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MapQuest Mobile Launch


hlk | mapquest

Putting the Brand Back on the Map

In Internet years, MapQuest has been around for, like, ever. The brand’s online route-planning service once enjoyed top awareness, until Google Maps supplanted it with a cleaner interface and more modern branding. Some MapQuest loyalists still remain — it’s the #2 desktop interface — and the brand is constantly seeking ways to evolve their offerings.

Yet, their continual brand “evolution” wasn’t regaining any ground. According to 18- to 35-year-olds, MapQuest is for their parents. The clients realized, to change this key perception for good, the brand also needed an overhaul. HLK was brought on board to guide the strategy for a major transformation, as well as conceptualize and develop the elements supporting the new face of the brand.


“You guys nailed it! I couldn't be more excited about the final product. It was a blast seeing exactly what we wanted come to life.”

Brad Maglinger | Mapquest

Brad Maglinger | Chief Marketing Officer, MapQuest

Y Marks the Spot

Generation Y. Millenials. Echo Boomers. As hard as this audience is to define, they’re even harder to pin down. They change their minds a lot. They like how social media enhances their lives, but loathe pandering. Their loyalties lie not in brand quality, but in brand halo — whether the brand aligns with their emotional, moral and lifestyle ideals. But they’re the sweet spot for tech brands like MapQuest. So, “Onward!” we said.

Better. Faster. Real-er.

As part of MapQuest’s efforts to appeal to this younger, tech-savvy audience, MapQuest developed a monumental refresh of their mobile map app. The client tasked HLK with creating a microsite that would not only promote the app, but would also mark an important first step in shifting brand perception.

Bumps in the Road

We only had a few weeks to concept, create and develop the site — the client brought the project late into the timeline, after their AOR didn’t satisfy. The app was about to launch! Speed was our best friend, and we couldn’t afford strategic wrong turns.


Adding to the challenge was the fact that the app’s features and benefits were basically on par with competitors. With very few tangible differentiators, the new branding and emotional story had to do a lot of the heavy lifting.

What’s more, no matter how hard you try, you can’t swipe or tap the screen of a PC. Scrolling, clicking and typing just don’t have the same feel. We had to use the site itself to translate the mobile experience to a desktop site.


Are We There Yet?

With a few details still up in the air, we identified some priorities: crystal clear communication about the features, product-focused visuals and an emotional-but-believable aesthetic.

The homepage features rotating hero images that are at once authentic and aspirational (think: road trip with your favorite people). After scrolling past the homepage, the navigation locks to the top for easy access. Each cleanly designed, full-bleed page makes the app the star, while subtle detail makes it a rich, almost intimate experience.

Energetic but not over-the-top, punchy copy invites users to come along for the ride. The language reflects the tone of the audience — casual but heartfelt, adventurous yet practical — and avoids the puffery and ego that this audience so vehemently detests.

Custom Iconography

An eye for detail is what makes great brands great. This small but important touch added polish not just to the microsite, but to the app itself.



Further flexing our illustrator muscle, we created a Griswoldian preloader. Sometimes we’re sad that it’s only on screen for a split-second.


Dynamic Map Indicators

We used a large carousel at the top of the page to showcase the adventurous nature of a MapQuest user. But this wasn't just any carousel. We used SVG path animations to mimic a driver's route. The end product was pretty cool.


“There was an adventure around every turn, and it was worth every second. One of my all-time favorite projects.”

Maeve Connor | HLK

Maeve Connor | Copywriter, HLK

HLK | mapquest

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