Laptop on desk showing Philadelphia 250 website

PHILADELPHIA250: A Brand Case Study

PHILADELPHIA250 is the coordinating entity for the City’s semiquincentennial in 2026, serving as the central hub of information and activities that will take place that year.  They drew heavily on the Philadelphia Story toolkit in framing messaging for the website as well as developing legacy projects and civic engagement tied to the celebration.

Portrait of Danielle DiLeo Kim with Market Street, Philadelphia, in the background.

“2026 is the most significant milestone and opportunity for the City in the last 20 years to promote our region on a global stage and collectively mobilize residents, civic leaders, and organizations to invest in our city and our people,” says Danielle DiLeo Kim, PHILADELPHIA250’s Executive Director.  “It can also demonstrate to the world how we invest in our own city as well.”


The Power of Partnership

PHILADELPHIA250 signed on as a PGIP partner at the moment the Brownstein Group was finalizing their identity research and the brand’s keywords, pillars, and messaging were being presented. Danielle and her team were able to incorporate the spirit and language of that identity into their website and, ultimately, into how they framed their programming and partnerships.  

She explains the fortuitous timing:  “We were able to use this brand identity at a time when we needed to define those things ourselves.  I don’t think we would have been as far along as we are in terms of our name, identity, and messaging without it.  It not only saved us time, it also aligned our work with a broader effort, which reinforces our message and promises to make it more effective.”

Danielle strongly believes that having a unified identity and brand to promote our region helps local residents and civic leaders share pride in what we have accomplished together as well as tackle the challenges that all urban communities have in a transparent and responsible way.

“I think there is value in Philadelphia and our region being an area that is not afraid to own where we struggle. We should be just as proud to be working collectively on cross-sector initiatives and partnerships to address those challenges.”

Helpful Advice

“It’s important to align what you are doing with the City’s identity,” Danielle says, “and the toolkit is a great place to start.”  She cites the rigor and depth of the research that supported the brand’s development as a key reason to trust the approach.  “The level of depth that went into vetting the foundations of the toolkit helped us commit to its use and fast-forwarded our own work.”  She believes the toolkit’s guiding yet flexible framework can serve as a helpful source of inspiration for anyone to adapt to their own purposes.

Brand Alignment

How did PHILADELPHIA250 specifically align with the Philadelphia Story brand?  Danielle described specific strategies, including deciding on a new name, refining their mission, developing approaches to messaging, and incorporating the brand’s values into their programming.

Determining a Name

PHILADELPHIA250 was originally named “USA 250.”  In 2019, they decided to undertake a rename, as their existing one did not represent how the project evolved to center on a local focus. In considering a new identity, Danielle explained that her organization used the Philadelphia Story guidelines to guide their decision.  They also intentionally chose to use “Philadelphia” over “Philly” in their name based on our research that found “Philly” does not test or translate well for a global audience.

Crafting a Passionate Mission

After establishing a new name, PHILADELPHIA250 also needed a refined mission statement. Danielle was able to provide the messaging guidelines to her brand consultant, who used the keywords and phrasing to write a mission statement aligned with the brand.  The resulting statement, “Igniting the passions of the people of Philadelphia with the revolutionary spirit of the Declaration of Independence,” was directly derived from the Philadelphia Story brand slogan, “Where Passion Meets Possibility.”

Developing Effective Messaging

In addition to using the Philadelphia Story messaging framework as a basis for their own language, PHILADELPHIA250 needed to make the case for elevating the semiquincentennial locally—explaining why Philadelphia is an important place in 2026 and what makes our region uniquely suited to host the celebration.  Messaging on both the home page and the “Why Philadelphia” page was directly influenced by the Philadelphia Story brand narrative, from the use of our slogan to talking points about what makes our region unique.  Borrowing the brand’s positive tone, uplifting keywords, and value propositions, PHILADELPHIA250 has developed a platform that is generating excitement and rave reviews from locals who are inspired by the ability to plug into activity around the 250th.

Shaping Values

Danielle reports that PHILADELPHIA250 not only adopted the language and perspective of the Philadelphia Story, but also used the brand pillars and identity research to directly inform the values they established. Those values, in turn, formed the basis of their approach for legacy projects and programming leading up to and including the year-long commemoration. They include:

  • Shared Prosperity.  PHILADELPHIA250 wants to emphasize the Quaker value of the common good that underlies our region’s culture and combine it with a present-day commitment to growth with equity and need for investment in social and civic infrastructure.
  • Revolutionary Actions. They used the values that brand research identified as compelling around our region’s innovation and list of “firsts”—those that began at our founding and survive until today, not only in technology and science but also in Philadelphia’s social justice history.
  • People’s Histories.  They seek to tell a full and inclusive story of both the Philadelphia region and America by acknowledging historical hypocrisies and atrocities, embracing consequential conversations, and celebrating unsung heroes.
  • Pursuit of Happiness.  A direct nod to the Declaration of Independence, PHILADELPHIA250 wants to showcase all of the amenities that inspire pride and joy in life here, from arts and culture to music, public spaces, and many other assets.
Integrating Values into Strategy

PHILADELPHIA250 recently launched the Legacy Leaders Task Force, a cross-sector group of corporate, business, nonprofit, and academic leaders that will provide resources and expertise towards community ideas that can evolve into legacy projects.  Each participating organization has aligned around two of the four values, and the Task Force will use the values framework to guide decision-making.  Danielle also hopes that civic leaders will adopt these values and consider using this framework to seed a shared vision across the region.