were designed to paint a picture in the minds of visitors so they would have a sense of the town’s mix of charm and progressive values. These ads were directed at the following target audiences:


  • Outdoors
  • Relaxation
  • Wine/dine
  • The 65-plus crowd

To complement the tips and overall SLO Life campaign, Noble designed a
new logo that takes a circular shape to represent the friendliness of the destination. There is a small sun mark within the logo that is versatile and can be used as a design element beyond the logo and will serve as a tool for SLO branding for years to come. 

SLO Facebook Carousel Ad
SLO Display Ads
SLO Midweek Campaign
Sustainable SLO Print Ad
SLO Ready Social Campaign

Crafting the Brand Book

A brand book is a guiding light for not only the brand, but anyone who touches it in any way. By firmly establishing the dos, don’ts and rationales associated with brand elements such as photography, logos and typography, Noble’s SLO brand book helps maintain the integrity of the brand’s look and feel so it remains consistent and clear over time. 

From details on how the photography will feature bold and bright colors that pop off the screen to details on how to use the logo properly (and which logo to use in distinct situations), the brand book helps position the client as a lifestyle brand that feels different from traditional destination visuals.  

The brand book was put to immediate use in a SLO integrated marketing campaign, and will come in handy for many years down the road. 

SLO Brand Book Cover
Brand Book Inside Layout
Brand Purpose
Brand Personality
Brand Line
Brand Typography
Logo Mark

Telling the Story with Video

Featuring scenes from a day in the life of San Luis Obispo, a video produced by Noble Studios showcases the rich visual appeal of this Central Coast city. Intercutting scenes from the countryside, the town’s famous weekly farmers market, its bustling nightlife and the laid-back feel of a place where you can sip on a glass of locally-produced wine as the sun sets, we’re taken on a journey that surprises and delights anyone who has never been to SLO before. And for those who have, we provide a terrific reason to return. 

Results: Clicks, Clicks and More Clicks

While it’s not always simple to quantify the results of a brand campaign, there were some impressive numbers associated with the resulting messaging that sprang out of it, as shown below.

  • 3.2 MM
    Display Clicks
  • 15 K
  • 10 K
  • 10.94 %
    CTR for Paid Search
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