twitter facebook linkedin youtube-play instagram chevron-left chevron-right
Avenue Branding, Part 01
Marketing Foundations

Avenue Branding, Part 01

The intersection at Wisconsin Ave. and 3rd Street used to be the heartbeat of Downtown Milwaukee. For a long time now it has been very quiet. At the center of it is what used to be the Grand Avenue Mall. This collection of buildings is being reimagined by some good people, and we (CI Design) were invited to help create the brand story and visual identity for the new development. This short article is a little glimpse into the writing process.

Below is a foundational elevator talk we crafted for the project. I use the word "foundational" because this short, three-part message does more than tell a story. It presents a structure for the story, a frame for the messaging. (I'll say more about that later on.)

The three part foundational message (elevator talk):

  1. This part of downtown has been quiet for too long. It’s about to come alive.
  2. The intersection at Wisconsin Ave and 3rd Street used be the heartbeat of downtown. We’ve reimagined how this collection of buildings can once again be full of life. It’s called THE AVENUE.
  3. The Avenue is a reimagined use of the buildings that were once The Grand Avenue Mall. This unprecedented renewal will become a vibrant intersection of food, ideas and lifestyle. The heart of this vision is 3RD STREET MARKET HALL, a world class, eclectic food hall with endless culinary surprises and entertaining experiences. The Avenue will also be home to new and historic office spaces as well as iconic apartments, both offering unparalleled downtown amenities. Our goal is to create welcoming and dynamic environments where we can all feel more connected to our city and each other.



Finding a Framework and the Perfect Metaphor

With a brand story that has a lot of complexity (a lot to include), it's most beneficial to create a frame for all the different elements. In this case, the owners of The Avenue are doing much more than redeveloping some buildings. The story shouldn't start with the building. It should start with the essence of what they are ultimately doing for this part of downtown. They are helping to bring life back to this quiet part of the city. That's the starting point, the frame that we attach all the information to, a thread that ties everything together in a meaningful way.

We started the writing process by first finding the right metaphor to capture the essence of the story. We saw The Avenue and 3rd Street Market Hall as the kitchen of downtown, because the kitchen is a room in a house where people typically gather. In many cases, the kitchen is the most alive room in the house. It's the space where food is prepared and enjoyed, ideas are shared; all kinds of life happens there. That's what The Avenue seeks to be, a place where people connect around FOOD, IDEAS and LIFESTYLE. Those three categories were identified as we considered the metaphor of a kitchen. They also helped us to organize the three main parts of the project:

  • Food: 3rd Street Market Hall
    The world class food hall that is going into The Avenue. (Think Ponce City Market in GA).
  • Ideas: New and historic office space
    Graef, an impressive engineering company from Milwaukee is an anchor tenant for the development
  • Lifestyle: Plankinton Clover Apartments
    Super nice place to live with extraordinary amenities that are shared with the offices

In writing a brand story, we don't want to simply list all the services and products. We want to frame them so they are meaningfully organized. We found our story framework inside the metaphor of the kitchen. The kitchen metaphor gave us insights into vocabulary choices and a structure for the story.

For all messaging (for any organization), a frame is critical. Every company can benefit from defining a clear and consistent frame for their story. If you don't have the story framework, then your audiences will likely not be able to feel the meaningful connections that exist between the different services or products that you offer, and you as an internal team won't be as aligned as you could be. That insight has profound implications. Without the frame, the story will inevitably be fragmented.

Finding the frame for The Avenue story was fun because the owners/leaders of the project are putting real heart into it. We just needed to listen to that heart and the frame revealed itself. The kitchen... a lot of life happens there.

We also created the visual identity for The Avenue and 3rd Street Market Hall. The t-shirts are pretty cool if I do say so myself. Jim Taugher (CI Design’s Creative Director) brought some extra magic to this one. You can read about his approach to this project here.

Find out how our award-winning branding experts can help bring your story to life. Send us a message at

Greg Marshall

Greg Marshall

Chief Storyteller & Producer

Greg Marshall leads organizations through story and alignment workshops, resulting in messaging, brand and content production strategies. As a producer and writer, his work has won national and international awards, including two Emmy wins and several Emmy nominations.

Put our teams to work for your business

Contact Us